Names of Camp Fire Girls’ Camps

 

Places, people and Native American words have all been used for the names of Camp Fire Girls’ camps. At least 153 camps have had unique names; many of these are based on words in Native American languages. Camps named after people include Harriet Harding in Nebraska and Camps Kirby and Sealth in Washington; Chief Sealth was the Native American after whom Seattle was named. Camps in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas Montana, Michigan and Washington have been named Kiwanis or Rotary, after the organizations which helped many Camp Fire Girls’ camps get started and sometimes owned and maintained the camps. A number of camps, including Cimarron in Oklahoma, Tuckabatche or Tuckabatchee in Michigan and Ohio, Toccoa in Georgia and Wyandot in Ohio have been named for places.

Camp Kiwanis Massachusetts

Two books often used by Camp Fire Girls for selecting personal names as well as for naming camps are The Name Book and Indian Names: Facts and Games for Camp Fire Girls.. The Name Book, researched and compiled by Charlotte Vetter Gulick, has been reprinted many times. My Camp Fire group used this twenty-nine-page book in 1957 when we selected our names. The book contains an alphabetical list of English words followed by Native American words with the same or similar meanings. Abbreviations indicate if the Native American words are from the Chippewa, Dakota, Klamath, Lenape, Natick or Biloxi and Ofo languages.

The other useful book is Indian Names: Facts and Games for Camp Fire Girls by Florence M. Poast. Published in 1916, this book is now out-of-print but was digitized by Google and can be acquired from Google books. Florence Poast introduces her book by a warning that it is “disrespectful and unrefined” to refer to Indians by some of their common nicknames. She then discusses Native American culture and European mistreatment of Native Americans. Pages fifty to seventy-four have lists of Native American names, subdivided into “Personal Names,” “Camp Names,” “Boat Names” etc. In each subdivision the names are grouped by the language. Several camp names found here, Adahi, Talahi, and Nawakwa, mean “in the forest,” “in the woods,” “in the oaks” or “in the midst of the forest.” Two others are Nissaki, meaning “at the food of the mountain” and Wetomachick meaning “friends.”

Enough camps took the name Wohelo that the first Camp Wohelo, on Lake Sebago in Maine, became Sebago-Wohelo.[1] Another popular name, Kiloqua, means “Lake of the Great Star.” [2] At least two camps one in Oregon and one in California were called Yallani; Yallani means mountain. [3] (The name also appears on a 1915 Camp Fire Girls’ postcard of a girl sitting on a rock, with the caption “Yallani, a Camp Fire Girl.”)

Some names combine Native American words or syllables from words. Zanika Lache, on Lake Wenatchee, combines Zanika, healthy, with Lache, lake for “healthiness by the lake.” I-Wa-Su in New York and Iwaqua in Colorado both use “Iwa” meaning “among the hills or mountains”. Since “Su” means “lake,” I-Wa Su” must have been a camp on a lake in the mountains.

Other groups including the Boy Scouts and YMCA and YWCA have used some of the same names; sometimes, but not always, this is because they have acquired camps that were formerly Camp Fire camps. Far more names are not found in either of the two books above and are probably based on local Native American languages.

 

[1] Dorgan, Ethel Josephine Luther Halsey Gulick: 1865-1918, New York, New York: Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University 1934, p. 113.

[2] Gulick, Charlotte Vetter The Name Book of Camp Fire Girls, New York, New York: Camp Fire Girls, Incorporated, p. 17.

[3] The Name Book, p. 19.

White Coral Bells

White Coral Bells song 2

          I listened to the words echoing and fading table by table, enchanted by the beauty of girls’ voices singing a round. I had completed second grade and my first year as a Blue Bird, but never before recognized how beautiful singing could be. “White Coral Bells” was one of the songs we sang in the Yenis Hante dining room after meals. It was one of many songs I quickly learned to love at camp.

Yenis Hante formed my archetype of a Camp Fire Girls camp. I knew nothing then of the Gulicks’ camp on Lake Sebago in Maine, of Camp Sealth on Vashon Island or of the two dozen or more other Camp Fire Girls’ camps found in California’s mountains in the 1950s. However, I knew that camp needed mountains, pine forests and little cabins for sleeping as well as a big dining room. At camp girls hiked, learned nature lore and sang; they made friends, wrote letters home, cooked over a fire, played games and did the Bunny-hop.

I was eight-years-old the first time I boarded an Orange Belt Stage Lines bus, along with scores of other Blue Birds and Camp Fire Girls, for the fifty-four mile trip from Bakersfield to Greenhorn Mountain. I had always known that someday I would go to camp. On family vacations at Huntington Lake I heard about and saw the Boy Scouts, whose camps were across the lake from my aunt’s cabin. Someday I could be a Blue Bird or a Brownie and then I could go to camp too. When I started second grade I chose to be Blue Birds because I liked the neat blue skirt, white blouse and red-and-blue vest Blue Birds wore better than the ugly brown dress Brownies wore. I have always been glad of that decision.

That first week at Yenis Hante, I learned to love singing. I saw my first snow flower (Sarcodes sanguinea) and learned to recognize Ponderosa pines by their bark which resembles the design of jigsaw puzzle pieces. We should have learned to recognize the Incense Cedars (Calocedrus decurrens) which gave Yenis Hante half of its name, but I don’t remember anyone mentioning them.

I attended Yenis Hante for a week every summer except one, until I became a Counselor-in-Training and then a counselor and could stay for five weeks – the entire summer season. My early memories merge with later ones; small changes occurred but did not change how camp felt. When I was a Blue Bird milk arrived in large milk cans on the back of a truck. At meals we poured the milk into our glasses from metal pitchers. Later milk cartons replaced the pitcher son the tables. When a milk carton was empty we turned it on its side and said the cow was dead.

The first year we washed our dishes in buckets of water standing on the benches next to our tables. Later we washed dished at a large sink in the back of the dining room and eventually the dishes were washed by the “maintenance men” – high school boys who did odd jobs around camp and drove the camp van down to Wofford Heights for mail or to Bakersfield for bread.

YH Old Cabins
The old cabins at Yenis Hante – 1956

 

My second year at camp a number of large cabins built of cinder blocks and redwood replaced some of the small wooden cabins. The new cabins had cement floors, screened windows and metal roofs. They were big enough for seven or eight bunk beds instead of four. Sometimes the older cabins, which became fewer over time, were used for crafts or other special activities, but I didn’t sleep in one again until I was a nature counselor without my own cabin group.

 

Yenis Hante -A New Cabin
A New Cabin – 1960s

 

For a while we had crafts in a Quonset hut at one end of the lower row of cabins. Later the Quonset hut disappeared and there was an open-air crafts shack where supplies were stored.

YH Swimming Pool
Swimming Pool at Yenis Hante – 1956

The swimming pool, probably built in the 1930s, was fed from a stream; icy cold water flowed down the hillside above into a pipe to the pool. Newspaper articles from the 30s mention girls learning to swim there but I never did more than wade in shallow water one pre-camp weekend before the pool was completely filled. The pond, about the same size, was below the swimming pool. I think perhaps water from the pool drained into the pond.

When we filed into the dining room we always sang “Hey Ho, nobody home, meat nor drink nor money have I none, Still I will be merry” over and over until every girl stood in place behind a bench and the words of grace rang out “For Health and Strength an daily bread we praise thy name Oh Lord”. Then there was a clatter of benches as everyone sat down and the meal began. Afterwards we sang “Sarasponda” and “The Zulu Warrior” and then the lovely rounds of “White Coral Bells.”

Later, as shadows deepened and stars appeared in the ink-black sky we congregated on the long, low benches of the outdoor theater. A fire burned in the fireplace on one side of the stage and sometimes we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores. Girls might present skits on the stage and there were always songs, especially the haunting strains of “Witchcraft.”