Read an Excerpt
Woodcraft and Indian Lore
By Ernest Thompson Seton
Dover Publications. Inc.Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Principles of Scouting
Nine Important Principles of Scouting
This is a time when the whole nation is turning toward the Outdoor Life, seeking in it the physical regeneration so needful for continued national existence — is waking to the fact long known to thoughtful men, that those live longest who live nearest to the ground — that is, who live the simple life of primitive times, divested, however, of the evils that ignorance in those times begot.
Consumption, the white man's plague since he has become a house race, is vanquished by the sun and air, and many ills of the mind also are forgotten when the sufferer boldly takes to the life in tents.
Half our diseases are in our minds and half in our houses. We can safely leave the rest to the physicians for treatment.
Sport is the great incentive to Outdoor Life; Nature Study is the intellectual side of sport.
I should like to lead this whole nation into the way of living outdoors for at least a month each year, reviving and expanding a custom that as far back as Moses was deemed essential to the national well-being.
Not long ago a benevolent rich man, impressed with this idea, chartered a steamer and took some hundreds of slum boys up to the Catskills for a day in the woods. They were duly landed and told to "go in now and have a glorious time." It was like gathering up a netful of minnows and throwing them into the woods, saying, "Go and have a glorious time."
The boys sulked around and sullenly disappeared. An hour later, on being looked up, they were found in groups under the bushes, smoking cigarettes, playing cards, and loafing about—the only things they knew.
Thus the well-meaning rich man learned that it is not enough to take men out of doors. We much also teach them to enjoy it.
The purpose of this book is to show how Outdoor Life may be followed to advantage.
Nine leading principles are kept in view:
(1) This movement is essentially for recreation.
(2) Camp-life. Camping is the simple life reduced to actual practice, as well as the culmination of the outdoor life.
Camping has no great popularity to-day, because men have the idea that it is possible only after an expensive journey to the wilderness; and women that it is inconvenient, dirty, and dangerous.
These are errors. They have arisen because camping as an art is not understood. When intelligently followed, camp-life must take its place as a cheap and delightful way of living, as well as a mental and physical savior of those strained or broken by the grind of the over-busy world.
The wilderness affords the ideal camping, but many of the benefits can be got by living in a tent on a town plot, a verandah, or even a house top.
(3) Self-government with Adult Guidance. Control from without is a poor thing when you can get control from within. As far as possible, then, we make these camps self-governing. Each full member has a vote in affairs.
(4) The Magic of the Campfire. What is a camp without a campfire? — no camp at all, but a chilly place in a landscape, where some people happen to have some things.
When first the brutal anthropoid stood up and walked erect — was man, the great event was symbolized and marked by the lighting of the first campfire.
For millions of years our race has seen in this blessed fire, the means and emblem of light, warmth, protection, friendly gathering, council. All the hallow of the ancient thoughts, hearth, fireside, home is centred in its glow, and the home-tie itself is weakened with the waning of the home-fire. Not in the steam radiator can we find the spell; not in hot water pipes; not even in the gas fire; they do not reach the heart. Only the ancient sacred fire of wood has power to touch and thrill the chords of primitive remembrance. When men sit together at the campfire they seem to shed all modern form and poise, and hark back to the primitive — to meet as man and man — to show the naked soul. Your campfire partner wins your love, or hate, mostly your love; and having camped in peace together, is a lasting bond of union — however wide your worlds may be apart.
The campfire, then, is the focal centre of all primitive brotherhood. We shall not fail to use its magic powers.
(5) Woodcraft Pursuits. Realizing that manhood,not scholarship, is the first aim of education, we have sought out those pursuits which develop the finest character, the finest physique, and which may be followed out of doors, which, in a word, make for manhood.
By nearly every process of logic we are led primarily to Woodcraft — that is, Woodcraft in a large sense — meaning every accomplishment of an all-round Woodman — Riding, Hunting, Camper-craft, Scouting, Mountaineering, Indian-craft, First aid, Star-craft, Signaling, and Boating. To this we add all good Outdoor Athletics and Sports, including Sailing and Motoring, and Nature Study, of which Wild Animal Photography is an important branch; but above all, Heroism.
Over three hundred deeds or exploits are recognized in these various departments, and the members are given decorations that show what they achieved
(6) Honors by Standards. The competitive principle is responsible for much that is evil. We see it rampant in our colleges to-day, where every effort is made to discover and develop a champion, while the great body of students is neglected. That is, the ones who are in need of physical development do not get it, and those who do not need it are over-developed. The result is much unsoundness of many kinds. A great deal of this would be avoided if we strove to bring all the individuals up to a certain standard. In our non-competitive tests the enemies are not "the other fellows," but time and space, the forces of Nature. We try not to down the others, but to raise ourselves. A thorough application of this principle would end many of the evils now demoralizing college athletics. Therefore, all our honors are bestowed according to world-wide standards. (Prizes are not honors.)
(7) Personal Decoration for Personal Achievements. The love of glory is the strongest motive in a savage. Civilized man is supposed to find in high principle his master impulse. But those who believe that the men of our race, not to mention boys, are civilized in this highest sense, would be greatly surprised if confronted with figures. Nevertheless, a human weakness may be good material to work with. I face the facts as they are. All have a chance for glory through the standards, and we blazon it forth in personal decorations that all can see, have, and desire.
(8) A Heroic Ideal. The boy from ten to fifteen, like the savage, is purely physical in his ideals. I do not know that I ever met a boy that would not rather be John L. Sullivan than Darwin or Tolstoi. Therefore, I accept the fact, and seek to keep in view an ideal that is physical, but also clean, manly, heroic, already familiar, and leading with certainty to higher things.
(9) Picturesqueness in Everything. Very great importance should be attached to this. The effect of the picturesque is magical, and all the more subtle and irresistible because it is not on the face of it reasonable. The charm of titles and gay costumes, of the beautiful in ceremony, phrase, dance, and song, are utilized in all ways.
When two or three young people camp out, they can live as a sort of family, especially if a grown-up be with them; but when a dozen or more are of the party, it is necessary to organize.
What manner of organization will be practical, and also give full recognition to the nine principles of scouting? What form of government lends itself best to —
Honors by standards;
Personal decoration for personal achievement;
A heroic ideal;
Picturesqueness in all things?
In my opinion, the Tribal or Indian form of organization.
Fundamentally, this is a republic or limited monarchy, and many experiments have proved it best for our purpose. It makes its members self-governing; it offers appropriate things to do outdoors; it is so plastic that it can be adopted in whole or in part, at once or gradually; its picturesqueness takes immediate hold of all; and it lends itself so well to our object that, soon or late, other forms of organization are forced into its essentials.
No large band of boys ever yet camped out for a month without finding it necessary to recognize a leader, a senior form (or ruling set whose position rests on merit), some wise grown person to guide them in difficulties, and a place to display the emblems of the camp; that is, they have adopted the system of the Chief, Council, Medicine Man and Totem-pole.
Moreover, the Ideal Indian stands for the highest type of primitive life. He was a master of woodcraft, and unsordid, clean, manly, heroic, self-controlled, reverent, truthful, and picturesque always.
America owes much to the Redman. When the struggle for freedom came on, it was between men of the same blood and bone, equal in brains and in strength. The British had the better equipment perhaps. The great advantage of the American was that he was a trained scout, and this training which gave him the victory he got from the Redman.
But the Redman can do a greater service now and in the future. He can teach us the ways of outdoor life, the nobility of courage, the joy of beauty, the blessedness of enough, the glory of service, the power of kindness, the super-excellence of peace of mind and the scorn of death. For these were the things that the Redman stood for; these were the sum of his faith.CHAPTER 2
The Spartans of the West
No world-movement ever yet grew as a mere doctrine. It must have some noble example; a living, appealing personality; some man to whom we can point and say, "This is what we mean." All the great faiths of the world have had such a man, and for lack of one, many great and flawless truths have passed into the lumber-room.
To exemplify my outdoor movement, I must have a man who was of this country and climate; who was physically beautiful, clean, unsordid, high-minded, heroic, picturesque, and a master of Woodcraft, besides which, he must be already well-known. I would gladly have taken a man of our own race, but I could find none. Rollo the Sea-King, King Arthur, Leif Ericsson, Robin Hood, Leatherstocking, all suggested themselves, but none seemed to meet the requirements, and most were mere shadows, utterly unknown. Surely, all this pointed the same way. There was but one figure that seemed to answer all these needs: that was the Ideal Indian of Fenimore Cooper and Longfellow.
For this reason, I took the Native American, and called my organization "Woodcraft Indians." And yet, I am told that the prejudice against the word "Indian" has hurt the movement immensely. If so, it is because we do not know what the Indian was, and this I shall make it my sad and hopeful task, at this late day, to have our people realize.
We know more about the Redman to-day than ever we did. Indeed, we knew almost nothing of him twenty years ago. We had two pictures offered us; one, the ideal savage of Longfellow, the primitive man, so noble in nature that he was incapable of anything small or mean or wicked; the other was presented by those who coveted his possessions, and, to justify their robberies, they sketched the Indian as a dirty, filthy, squalid wretch, a demon of cruelty and cowardice, incapable of a human emotion, and never good till dead.
Which of these is the true picture? Let us calmly examine the pages of history, taking the words and records of Redmen and white, friends and foes of the Indian, and be prepared to render a verdict, in absolute accordance with that evidence, no matter where it leads us.
Let us begin by admitting that it is fair to take the best examples of the red race, to represent Indian philosophy and goodness; even as we ourselves would prefer being represented by Emerson, Tolstoi, Lincoln, Spencer, Peabody, General Booth, or Whitman, rather than by the border ruffians and cut-throat outlaws who were the principal exemplars of our ways among the Indians.
It is freely admitted that in all tribes, at all times, there were reprobates and scoundrels, a reproach to the people; just as amongst ourselves we have outcasts, tramps, drunkards, and criminals. But these were despised by their own people, and barely tolerated.
We must in fairness judge the Indian and his way of life and thought by the exemplifications of his best types: Hiawatha, Wabasha I, Tshut-che-nau, Ma-toto-pa, Te-cumseh, Kanakuk, Chief Joseph, Dull Knife, Washakie, and many that loved their own people and were in no wise touched by the doctrines of the whites.
If from these men we gather their beliefs, their teachings, and the common thoughts that guided their lives, we may fairly assume that we have outlined the creed of the best Indians.
THE INDIAN'S CREED
These are the main thoughts in the Redman's creed:
(1) While he believed in many gods, he accepted the idea of one Supreme Spirit, who was everywhere all the time; whose help was needed continually, and might be secured by prayer and sacrifice.
(2) He believed in the immortality of the soul, and that its future condition was to be determined by its behavior in this life.
(3) He reverenced his body as the sacred temple of his spirit; and believed it his duty in all ways to perfect his body, that his earthly record might be the better.
We cannot, short of ancient Greece, find his equal in physical perfection.
(4) He believed in the subjection of the body by fasting, whenever it seemed necessary for the absolute domination of the spirit; as when, in some great crisis, that spirit felt the need for better insight.
(5) He believed in reverence for his parents, and in old age supported them, even as he expected his children to support him.
(6) He believed in the sacredness of property. Theft among Indians was unknown.
(7) He believed that the murderer must expiate his crime with his life; that the nearest kin was the proper avenger, but that for accidental manslaughter compensation might be made in goods.
(8) He believed in cleanliness of body.
(9) He believed in purity of morals.
(10) He believed in speaking the truth, and nothing but the truth. His promise was absolutely binding. He hated and despised a liar, and held all falsehood to be an abomination.
(11) He believed in beautifying all things in his life.
He had a song for every occasion — a beautiful prayer for every stress. His garments were made beautiful with painted patterns, feathers, and quillwork. He had dances for every fireside. He has led the world in the making of beautiful baskets, blankets, and canoes; while the decorations he put on lodges, weapons, clothes, dishes, and dwellings, beds, cradles, or grave-boards, were among the countless evidences of his pleasure in the beautiful, as he understood it.
(12) He believed in the simple life.
He held, first, that land belonged to the tribe, not to the individual; next, that the accumulation of property was the beginning of greed that grew into monstrous crime.
(13) He believed in peace and the sacred obligations of hospitality.
(14) He believed that the noblest of virtues was courage, and that, above all other qualities, he worshipped and prayed for. So also he believed that the most shameful of crimes was being afraid.
(15) He believed that he should so live his life that the fear of death could never enter into his heart; that when the last call came he should put on the paint and honors of a hero going home, then sing his death song and meet the end in triumph.
If we measure this great pagan by our Ten Commandments, we shall find that he accepted and obeyed them, all but the first and third: that is, he had many lesser gods besides the one Great Spirit, and he knew not the Sabbath Day of rest. His religious faith, therefore, was much the same as that of the mighty Greeks, before whom all the world of learning bows; not unlike that of many Christians and several stages higher than that of the Huxley and other modern schools of materialism.
THE DARK SIDE
These are the chief charges against the Indian:
First: He was cruel to his enemies, even torturing them at the stake in extreme cases. He knew nothing about forgiving and loving them.
In the main, this is true. But how much less cruel he was than the leaders of the Christian Church in the Middle Ages! What Indian massacre will compare in horror with that of St. Bartholomew's Eve or the Massacre of Glencoe? Read the records of the Inquisition, or the Queen Mary persecutions in England, or the later James II. abominations for further light!
There was no torture used by the Indians that was not also used by the Spainards. Every frontiersman of the Indian days knows that in every outbreak the whites were the aggressors; and that in every evil count — robbery, torture and massacre — they did exactly as the Indians did. "The ferocity of the Redman," says Bourke, "has been more than equaled by the ferocity of the Christian Caucasian." ("On the Border with Crook," p. 114.)
There are good grounds for stating that the Indians were cruel to their enemies, but it is surprising to see how little of this cruelty there was in primitive days. In most cases the enemy was killed in battle or adopted into the tribe; very, very rarely was he tortured. Captain Clark says of the Cheyennes:
"There is no good evidence that captives have been burned at the stake, flayed alive, or any other excruciating torture inflicted on persons captured by these fierce, war-loving and enterprising barbarians." ("Sign Language," p. 106.)
Excerpted from Woodcraft and Indian Lore by Ernest Thompson Seton. Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications. Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.