How To Honor Native American Heritage

   Camp News

November is a month that brings many things to our minds. A month that starts with Election Day in the United States and ends with Thanksgiving and the start of holiday planning. The eleventh month brings a lot to celebrate including gratitude, family, and growing out your mustache for charity :) November is also Native American Heritage Month. In the early 1900s, Native Americans began to be recognized by a day of recognition they deserved for the significant contributions they made to the establishment and growth of the U.S. It is important to always recognize and honor the Native American culture. 

The movement was spearheaded around 1915 by Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans” and for three years they adopted such a day. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kans., formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day. What started as a recognition of “Native Indian Day” in 24 states in 1916-1919, there was no formal national month or holiday for recognition of Native American.  In 1990 President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations, under variants on the name (including “Native American Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”) have been issued each year since 1994.

At Camp Wekeela, honoring the Native American heritage is incredibly important and substantial to our camp. Every bunk is named after a Native American tribe or phrase. These names have important meaning at Wekeela and pay homage to those that came and lived here before us. At Wekeela, we believe that we must appreciate, not appropriate the Indigenous cultures and phrases. 


Why The Native American Names Around Camp?


We pay tribute to the first Americans and to the people who called Little Bear Pond and its surroundings, home. That’s why the majority of the buildings around camp have Native American names. Our newsletter “The Wigwam”, and the “Council Ring” are also derived from Native American words. This has been done for a purpose, to honor and never forget the people who lived here. The Iroquois nation was a five nation confederacy. The Iroquois power was felt from Maine to Mississippi. Throughout Maine lived the Abnaki. Abnaki or Abenaki belonged to the Algonquians. Their native tongue was Lanape. Bear Mountain in Lanape is Mauch Chunk.

America is currently going through a re-evaluation of the nativist-racism that has existed for many years. First, let’s start by removing from our vocabulary the word Indian when referring to Native Americans. Due to pop culture and old-school-out-dated Westerns, many Americans think of Native Americans wearing a feathered headdress, charging across the Plains on horseback to swoop down on innocent settlers or clash with the cavalry. Native Americans have been portrayed in countless movies, television shows, and books this way – a stereotypical and harmful depiction. But this image of the first Americans represents only one type of Indigenous culture in a very brief period of time from the viewpoint of white America. Native Americans, and all people for that matter, are much more than a collection of stereotypes. They are people who feel the same range of emotions as other people and who have developed a complex and sophisticated cultural life. We’ve seen this as the Washington Football Team has changed their team name from “Redskins” and calls for the Cleveland Indians to change their name after retiring their “Chief-Wahoo” logo. 


Even the term “Indians” is a misnomer. In 1492, Christopher Columbus, thinking he had landed in the East Indies, called the people he found here “Los Indios” which later became “Indians.” No one knows precisely how long these people had been in North America before the arrival of Columbus, but anthropologists and archaeologists estimate it was at least 30,000 years.


The Natives of the North East were among the first Americans to meet the explorers and settlers who crossed the Atlantic from Europe. The native people of this region influenced the newcomers in many ways. They showed the settlers  how to survive in the new and unfamiliar land, and how to hunt, what to pick, and what to plant. Nearly half the varieties of vegetables commonly grown in gardens in North America today were first planted by these Native Americans.


The Algonquins lived throughout Maine for thousands of years and on the shores of Little Bear Pond where Wekeela exists today. The white Birch trees that can be seen throughout the Wekeela campus and Maine took care of the Algonquin people. The Birch provided building materials superior to the Elm tree. Algonquins used it to build their homes, and utensils. The canoes constructed from Birch were exceptionally light and maneuverable. Today, the Algonquins of Maine are known for their expert basketry.


Please enjoy the glossary of Native American terms at Camp Wekeela to better understand the culture. Please spend this November honoring and respecting the Native American Heritage and do what you can to support them. To learn more about supporting Native American causes at: 


Be an ally and stop anti-Native racism and racism of all kinds. 


Glossary of Native American Names At Camp 


  • Abnaki or Abenaki – “those living at the sunrise.” The name of the Algonquian tribes that have lived in Maine and eastern Canada for several thousand years.
  • Algonquin – One of the five tribes of the Iroquois Nation. The Algonquin tribe occupied more territory than any other. 
  • Apache – Were a rather nomadic people and always on the move. Lived in New Mexico & Texas; the Apache were very warlike.                                                                                                                                                                                                
  • Arapaho – An important Plains tribe of the Alonquin family.
  • Cayuga – An Iroquoian confederation, one of the five nations of the Iroquois. 
  • Cherokee – A tribe of the Iroquoian family.
  • Chippewa – One of the largest tribes north of Mexico. Chippewa means to “pucker up” or “roast until puckered up.”
  • Council Ring – A meeting place for the leaders of a tribe; the chief always sitting in the middle surrounded by a hierarchy of subordinates.
  • Kiawah – An extinct tribe that lived on Kiawah Island in South Carolina.
  • Kineo – Mentioned in Thoreau’s Allagash, Mt. Kineo is named after a noted sachem of the Kennebec tribe. He was driven from his home in Swan Island, ME.                                                                                                                                                                                  
  • Kokadjo – A village in the White Mountains of Maine. Still home to the Penobscot tribe.                                                                                
  • Khatadin – Mt.  Khatadin is the single most outstanding peak in all the Appalachians. Mt. Katahdin, the final landmark at the northern end of the Appalachian Trail, is located in Baxter State Park; it climbs 5,267 feet to earn the distinction of being Maine’s highest point.                                              
  • Lakota – A name given to themselves by the Dakota. Means friend or ally.
  • Navajo – This was a strong Athapascan tribe that lived in Arizona and New Mexico.                                                                                                
  • Ogunquit – means “beautiful place by the sea” in the indigenous Abenaki language, was first a village within Wells, Maine which was settled in 1641.                                                                                                                                                                                                 
  • Onondaga – An Iroquois reservation under the jurisdiction of the State of New York.                                                                                        
  • Penobscot – Along with the Passamaquoddy, the only large Indian group left in New England.                                                                        
  • Potawatomi – This is a tribe that speaks the Chippewan dialect. Also known as the “Fire Nation.”                                                                    
  • Quinnipiac – A village of the Quinnipiac was located near the present city of New Haven, CT.
  • Rappahannock – The Lenape name for the river that alternates, which means that it was affected by the tides. 
  • Sachem –  Paramount chief among the Algonquians or other northeast American tribes                                                                                                            
  • Sequoia – A well known Cherokee was Sequoya, who invented the Native American alphabet                                                                                                                                                                                                            
  • Shawnee – A southeastern tribe.                                                                                                                                                                       
  • Sioux – An ethnic division of the Native Americans ranging from the Plains of Michigan to the RockyMountains; also known as Dakota.                                                                                                      
  • Tuscarora – An Iroquois tribe, today a reservation under the jurisdiction of the State of New York.                                                                     
  • Totem Pole – Marked the dwellings of the most important families within the village.                                                                                       
  • Weyou-Wega – Camp Wekeela’s original name. It’s derived from the Native American tribe Weyauwega in Wisconsin.   
  • Wigwam – Native American term for “dwelling” & Tribe.                                                                                                                                                                       
  • Winnebago – Tribe of Siouan stock; as mound builders.                                                                                                                            
  • Wiscasset – Means gathering place in Lenape.                                                                                                                                              
  • Wyandot – A tribe of Iroquois stock; allied with Algonquian tribes. 
  • Zuni – Tribe of Arizona & New Mexico, this tribe belongs to the Pueblo Indian group.


Algonquin Poem 

We are the stars which sing,

We sing with our light;

We are the birds of fire

Our light is a voice;

We make a road for the spirits,

For the spirits to pass over.

Among us are three hunters

Who chase bear.

There was never a time

When they were not hunting

We look down on the mountains

This is the song of the stars.


If you have any questions about Wekeela 2021 – please feel free to let us know. And on behalf of our family, we wish you and your family a healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!!