By Aaron Selkow, Owner/Director
The Tribal Campfire is fantastic. We gather the campers in our usual spot near the woods on the way to the lake, and we use storytelling and ritual to inspire excitement and camp spirit. The two Tribal War teams (Unami Turtles and Minsi Wolves, dressed in their white and green outfits and belting out cheers and songs) sit in two sections of the site, while our first-time campers are wearing their red Chestnut Lake Tribal t-shirts awaiting the official news of which team they will forever join. Tonight, without the threat of rain, we were able to incorporate all the rituals we cherish at Chestnut for this special night.
To begin, I read the Tribal Story (you can click here and see the same words we shared tonight). The story connects the dots between Chestnut Lake Camp’s history and the sustenance of the Tribal tradition. Following the recitation of this tale, our campers on the Minsi Wolves and Unami Turtles move to line the bridge to the lake, each team standing across from each in the Tribal colors. The first-time campers in red make their way through this gauntlet and arrive at the lake to perform the Tribal Oath (also available to read here).
When the campers return to the Campfire Site, they learn of their team by virtue of the white or green pain that is added to their cheeks by our camp leadership team. They turn to face their friends, and they react to the responses those new teammates have to the paint seen on their faces. Now, they are part of a new community. Forevermore, they will be either Minsi or Unami.
The ceremony tonight is analogous to our first week at camp. Our Full Summer and Second Session campers that have either been here all summer or are back after a previous season here are our leaders. Their job – while they are enjoying themselves and able to just be kids in such a remarkable place – is to help our new campers settle in and discover the joy that we have here in Beach Lake. During the first 5 days, they did so with 50 additional campers here to experience Discovery Camp. And now, as they continue through a sprint through our remaining two weeks of the summer, they have indoctrinated their peers into the Tribal experience. All that remains now is to wait and see when Tribal will be “broken” in a creative way, and then the actual games will begin.
We keep track of the Tribal winners each session and from summer to summer. But there is no doubt that we all win when we can dive into such a meaningful activity and connect each camper to one another and to the rich history – and future – that we have at Chestnut Lake.