Tribal Campfire Story

Long ago on this very land lived a people who cherished life. Every breath was sacred and was never wasted. They were a people of peace, of respect, and of integrity. They lived on the very site that Chestnut Lake Camp inhabits today. The Leni-Lenape Native Americans made their homes here, and their lives unfolded here, sleeping, eating, working, and being in the same beautiful setting that we do today. In fact, there are still trees, stones, dirt, and living things that either were present at that time or are direct descendants of animals native to Chestnut from years and years ago.

In the 16th century, the woman chief over all Lenape people was bathing in our lake that’s just over there, and she cut her foot on something very sharp. When she came out of the water, she pulled what turned out to be a precious gemstone out of her foot. She discovered that the lake was filled with precious gemstones. The Lenape people started giving the gemstones to members of their tribe as a symbol of respect. Through the years, receiving a gemstone became the highest sign of honor. Only the noblest Lenape received the gemstones.

Over the next 150 years, the Lenape community split into two tribes, each with 5 different families. One tribe was Minsi, and the other was Unami. They lived in small tents, traveled up and down the lake in their homemade canoes, and based their economy on gemstones as well as various beads that were found at the bottom of the lake. These were peaceful times for the Lenape, but that was all about to change.

In 1677, William Penn – a writer from England who would become the founder of the English colony that we know today as Pennsylvania – crossed the Atlantic Ocean and settled in what we now know as Wayne County, Pennsylvania. They lived alongside the Lenape in peace at first, but when they discovered the gemstones from the lake, tension started to mount. William Penn and his peers made a deal with the Minsi tribe to harvest the gemstones and sell them to him. The Unami was disappointed in the Minsi and urged them not to sell the gemstones to William Penn and the colonists. Driven by greed, the Minsi eventually declared war on the Unami, and an actual civil war broke out.

The Minsi and the Unami fought for 150 days. Finally, the chief of all the Lenape people, Igararra, could take no more. She called a council of leaders to meet with a representative from each of the ten divisions of the two tribes: Ciqala, Mato, Watola, Takoda, Sani, Yazhi, Nova, Niabi, Wakanda, and Kaya. They met in a large open field near the lake to discuss terms of peace.

Igararra opened by saying, “Tribes of Chestnut Lake, we have been at war for 150 days. Can we not end this tragedy and find some way to resolve our differences?”

A young man of one of the tribes came forth with a very thoughtful and essential proposition. This young man, Achewon, said:

“I think it is time to leave this land. But in doing so, our two tribes – Minsi and Unami – must leave together. We must never forget this land and the good years spent here, but the time has come to end this war and I believe that we must set aside our differences once again to leave as one people; one community.” Achewon added one more inspirational suggestion: “We should plant a tree here to signify the end of the war and represent the peace between our tribes. All who follow us here will be able to live under the shade of that tree, consume the fruits of that tree, and use the seeds of that tree’s blossoms to plant more trees forever.”

That night, the tribes came together and planted a Chestnut Tree to represent this treaty. When they left just a few days later, they took a last look at the tree and moved on from the spot, never seen in the area again. But that tree – a Chestnut Tree nearly 350 years old, stands here at Chestnut Lake, just a few hundred yards away in those woods.

Tribal is a special program that carries the spirit and values of this story of the Minsi and Unami Tribes forward for us to learn from and celebrate today. We are two tribes, yet we will always come together as one. We share the gemstones, the beads, the shade of these beautiful trees, and we share everything here, really, while we still can enjoy the fun, the competition, and the spirit of a Tribal color war that has each camper and staff member on either the White Minsi Wolves, or the Green Unami Turtles. Many of you are already a part of this tradition from years past, and now tonight we will welcome each first-time camper and staff member onto one of these teams to become part of this Tribal Story.

Tribal Oath

Tribal holds a special place in the hearts of all Chestnut Lake Campers. It is a time of competition, team spirit, and always fun. The games and sometimes silly events will be played across camp throughout the course of this session at camp, with a few days of more focused activities later this session. We will not ever tell you when the Tribal War will fully begin – the surprise is part of the lore.

Tonight, you will be placed on one of those tribes if you are enjoying your very first summer at Chestnut Lake Camp.  Before you find out which tribe you are on, you must commit to upholding the true spirit of the Tribal Competition, and we ask all first-time campers and staff joining teams to please rise, raise your right hand, and…

Repeat after me:

In the name of Chestnut Lake

I promise

that I shall take part in these Tribal Games

respecting and following

the rules that we honor

in the true spirit of fair-play

for the glory of competition

and the honor of our tribes.