Saturday, April 21, 2007

Who's Who - Ernest Thomas Seton - The Woodcraft Movement

When you think of scouting you immediately come up with certain names - Baden Powell or maybe Dan Beard. However Seton was in many ways equally important. He was not only a founder member of the Boy Scouts of America but was also founder of his own groups the Woodcraft Indians. A good history of him and his Woodcraft movement may be found here.
He created what are, for him and his followers, the 9 essential principles of the Woodcraft Movement.

The nine leading principles of woodcraft

Ernest Thompson Seton first set out what he saw as the 'cardinal principles' of woodcraft in 1910. This version was in the 1927 edition of The Birch Bark Roll.

(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.

(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... The campfire... is the focal center 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.

(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 hose 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. Although 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 Tolstoy. 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.

This is taken from The Birch Bark Roll which is his main work concerning woodcraft. He also wrote a "Two Little Savages" a much quoted story about young boys interacting with nature.
He also recommended some "Medicine in the Sky" as written about by American Bushman.