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JUL. 24, 2013

Finding Our Place – Tribal Unity at Camp

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By Liz Synder, Assistant Director

Camp Tribal Unity

When the Twilight bell rang yesterday evening, campers and staff gathered in tribal groups throughout campus. I made my way down to the lake to join the Wohelo women in embracing our element – the water. As I emerged from the lake trail, I was met by the sight and sound of chanting buffaloes in the soft light of late day. Smiles covered the faces of everyone as we came together on the dock as a herd, a tribe, a family within the larger camp community.

We formed two long lines along the dock facing each other. One by one, each Wohelo made her way through the tunnel of cheers and encouragement and into the water. I was overwhelmed with pride as I watched each member of our tribe, ranging in age from 7 to 29, dive in with confidence. It must’ve shown on my face, because a JC turned to me and said, “Liz, I’m so glad you’re a buff – you’ve really found your place here.”

Those words resounded in my mind as we walked silently to a grassy area on the other side of the lake. A single cloud rolled in overhead and a steady rain began to fall, accompanied by a striking rainbow and cool breeze. We sat together, faces turned upward to the sky, embracing the summer shower and sharing words about the strength we find in our tribe. We agreed that we feel at home as Wohelos – that we’ve found our place at camp and beyond. We spoke about the unspoken bond that exists when we meet other buffaloes and shared wisdom and gratitude that have been passed down for years and years.

To those who have not been campers or staff at Eagle’s Nest, tribal unity and pride may be a bit difficult to understand. That was certainly the case for me my first summer here, but once I joined the buffaloes I felt an almost immediate sense of place and belonging. I quickly realized that tribes are much more than teams during Capture the Flag or a specific place to sit at Indian Village. They are family and strength, and more than anything, a group of people who simply “get” each other. It gives me such joy to know that each new camper will find their place in one of four tribes this summer and that those coming back to the Nest will return to their people and place on the Medicine Wheel. I only hope that they will experience the undeniable connection to each member of their tribe, young and old, that I do with mine.