Taking an Indian Name in Camp

by Alice C. Fletcher

In view of the significance of Indian personal names, and the dignity and reverence which in every instance surrounded the giving or the taking of a name, it hardly seems appropriate that Indian names should be assumed even for a short period without some regard being shown to the customs and thought of the people from whom the names are borrowed. While there should be no travesty of rites such as those that have been here described, rites that have been held sacred upon this continent for untold generations, still it would not be unseemly to hold to the spirit of those rites when we borrow these names during the camp days in which we seek to live close to the nature that the Indian loved so reverently and well.

When it is decided among the members of the camp to take an Indian name, on the day of the ceremony all the camp should assemble early in the morning. When all have gathered, they should move toward a place where the sun can be seen when it rises over the lake, the hilltops or the woods. There all should pause.

The candidate for the name should not wear any head-band. The boy or girl should stand well to the front of the group, all of whom should face the East. The entire company should then join in the following song:

Song No. 1

  Skies proclaim a new day! We joyfully meet,
      We thankfully greet,
  His[A] new name this day shall repeat.

The Leader of the camp must then intone the following:

  Hear! O Trees that gird our camp!
  Listen, ye Birds that fly through the branches!
  Harken, ye rippling waves on Stream and Lake!
          Hear me!
  Into your midst has come a friend,
      He[A] bears a new Name!
  Ye shall know him as ——(name)

[Footnote A: The pronoun should be changed according to the sex of the candidate.]

The announcement of the name should be distinctly made so as to be clearly heard by the entire company. The head-band or other camp insignia should now be officially put on the candidate.

All present should then join in singing the following song, clapping their hands as beats to the music as they skip back to breakfast and to the pleasures of the day:

Song No. 2

  Homeward we go, calling his[B] name;
  New is the name now we proclaim;
  No other change in our friend, he[B] is the same!

[Footnote B: Change the pronoun to the proper sex.]

  Singing we go, way ha way ho!
  Dancing also, way ha way ho!
  No one more merry than we, way ha way ho!

The second stanza should be repeated and the steps kept in rhythm until the dancers finally disperse.

Next: Indian Names for Boys, Girls, and Camps

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