Hunter M. Hampton
|Campers in front of camp sign circa 1950. |
Photo from "Memories of Kanakuk are Forever"
The day a first-time camper arrived, they were placed in one of two American Indian tribes, Cherokees or Choctaws. According to the camp brochure, “The hatchet is dug up the first week of camp and a battle royal is between the two tribes.” Over the course of the summer, the two tribes competed in football, baseball, basketball, swimming, marksmanship, and archery to earn points for their tribe. At the end of the term, a winner is decided and “the hatchet buried with ceremony until the following summer.” Reflecting on their time at camp, former campers repeatedly recalled their fond memories of tribal competition, and offered their well wishes to fellow tribesmen. The potency of imitating American Indians appeased a desire for an authentic experience in nature and left an indelible mark on the campers for the rest of their lives.
Aside from the ceremonies and competition, Kanakuk offered children the opportunity to learn from the Indians that previously occupied the land. Each day campers took a course in “Indian Studies.” Here they learned that “the camp is situated in old Indian country, and many relics of the early Indian life are found: arrow heads, spearheads, and pieces of pottery being among those collected.” Each class had an instructor allegedly knowledgeable of Indian customs and traditions. Learning about Indian culture afforded campers instruction on properly playing Indian. These types of lessons inspired one father to declare “if he had to have his children miss summer camp or a year in school he would prefer that they miss the year’s schoolwork.”