4-H camp celebrates culture at Warm Springs

July 7, 2006
4-h culture camp

Myra Johnson, manager of the Culture and Heritage Department for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, helps a young camper weave a basket during Oregon State University’s 4H Culture Camp at the Warm Springs Reservation in central Oregon. Photo: Peg Herring

WARM SPRINGS, Ore. - While 4-H clubs around the state are polishing up their projects to show at county fairs, 4-H members at the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation are heading to Culture Camp.

"There's no competition here," said Arlene Boileau, a tribal member at Warm Springs and a 4-H educator with the Oregon State University Extension Service. Twenty years ago, Boileau started Culture Camp on the eastern flank of Mount Jefferson for 4-H youths on the Warm Springs Reservation.

"It gives campers a chance to learn the old ways," Boileau said, "connecting them with the traditions of their culture through a safe and enriching camp experience."

During their week of camp, August 13-19, campers will learn to construct teepees, weave baskets and work beads. They will learn traditional drumming as well as modern approaches to natural resource management.

4-H Culture Camp introduces campers to some new ways, too. Looking to the future health of the Native American community, Culture Camp emphasizes diabetes prevention and drug and alcohol awareness classes from the Warm Springs Community Health Education Team. Candy and soda pop are banned from the camp and daily nature hikes and physical activity are encouraged.

"When we traveled in the old way, we took the essentials, including knowledge of where to find roots, berries, clean water and fish," Boileau told a small group of middle-school-age campers at last year's camp. "Now we get in our cars to travel and our food is full of salt, fat and sugar. We are like the raccoon who eats out of the garbage can because that's what's easy.

"But with knowledge," she adds, "we can change to healthier ways."

4-H Culture Camp celebrates old and new traditions. At campfire each night, traditional drumming and dancing is mixed with camp skits and sing-alongs familiar to anyone who has spent a week at camp.

Cecilia Brunoe, a 19-year-old camp counselor, remembered coming to the 4-H Culture Camp as a middle-schooler and learning to speak the three native languages represented on the Warm Springs Reservation.

"There's Numu, Kiksht and Ichishkin, and they're all spoken deep in the throat," Brunoe explained. "I learned enough in 4-H to understand my elders."

4-H Culture Camp is just one program of many on the reservation operated by the OSU Extension office at Warm Springs.

"OSU Extension has been very fruitful for my people," Boileau said. "Informal learning is a tradition in our community. It works."

Author: Peg Herring
Source: Arlene Boileau