Council Names




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by Ernest Thompson Seton

Council Names

Headquarters receives requests for lists of Indian names, from which the Tribe in question wishes to select one or more to bestow on its members. 

First of all the Headquarters has no such lists. Second, if it had, it would not give them out. Third, a name once given is the exclusive property of the one who receives it, and must never again be given. For this reason, every name must be registered at Headquarters. 

There have been some unfortunate misconceptions about the bestowal of a Council name. To be named before the fire with the full ceremony, is the last and highest honor that a Woodcrafter can win. In a camp of 50, it is nearly impossible that more than one or two each summer could justly be allowed the honor. 

At one time, nearly 20 years ago, we gave the name for some great achievement. Now it is given only for a career or as a recognition of character. 

Thus, Eagle-eye, the Sagamore, was 3 years in winning his; Sagamore Alkonda (the Strong-one) was 7 years. Reference to the list of Sagamores in the Birch Bark Roll shows that some achieved the Sagamore Rank without winning a name. We have many thousands of members in the League but only a few scores who have won names. 

Any one asking to be named is thereby showing himself unworthy of the honor. The suggestion must come from the High Council, that is, the meeting of the Leaders.  

This naming is a very ancient and honorable custom. There are many precedents in Scripture for the practice. 

The names are mostly in Indian form, since they had this custom, and their traditions fit in best with our Council ways. But some are in English, as will be seen on reference to [the List of Sagamores and Sachems]. 

The bestowal is a solemn rite, and when the winner is over 15, he is expected to take his vigil, before the final ceremony. "Keeping the vigil" means sitting alone, in some high place, in the woods, by a fire, all night, neither eating, sleeping, smoking, reading, going away, or talking, that is, doing nothing but watch the fire from sundown around to sunrise. It was the approved custom of the young knight in the Middle Ages, before receiving his knighthood and taking his vows, and it is the established and approved custom of the men of the woods today. 

In rare cases, to meet a practical difficulty, the vigil has been permitted in town and indoors; but, of course by a fire, and conforming as far as possible to the above conditions.

The Birch Bark Roll






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Last modified: October 15, 2016.