Mighty Fox TribeFox & Son

Y-Indian Guides: Program & History


For the past 60 years Y-Indian Guide Programs have offered thousands of elementary school age children and their parents opportunities to laugh, love, grow, and learn while spending quality, planned, one-on-one time together. Y-Indian Guide parent and child pairs meet in small groups called tribes to hold meetings or conduct outings that incorporate a variety of recreational and educational activities. Participation in activities by both parent and child is a vital part of Y-Indian Guides. Parent and child share in games, crafts, outings, and campouts. The parent observes their child's relationship in the group, and see the child's strengths and needs, affording a basis for helping the child to grow. Likewise, the child observes the parent in action with other parents and kids. This provides the child with an important role model. The programs are built around an American Indian theme that provides new experiences for parents and children and reinforces their awareness of nature, community and family ties.


Through Y-Indian Guides, the YMCA provides the following benefits to both parents and children.
  • Foster companionship and understanding and set a foundation for positive, lifelong relationships between parent and child.
  • Build a sense of self-esteem and personal worth.
  • Expand awareness of body, mind, and spirit.
  • Provide a framework to meet a mutual need of spending enjoyable, constructive, and quality time together.
  • Enhance the quality of family time.
  • Emphasize the vital role that parents play in the growth and development of their children.
  • Offer an important and unique opportunity to develop and enjoy volunteer leadership skills.
  • Opportunity to meet other families with children the same age.
  • Organization

    The tribe is the basic organizational unit for Y-Indian programs. Father and son attendance together is required for participation in activities. Tribes contain anywhere from eight to twelve families. Tribal meetings are usually held once a month in different members' homes or other special settings. One dad is selected as chief, and the other families host a meeting at home once or twice a year. Tribes are typically organized based on school or neighborhood location. Most braves in the Fox Tribe are in the Woodridge/Northwood Elementary School attendance areas.


    In the Beginning...

    "The Indian father raises his son. He teaches his son to hunt, to track, to fish, to walk softly and silently in the forest, to know the meaning and purpose of life and all that he must know, while the white man allows the mother to raise his son." These chance remarks made in the early 1920s by Ojibway Indian hunting guide Joe Friday to Harold Keltner, a St. Louis YMCA director, struck a responsive chord.

    Closing the Gap

    In 1925 Keltner arranged for Friday to speak before boys and dads in the St. Louis area. One evening after a talk given at a father and son banquet, Friday was so closely surrounded by fathers that the boys could not get near him. This gave Keltner an idea. Perhaps this strong mutual interest in the Indian could be put at the heart of a program aimed at closing the gap that he had seen widening between American fathers and their sons.

    American Indian Culture and Life

    Keltner designed a father-son program based on the qualities of American Indian culture and life: Dignity, Patience, Endurance, Spirituality, Feeling for the earth, and Concern for the family. From this, Y-Indian Guide programs were born.

    Rapid Growth After WWII

    In 1926, Keltner organized the first tribe of Y-Indian Guides in Richmond Heights, MO, with the help of Friday and William Hefelfinger, chief of that first tribe. Although it grew slowly at first, the program was eventually recognized as a national YMCA program in 1935. The popularity of Y-Indian Guides grew rapidly in the post-World War II period of 1942 to 1962, guided by John Ledie, national advisor. Many new programs and organizational developments at the local and national levels also evolved during this time.

    The Y-Indian Princess Program is Born

    The rise of the family YMCA following World War II, the genuine need for supporting little girls in their personal growth, and the demonstrated success of the father-son program in turn nurtured the development of parent-daughter groups. The mother-daughter program, now called Indian Maidens, was established in South Bend, IN, in 1951. Three years later father-daughter groups, which were called Y-Indian Princesses, originated in the Fresno, CA, YMCA. Y-Indian Braves, a program for mothers and sons, emerged during the late 1970s and was officially recognized by the National Executive Committee of the National Longhouse at Dearborn, MI, in 1980.

    Since 1963, the swift expansion of the program has continued with all these programs, and with a corresponding group of programs for older children. Currently, about 900 YMCAs sponsor 30,000 Y-Indian Guide groups.

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