Monday, August 25, 2008

Pipestone Promises

Pipestone Promises

One of my best friends has attained a rather exalted rank in the Boy Scouts of America of late. This is as an adult, so I'm not talking actual Boy Scout ranks here. He's become a commissioner in the organization. Basically, he's a leader of a group of troops. In his case I think it's five troops. Before accepting the new position, he was a Scout Master; before that, a Cub Master. This progression is understandable if you knew the fellow. First, he had a son who was interested in the Boy Scouts, so he helped him along by taking leadership roles in the various Scout organizations as his son aged and worked his way through the ranks. Second, he has a difficult time saying “no” to anyone who presents a need that he feels he can accommodate. And third, he badly wanted to be a Scout when he was young and he was not allowed to become one. So he was, I think, living a bit vicariously as a Scout through his son.

I was happy to see him thus able to be a Boy Scout, even if it was second-hand, and he told me on many occasions how much fun he was having doing it.

I was a Scout as a youngster and seeing him engaged in this pursuit and hearing his descriptions of his adventures on camping trips brought back many memories of my own.

Let me share one with you.

The highlight of the year for any Boy Scout, at least back in the very late '50's and very early '60's when I was a member, was summer camp. This week-long camp was an event that was dreamed about, planned on and prepared for during the entire year. Money was saved, equipment was bought or repaired, family vacations were moved to accommodate the camp and skills were learned and honed in preparation for it. It was the high point in a Scout's year.

The summer camp I attended while I was a scout was named Camp Tuscazoar. It was named after the Tuscarawas River and the village of Zoar, both of which were nearby. This was a large, permanent camp which accommodated hundreds of Scouts per week over most of the summer. It has a long history since its inception in 1920 and its naming in 1925. It had several permanent buildings in the camp including the mess hall, the nature lodge, Hoover Lodge (named after the man who donated the first 65 1/2 acres for the camp), Dan Beard Lodge, the trading post, maintenance building, headquarters and several other ones. It also had a full-size swimming pool, rifle range, archery range, many miles of trails and primitive campsites and numerous other venues for Scouts to utilize. There were also a number of campsites for the visiting Boy Scout Troops, both with canvas 4-man tents and with Adirondack cabins (small cabins open on one side).

Tuscazoar was highly regarded for its comprehensive camping program, its experienced leaders and the beauty of its locale. But its most stellar characteristic was the award it bestowed upon its honor campers. This award was called the Pipestone Honors Award. This award was a piece of pipestone rock, hung on a leather thong and worn on the Boy Scout uniform over the right pocket. The pipestone was brought in from Pipestone, Minnesota in slabs, sawed into appropriately sized pieces and particular symbols were engraved in each piece before a hole was drilled in the top of each piece and a leather thong attached. The color of the pipestone varied from a darkish-tan to an almost purplish brown. Each award was different than the others, so what you got was unique.

Pipestone was carved and used to make peace pipes by Native Americans in the old days.

The pipestone was awarded to campers who had met certain requirements during their weekly tenure in the camp. There were camping, swimming, nature, Boy Scout advancement and other requirements necessary for qualification. For first-year campers, the requirements were fairly easy. For each subsequent year that the Scout attended the camp, the requirements became more difficult. This progression of difficulty continued until the last award was offered, which was the fifth year. The requirements were stringent and had to be met to qualify for the award. There were no pipestone “gimmes” handed out.

If you qualified for the award that year, you turned in your pipestone from the previous year and, after a ceremony, were awarded a new stone with an additional symbol carved on it. So the first year you got a stone with a single symbol on it and, if you attended that camp for five years and got the award each year, you ended up with an impressive piece of pipestone with five symbols carved in it. The symbols, in order of year were: the outline of a man standing and holding a stick above his head, a campfire, a tepee, a flower blossom and an Indian arrowhead. Each symbol was tied to a moral lesson which was taught at the appropriate award bestowal ceremony at the end of the week.

Becoming a fifth-year pipestone winner was considered a great honor. It was a much-sought-after award and was highly treasured above many other awards a Scout could earn, possibly only second to the Eagle badge itself. It was also considered an indication of manhood. The progression of these awards paralleled the maturation of the Scout, as he grew from the age of 12 or so until 17. A fifth-year pipestone winner was, in many respects, a man, at least in the eyes of his younger brethren in the troop.

On your first year camping at Tuscazoar, if you had been diligent, had worked hard and had performed all the tasks necessary to qualify for the pipestone, this is what happened:

The awarding of the pipestone honor award always occurred on Friday night during your week at camp. After supper, the Scouts who had qualified were sequestered in a separate area away from the rest of the troop and told to keep quiet and to think on the accomplishments they had achieved during the week. When dusk was approaching they were lined up by a leader and led to a circular clearing in the woods they had not seen before. It was called the pick-up circle, but the boys did not know it by that name yet. They were seated on the ground facing an already burning campfire, told to cross their legs, fold their arms on their chest and not to speak. The leaders then left the boys alone.

It was quiet. The night had, by then, fallen and it was dark. The only sounds were the snapping of the logs in the fire as they were burned, the distant croaking of frogs in the marshy spots of the camp and possibly the quiet whisper of wind in the treetops. This quiet waiting went on for long, long minutes – perhaps even a half-hour or longer. Some of the boys may have even got drowsy, sitting quietly and waiting. Then, way off in the distance, a drum was heard. It sounded like a BIG drum. The drum was beating in a certain rhythm – a loud beat followed by three lighter beats. BOOM, boom, boom, boom. BOOM, boom, boom, boom. BOOM, boom, boom, boom. The drum beats slowly became louder and louder until it seemed the drum had to become visible, it had to be very, very near. Then... silence.

The drums suddenly stopped. I think a lot of the boy's hearts skipped a beat when that happened. It was sudden, startling and unexpected. They sat there waiting for whatever was supposed to happen next.

The tension was excruciating.

Suddenly, behind the fire, an Indian appeared. He wasn't there... then... he was. It was unnerving. His fierce gaze slowly passed over all of the boys – back and forth, back and forth. He suddenly barked several unintelligible words and threw a powder into the fire. A huge flare of colored flame shot up, a large cloud of smoke arose and... CRACK, CRACK, CRACK... about 20 intensely-bright, red railroad flares erupted on all sides of the group the Scouts were sitting in. Each flare was held by an Indian brave.

Most of the boys were frightened and shocked. They had no idea what was going to happen. They stared at the sudden appearance of the Indians, their eyes wide with alarm.

The Indian's bodies were uniformly colored with a reddish paint, they wore loincloths and moccasins, had black hair in Indian braids and their faces were covered in warpaint. They had feathers in their headbands.

The Indians roughly pulled the boys onto their feet, lined them up and began to run them down a trail, keeping them moving, keeping their voices silent, having them keep their eyes fixed to the boy ahead of them, leading them down a trail to an unknown destination.

After many long minutes of running and stumbling in the dark, being prodded and pushed by very intimidating-looking savages carrying their hissing, spitting flares, the boys at last approached a campfire circle deep in the woods. They were arranged into an arc facing this campfire, made to again fold their arms in front of them and were ordered to keep perfectly still and perfectly silent. The Indians moved constantly behind the boys, straightening the ones who were drooping, shaking the ones who weren't keeping still. Their hands were not gentle.

All was silent except for the crackling of the fire.

Inside the circle of the campfire were three main figures. The first was an Indian brave standing still as a stone holding a rod high above his head, the symbol of the first year painted on his chest. He would maintain this posture for the entire ceremony.

To this day I do not know how he did it.

The second was the Indian Medicine Man, his face entirely black except for a white skull painted on top the black. His fierce eyes glared at the boys. The third figure was the Chief with buckskin clothing and a full Indian headdress and war paint.

He was holding a human skull in his hands.

Each boy was led by two braves into the circle separately. They first were required by the Medicine Man to drink a bitter liquid from a mussel shell placed at their lips. There was no choice about this. You drank. You then were led to face the Chief. He held the skull in front of you and he gestured you to look into the eyes of the skull. As you looked, a light came on in the skull and there was a word written there. This was your “secret” word which you needed to memorize and repeat the next year at camp to receive your next award. You were then returned to the silent arc of fellow Scouts facing the fire.

After all the boys had their turn in the ring and had then been returned to the group, the Chief bade you all to sit and to finally relax. He then gave the moral lesson that was the first of five given to honor campers, one per year. After which, you were escorted back to the main part of the camp by the Indians, more cordially this time. You then made you way quietly back to your own troop's campsite where you bedded down for the few short hours before dawn. You held your pipestone award tightly as you fell asleep. It had been tough meeting the requirements for it and even tougher going through the ceremony. You'd earned it.

My friend also earned his pipestone awards – all five of them. He earned them as an adult Scoutmaster by leading his son and the rest of his troop for their weeks of summer camp. He worked diligently at those camps for five summers shepherding the boys to and from all the activities they needed to attend during the week, answering their questions and concerns, instructing and informing and feeding their native inquisitiveness.

Being a leader.

He performed these tasks efficiently and professionally despite the sciatica which was wracking his lower back.

He earned his awards too, following a possibly more difficult trail as an adult than I followed as a young man.

I salute him for his diligence, his steadfastness, his moral code and his ability to do something a lot of the rest of us would have a hard time doing.

Or couldn't do at all.

The world is a better place for having men like my friend and the next generation will benefit from his labors.

Kudos to you, my friend. Your efforts were not unnoticed.


Anonymous said...

Wow! your recollection of the pipestone ceremony is dead-on. I acheived the 4th year before I left scouting in the late 80's. I was at Tuscazoar,then Seven Ranges. Great times. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Hmm, not the right password for the first year! You also violate the promise you made to honor the passowrd. But all is forgiven. As one who has held the stick above my head as one of the circle indians I can say it is painful. The trick is to push outward with your hands and sqeeze. Plus, after 15 minutes or so you trade off with another indian. As painful as this is, try not moving while bugs crawl on and bite you for hours. Thanks for the memory.

Anonymous said...

I will also agree that you violated the first year's password. The fun, anxiety, and reward of receiving pipestone is all part of the mystery (no, that isn't the 1st year password) of it. And believe it or not, it is becoming harder and harder to keep things secret for the future pipestone recipients without any help from certain blog posts. Also, the roughness is no longer tolerated by the Buckeye Council and there are very strict guidelines and safety measures that require an impressive amount of behind the scenes people to pull off a successful pipestone memory. I wish you would not have posted it, however you didn't reveal everything, which I thank you for.

Anonymous said...

This is very disappointing to see posted. Pipestone is a very special event for a young scout and to reveal the ceremony in this detail is to take away a very important aspect of the honor. If you wish to know about pipestone take your son to Seven Ranges and go through the ceremony. You will see how many people work to uphold the tradition and its secrecy. If someone for good reason has to know details about the ceremony they are allowed to know (health concerns for a child etc.) but to exploit pipestone in this way for no specific reas onother than entertainment is unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

Thankfully, many of the details were different from reality. As one who has received the Pipestone, you vowed silence about what takes place.

Of course, nothing subversive takes place. The secrecy is intended to motivate the scouts to work hard and to allow them to have the same vibrant experience you had many years ago. Clearly, you treasured your experience on Friday night. Why not allow today's Google-savvy scouts to enjoy it as well?

I urge you to remove your skewed memories of the ceremony for the benefit of those that continue to earn their place at the Council Fire of the Braves.

Kick Powell said...

Wow. I couldn't have described it better myself. I just got my 5th year a week ago tonight. At the end of that ceremony, all the secrets as to how the ceremonies were put on, what you drank the 1st year, are all revealed. For more information email me at

Anonymous said...

I too am very disappointed in seeing this post on the net. Being a 5th year holder from the 80's, I believe in the Pipestone program and everything it has to offer. It was one of the main reasons I stayed in scouting and wish children and grandchildren have the same opportunity. Post like these take the mystery away and opportunity away from our children. If the person who posted this is a pipestone holder, you are disgrace to the program and you should return your pipestone to the Buckeye Council immediately so it can be given to a scout who is deserving and values it's principles!

Everett said...

A couple days ago, i whitnessed the ceremony myself. This was my firt year there, at seven ranges. It was amazing. You will never ever see anything like it! It is truly great! I will go there again and again. It was a little different than the description i just read, but it was almost all the same as it was. If you ever have the chance to go through this, DO IT!!! You will remember it for the rest of you life! Trust me you will be startled and amazed. And I know i will remember it forever!

Everett said...

A couple days ago, I whittnessed the ceremony myself. This was my first year there, at Seven Ranges. It was amazing. You will never ever see anything like it! It is truly great! I will go there again and again. It was a little different than the description I just read, but it was almost all the same as it was. If you ever have the chance to go through this, DO IT!!! You will be startled and amazed. You will remember it for the rest of you life! Trust me,I know I will remember it forever!

Anonymous said...

A bunch of "indians" running around the woods beating the s--- out of kids is a reward ceremony? I was there and earned my fifth year pipestone, and now looking back, I realize that the "secrecy" that is preached only has to do with covering for a few select out of control child abusers. How incredibly disappointing.

Anonymous said...

ok, to the past person to post a comment about beating kids in the woods.....

ive been in the pipestone honors program for almost 10 years, and i think i know more about it than you do:

the people who put the program together and run it go through training such as bsa youth protection ect... we have trained medical people out there to make sure if someone would get hurt like tripping on a stump that we can help them quickly and the right way. no joe schmo off the street helps with this. there are many things you have to complete to be able to participate in this. so to say there are a bunch of naked indians running around in the woods abusing kids is a big misunderstanding.adults both men and women participate through the camp honors as really dissapointed in the person who wrote this blog, and the people who comment and dont know what your talking about. you ruin the experience of 1,000's who attend seven ranges every summer who would read or hear about this. the pipestone camp honors has been going on for 80+ years and even though its been that long, theres still people out there trying to ruin it for everyone. obviously you had to be a boyscout to recieve this award.... maybe instead of remembering how the honor ceremonies were you could remember the scout law

a scout is:
and reverent

you broke more than one of the laws when you posted this blog,you should have your stone removed

Anonymous said...

Well lets see, the Pipestone program obviously doesn't mean much to you since you blatently broke the promise you made to not reveal the ceremony. This is very disapppointing.

Anonymous said...

I have witnessed this ‘ceremony’ and believe it to be in violation on YP rules. I’ve hear scouts plea to be removed from the ceremony and to be left to walk not run. The scouts pleas were ignored. By the end of the night the scout was in tears.

Besides for safety the other issue with this camp that is not getting enough exposure is the teaching the Scouts receive at the 4th year Pipestone Ceremony. The “Chief” lectures to the Scouts that Homosexuality is wrong and that homosexuals can not be Scouts because homosexuals do not live the Scout Law and Oath.

And although the message of intolerants is in line with the views of National - The BSA position on homosexuality is well documented - in no place in any BSA literature directed to the Scouts can be found where BSA tells that if they are homosexual they can not be a Scout (sort of a don’t ask don’t tell policy). BSA feels homosexuals do not live the Scout Law because they are not “Clean” or Scout Oath because they are not “morally straight.”

The fact that 7Ranges broaches this subject at all is inexcusable but that they do it without the consent or approval of parents and troop leaders is reprehensible. The chief goes on to tell Scouts that having sexual intercourse with multiple girls does not make them men. A man, he goes on to say, has intercourse with only one woman. Apparently having sexual intercourse with multiple girls does not make a scout man, but it is living the scout Law and Oath.

The subjects of homosexuality and Sexual Intercourse encounters (these are the words used by the Chief.) should not be raised at a boy scout “Summer Camp” And if the subjects are being raised, don’t the leaders have an obligation to inform the parents? Oh wait they can’t it’s a secret….

There are better camps. Stay away from this one.

Anonymous said...

PLEASE REMOVE THIS POST!!! Earning a pipestone award, let alone a fifth year award, is a great honor. It takes alot of hard work and commitment to attain this award. One of the things that makes the award so special is the effort that is put into making the ceremonies so memorable. You have completely ruined this experience for future scouts by taking away the mystery. I really would appreciate if this was removed.

Eric said...

I feel a certain degree of cognitive dissonance here. I am a 5th year pipestone holder (rec'd in 1999 or so), and to me, it is slightly disappointing to see this secret ceremony described. However, this description is so accurate that it really brings the memory back to me in a powerful way! So, shame on you, author, and thank you at the same time.

I also agree that parents should be notified before their children go through the 4th year ceremony. Regardless of whether or not my child was homosexual, I certainly wouldn't want him to be exposed to hate speech that says homosexuals are unclean or immoral. I can also remember scouts who did the first year ceremony along with me, crying or asking to be taken back. A couple of boys in my troop even refused to continue the pipestone program, because it truly was traumatizing for some.

That said, I had a lot of fun with it, wouldn't trade my experience for anything. Except a version of pipestone based on ninjas. Now THAT would be sweet.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I only made it through the third year because I moved out of state. It was Seven Ranges when I was there (early '90s) but still a fantastic experience! One day I would like to return to get my fourth and fifth year awards. I only hope my pipestone is still tucked away somewhere safe.

Anonymous said...

The Pipestone Program is a reward ceremony to honor the youth that follow through with their goals throughout camp and achieve their swimming, nature, leadership, and various other requirements. As a recent 5th year recipient, I can 100% assure anyone reading this that no youth protection guidelines are crossed, no "child abuse" or rough/ harmful treatment occurs, and the safety of the candidates is ensured in every way possible. This is not a scare tactic- rugby match between candidates and those that put on the program. It is an honors ceremony and a time for all involved to be respectful of the program and everything it stands for.
This program has over 80 years under its belt: 80 years of scouting tradition following those 12 most important points of the scout law. To elaborate upon the ceremony in any way, to post slanderous comments regarding the program and ceremony, or to break in any way the ONE promise that is asked of candidates- to not ruin the ceremony and the experience for those who have not had the opportunity to go through it- denigrates and ridicules over 80 years of hard work, tradition, and candidate safety.

I, as well as many who have posted, fervently urge you to use your better judgement in obeying the 12th point of the scout law- reverence towards the program- and to please remove this post so that todays internet- savvy scouts cannot stumble across this. If you wish to e-mail those who have gone through the program, feel free to email them, but PLEASE, do not discuss it on the internet where anyone may see it.

Please, out of respect for all of those people who have worked hard to make this program something special, please take this post down.

Anonymous said...

Any "ceremony" that teaches children that it is OK to keep secrets from their own parents is dangerous. In this day and age, children need to be taught that their parents are there for them and will listen to anything that bothers them. This type of thing leads to bad behavior and lonely kids who don't know who to trust or who they can talk to. I'm glad my son no longer attends this camp. There are better ones, much better!

Anonymous said...

The Pipestone program does not teach the candidates to keep secrets from their parents. In fact, registered adult leaders (in most cases parents) who fulfill their leadership requirements in their week at camp are allowed to go through the ceremony. Why would the program teach scouts to lie and keep secrets from their parents if their parents, as registered adult leaders, are allowed to go through the program? The "secret" that comes into play is meant for the candidates to not reveal details of their experiences to others who have not gone through the ceremony (i.e. younger scouts and those in "this day and age" who would harm the program or try to ruin everything pipestone has to offer these young men). The secrecy means that you should not post page long articles on a blog for internet-savvy scouts to stumble across, thus ruining their present or future experiences.

Anonymous said... post slanderous comments regarding the program and ceremony, ...

Please point out one false statement. What has the poster said about the ceremony that is false.

So Scouts don't pass out during the ceremony, or vomit after drinking the secret drink, the "Indians" don't forcibly touch the scouts - in any way - including removing them for speaking, there is not teaching about homosexuality or sexual intercourse, scouts don't cry, and the Indians are appropriately dressed - wearing more than a black thong under a loincloth?

If it's all lies, the poster is pretty good at making up stuff.

Anonymous said...

"To elaborate upon the ceremony in any way, to post slanderous comments regarding the program and ceremony, or to break in any way the ONE promise that is asked of candidates- to not ruin the ceremony and the experience for those who have not had the opportunity to go through it- denigrates and ridicules over 80 years of hard work, tradition, and candidate safety."

Throughout my revision of the 20 or so comments posted on this subject, I have pinpointed several "slanderous" and "libelous" comments that defame the ceremony and the ideals that are the backbone of the program.

For example:

The post from August 23, 2009 saying, "A bunch of "indians" running around the woods beating the s--- out of kids is a reward ceremony?"

Slanderous in the fact that not at any point in time throughout the ceremony are "indians" beating the s--- out of candidates. I do not question the poster's memories, I only question the motives of the few who have posted here slighting the ceremony and defaming 80+ years of scouting ideals instituted in a ceremony to honor scouters.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe someone would post something like this online, open to ANYONE that knows how to use google. Though the exact information is not on par with what happens today, you KNOW and REMEMBER the vow you took your first night; Not to tell another boy the events that happened and everything you saw that was involved with Pipestone.

A scout is Trustworthy.

And, I'm not saying anything, but I can GUARANTEE that not a single Scout is beaten. They are CONSTANTLY monitored by many people, and those who take you to the circle to be picked up by certain individuals are Youth Protection certified.

This is an absolute disgrace. I am going to write down this URL and I will hand it to the current camp director at Seven Ranges Scout Reservation.

chris said...

I read this a couple times. I was offended until I realized there was more fiction than fact. I know that it is fiction because Digger7 never experienced a Pipestone Ceremony. I know that because he is unworthy. I know that because he created this thing in the first place. What you have here is a middle aged man who wished he was made of the "right stuff". He was probably a mamma's boy his entire life and had to listen around the campfire to stories of real adventure that his friends had actually done. As he was listening he must have learned a little bit about Pipestone. He knew he didn't have waht it took to earn this himself so he creates an account. I hope it makes you feel like a real man! Pipestone did for me!

Anonymous said...

My son attended summer camp about 7 years back and the Pipestone ceremony was part of this (first year). I had no idea as a mom that this was going to take place. He hated it and said it was one of the worst experiences during his boy scout years and quit about a year and a half after this. He thought it was creepy and he felt he was handled too roughly (made to stand in place repeatedly, he saw some boys who had their mouths covered by an adult's hand). When my husband and I traveled there to pick him up, he started crying immediately and I knew something was wrong. After I heard the story (he didn't keep the secret and rightly so) I was furious. Took me a while to be able to take him back to a meeting. I thought I was just being an overprotective mom, but after hearing other stories I'm glad he quit. No child should have to keep secrets told to him by an adult he barely knows. And no, he's not a mama's boy, he's very independent, kind and strong. We talked yesterday about it and he had the exact same opinion.

Anonymous said...

This is a disgrace to the Boy Scouts of America and this council should have their charter revoked. I am outraged that they would let this program continue and that all of you would defend it. You should be ashamed of your self's. THIS IS BLATANT HAZING. Even when I joined my fraternity yes there was hazing but none of it was physical at all. I mean I also didn't have to drink anything that would make me throw up. After I became involved hazing was gotten rid of too because it was pointless. To physically abuse adults and children is just plain stupid. I hope you all honestly go to jail for what you've done to these kids. I hope your happy you've made numerous boys quit scouting because they're not men. I can't believe you defend this and are upset at the poster. BTW BSA says there are no secret societies so good job there. You are all upset about him posting when you should be upset about ruining so many scouts lives with horrible memories. Horrible program from what I've read and heard and I am disgraced to even be associated with it through Boy Scouts.

Order of the Arrow:
Lodge Chief
Vigil Honor Candidate

P.S. when people want to withdraw from our ceremonies we let them and touching them is banned. The only tapping is done from one ceremonialist to another. Also our ceremonies are open to concerned parents because we DON'T haze!

Anonymous said...

to the previous post-

that was an extremely ignorant thing to say. you have to realize the man who posted this went out to summer camp in the 60's. a lot of rules on safety, youth protection, 2 deep leadership, national/regional/council rules etc were not in place back then. do you really think that nothing has changed in 50 years?
also, concearned parents are not told to "but out." the pipestone ceremonies are open to concearned parents or parents who want to see their child go through etc...
thirdly, there is no hazing- at all. nothing of the sort is tolerated.
also, pipestone is not a "secret society." it is a camp honors program that awards the scouts for their efforts and sucesses at camp that week. but if you want to talk secret societies, there are dozens of honor programs that are veryyyy secret and are portrayed as secret societies and they do not have numerous sections about them on their council websites. if you wish to learn about the program, past and present, visit the seven ranges website or the buckeye council website. regardless, you obviously have a very uninformed perspective on the pipestone honors program. it is 2011, not 1960, and if any "hazing" or "rough touching" or "inappropriate touching" or even "intimidation or fear tactics" were going on, I promise you, they would not at all be tolerated or allowed and the person responsible would not be with the buckeye council anymore.

lastly, don't make such rash and outrageous accusations about something until you're sure you have all of the facts- which you don't.

Anonymous said...

1960? Hardly. I was there just three years ago. The above post are accurate.

rmoledor said...

I earned all 5 years of Pipestone honors in the 1980s. I am also an Eagle Scout and an OA member. The Pipestone Ceremonies are among my most cherished memories of scouting as a youth and I having known literally hundreds of scouts who have participated in the program I have NEVER heard anyone complain or critize the program.

Anonymous said...

I was a Boy Scout and attended the Pipestone ceremony three years in the mid to late 70s. I was also bullied as a youngster, but never in the Boy Scouts and certainly not at any of these ceremonies. I know first hand what bullying hazing and abuse are and there was never even a hint of wrongdoing at a Pipestone ceremony. The tone was serious and reverent and the theatrics a bit frightening at times, but it was a unique and exciting rite of passage I will always remember.

It's a shame some people don't appreciate Pipestone. It's an outrage that some people express their distorted "feelings" about a ceremony they've never experienced first hand.

Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous. At first i was outraged by the details in this post, but when i read the comments, my outrage turned to the commentators. I am a PROUD fifth-year holder and believe that the Pipestone program was a huge reason that I have stayed in Scouting. This honor is not a form of hazing and it is not required of a scout to earn the rank of Eagle. This ceremony is very important to the Buckeye Council and is truely something that I will remember for the rest of my life. As a Buckeye Council member, I am offened by your statements and I will fight my entire life for our right to perform this ceremony.

P.S.-to whoever said "there are better camps, stay away from this one", you are wrong. There are not better camps. This camp is an amazing place and this ceremony is amazing.

digger7 said...

I am the author of the blog and am amazed at the reactions to it that I see listed here, both pro and con. Yes, I suppose I revealed some secrets that I swore not to reveal. To be totally honest I thought my wife, a cousin or two and a small handful of friends might see this blog - none of which would fret much about a secret shared from 50 years ago by a pre-teen. For those who were saddened by my revelations, you have my apologies.

I think it's telling that those memories from half a century ago are still vivid. I consider my years with the Boy Scouts as the most formative and fondly regarded time my life. I'm thankful to have been a Scout and for having steered my son into that organization as well. It was good for both of us.

As to the hazing aspect of the ceremonies I can honestly say I didn't notice it! The actions taken during the ceremonies in those days were, to my thinking at least, specifically designed to make an impression. And they did! I can still smell the campfire smoke now, 50 years later and hear the drums beat! Was I physically hurt or was my fragile psyche bruised by taking part in them?


Ask any scout who's been through it. It was FUN! It was our reward for a week of work and learning and scoutcraft. It provided a culminating experience for the week and brought us into a fraternity that meant something.

Both as a boy and a man.

I can't speak to the changes that have taken place in the ceremonies these days. I understand they are a bit... shall we say... easier? Less dramatic? Softer? Less memorable than the old ones?

In any event, these are MY memories. Whether they're absolutely true or fuzzed a bit in my mind over the years since the early '60's, who can tell. Ask any old scout from the area what he remembers.

But isn't it AMAZING how a little reminiscing in print can bring folks out of the woodwork!

Anonymous said...

I do think that it would be best to remove this article to protect the integrity of the ceremony. It would be an unfortunate thing if someone were to read this before their first ceremony, it would damage the wonder of the experience. I am a 2nd year pipestone holder, I unfortunately did not get the chance to go all 5 years, something that I regret. I can say without a doubt that the first year ceremony is the most awe inspiring of my two pipestone experiences. I went through in 2002 and 2003 and there were no negative aspects. These rumors of hazing and abuse are bull. I am in college now, getting married in a year and on my way to my career. I hope that if I have a son some day that he can get to experience the pipestone program himself, and trust me, I would not send my own kid to a place of bad memories or abuse. Those accusations are false. Do your research before you slander this age-old and wonderful tradition.

Anonymous said...

Go ahead and try to attend the ceremony - you won't be allowed to. I know parents who have been turned away by the camp. Yes, it is a secret society within scouting. That's against their own rules. My son was instructed 2 years ago not to tell ANYONE- including his parents. RED FLAG! How is this still allowed? It's because the "secret society" lies and says this info is not true. There certainly were many people posting that you had the details spot on! More people need to speak up for the boys!

Andrew said...

I am a 4th year pipestone holder, oa member and life scout. Though I turned 18 to soon to achieve eagle and 5th year pipestone, I plan on sending my twin sons through scouts and pipestone program. Further more I can wait to go back with them so I can earn my 5th year pipestone with them.
Nothing mean or abusive goes on. During my time in scouts I was able to go on many outings. The pipestone ceremonies are the most memorable. They surpass sea base. 2 weeks of kayaking in haliberton, and a month of hiking the rockies at Philmont which was amazing in it self.
Whether or not the post should have been posted I do thank you for the memories. They are brought forth better than I could have.
Nothing bad happens. In fact if you have a health issue or are afraid they have a second group that WALKS not runs. I know first hand as I was in walking group for first 2 years because of asthma. For my 3rd year I requested to do the running because I knew I could and I did. I have never had a bigger sense of accomplishment. Other than that the both groups end up at same ceremony. My 4th year even had a scout in a wheel chair being pushed by what assume was a father or leader.
If you want to disgrace this program with wild accusations, please go and experience it firsthand. I know you will never feel the same.

P.S.- if you are a pipe holder 1-4 yrs please feel free to email me. I would love to reminis.

Anonymous said...

@PROUD fifth-year holder and Buckeye Council member, I noticed that you are so proud you omitted your name.


Embarrassed Pipestone holder

Anonymous said...

I respect all your fond memories of camp and scouts. But, some of you don't have it right.

correction - Adult leaders do NOT stay with their boys. They have to go with the yellow vest scouts. Don't think your son will be with their leader. They are with STRANGERS dressed up like Indians. That seems strange to me.

jdwood said...

As a Fifth year holder, Eagle Scout, and Scoutmaster, I will rank my Pipestone experiences above all other Scouting endevours. Sorry you included so many details, but thanks for the memories. A lot of what Scouting does today is watered down for liability purposes (for good reason), but the "realness" of the Pipestone ceremonies sounds like it still exist. I earned my 5 years at Tuscazoar, a place as a volunteer I still hold a certian reverance for. My boys and our Troop participate in a camp awards program in another Council which pales in comparison to Pipestone. Hopefully that will change for the better in future years, with my help. I realize no program is perfect, and great memories from your youth are often viewed in a filter that eliminates problems, and highlights everything positive. I must again repeat, Pipestone was unique, exciting, an honor, and above all else the most real native american type cermony I have ever been in. Good luck to all that still put it on you have a lot to live up to.

Anonymous said...

There aren't very many things that I discuss. Politics, laws, or my point of view on different things. However, I am an Eagle Scout, 5th year pipestone holder, Assistant-Scoutmaster, and an OA member. First of all, I am completely offended that 1. Someone would post this on a website where as someone else said "google-savvy youngsters" can see this. and 2. that an OA Chief would say something about this. Obviously there are things that he does not know about this "secret society"

If it weren't for the Pipestone program, there would not be a chance that I can say today that I am an Eagle Scout, and I am proud of it. This program accelerated my ambition to achieve such a rank. Such a high position in society.

I understand that this is someone's memory of what THEY recall happened 50 years ago. HOWEVER, he himself posted that he broke the vow. There is one thing I want to ask you sir... If someone told YOU, this EXACT story BEFORE you got your first year stone, how would YOU have viewed the program? Do you think it would have meant the same to you as it did? Do you feel like the program would have been such a strong influence on you as it was?

This program has changed over the years. First of all, I know for a fact that the last figures I heard is that there were 20 firefighters/EMT/Paramedics, 3 police officers, 4 lawyers, and several OTHER businessmen that assist in making sure that the program is run effectively every week, so that other children are given the experience of their lifetime. After I earned my Eagle Scout award and my 5th year Pipestone, I went on to graduate from High School, I have my Bachelors Degree from a NATIONALLY accredited university, AND I pursued my dream job and I am now a police officer. I do NOT view this "secret society" as breaking ANY laws.

I understand you posed this on your blog so you can look back on your past. I have met SEVERAL people who received their camp honor around the same time you did. And they keep their memory alive by talking to other people who have been through the program. They look back at their past every time they tell their story in person. So with that being said, Sir, why degrade the program for the next generation? How would the program have changed for you if you KNEW this information PRIOR to going through the ceremonies? Would you have kept the program on such a high pedestal your entire life as you have? Or would it have degraded because of you knowing this information?

Don't ruin this outstanding program for the next generation. Post an e-mail address and put it on a website and talk to those people in confidentiality.

Steven said...

I as well am an eagle scout and fifth year holder from troop 144 in dellroy. I'm 31 married, have two boys and a girl. I'm commenting simply because I don't understand how a parent wouldn't let their child grow up. Just because your loved one was startled or made to observe discipline does not mean they were mistreated in any way. It is certainly possible that they are in fact spoiled or entitled in such a way that they don't understand how to be quiet or pay attention. I loved my time at seven ranges and honestly feel my experience there has made me into an ethical and responsible citizen and parent. God bless the BSA and the Buckeye Council.

Anonymous said...

Ive gone through the pipestone ceremony, and despite what anyone says it is child abuse. The only reason Nationals hasn't shut the camp down is because one of the people that started seven ranges is on the national inspection board. The camp, the staff, and especially the pipestone program are all horrendous.

Anonymous said...

went to the camp in the mid-70s through the 4th year before we moved away. We had a buddy system at camp, had plenty of adult leaders and we were one of the largest troops participating every year and all the kids loved the hard work staff put into this great tradition.

Some of my happiest childhood memories are of those experiences. Especially passing wilderness camp on a hillside shelter during a tornado watch! Live for the adventure. BTW, I did make Eagle and became Order of the Arrow. Glad to hear the pipestone is still going.

Anonymous said...

I am the parent of a young scout. I looked for this information because my son is thinking about attending this camp, and I wanted to know what to expect. I have not told him what I've read.

However, I hope this process has changed a bit. There's clearly an element of "hazing" in the description here, and "secret" societies between men and boys should raise a red flag for any parent these days. I don't mind, and in fact invite, pushing my son to the limits. But the scenario described here is an invitation for abuse.

I wouldn't allow my son to participate in this ritual as is presented here. I'd prefer to "test" him in a transparent environment.

Anonymous said...

If you are a concerned parent, I invite you to call Jeff Pickett, Council Program Director at the Buckeye Council Scout Service Center, Canton, Ohio. He can answer any questions you might have, including those about observing the ceremony that your boy will go through.

Also, to whichever loon thinks the council "gets away" with the program by having a camp founder on the inspection team for Central Region, maybe you should look at the camp accreditation standards, so that you and I both know what they say, and that the accreditation of camps has NOTHING to do with the camp honors program. Additionally, any and all claims of abuse or hazing are thoroughly investigated both locally and by the National office through Regional personnel.

As much as I wish people would mind their tongues about the program, I know this is the internet: people spouting nonsense is par for the course...

Anonymous said...

First off, let me say that I wish that the details of the program had not been leaked out, but let’s get real; we are not talking about national secrets here. The intent of the “Secrecy” of the ceremony is so the boys don’t blab it about to other boys who have not gone through it yet, not ‘to keep the boy’s parents in the dark about all the nasty things that really go on at camp”. In this day and age do any of you really think that 7 Ranges or the BSA could keep this program going on for this long if they were truly abusing anyone? Let’s get real here people. If you don’t like the fact that your son may be shown some discipline for the first time then Boy Scouts is not for him or you!

I went through the first year program in the ‘70s; our scout master stressed to us what a solemn ceremony it was to all of the boys who participated before we left. We were a little nervous before we left because the boys who already had their Pipestone razzed us some about what was to come, but it was a great adventure waiting for us. Yes, during the ceremony someone grabbed by leg to get me to stop fidgeting around, but they did not hurt me. No, none of my adult leadership went with us because they went through with other boys for their 2nd or 3rd year stones, but there were leaders from other troops who were getting their Pipestone at that ceremony who were with us.

If you don’t want your boy going, fine, don’t send him. But don’t try to ruin this tradition for other boys just because you are afraid to let your son grow up a little. As for my son, we are heading to the 7 Ranges for Webelos resident camp next week, but nest year we plan on both going through the Pipestone program together. I know what the program is about, and want my son to have the same great time that I had when I went through the first time.

Anonymous said...

"This program has changed over the years. First of all, I know for a fact that the last figures I heard is that there were 20 firefighters/EMT/Paramedics, 3 police officers, 4 lawyers, and several OTHER businessmen that assist in making sure that the program is run effectively every week, so that other children are given the experience of their lifetime."

As a parent who just sent his son to this weird camp and who intends to go retrieve him, I ask those of you a simple question: why does a safe program require 20 firefighters/EMT/Paramedics, 3 police officers, AND ESPECIALLY 4 lawyers?????

Anonymous said...

Where did you hear those figures?
I've been out there working over 50 Friday nights, and haven't seen any of the firefighters, policemen,or lawyers you mention.
There are medical personel on hand. I went through the program, as did my son, and we have nothing but good to say about it.

Anonymous said...

@"As a parent who just sent his son to this weird camp and who intends to go retrieve him, I ask those of you a simple question: why does a safe program require 20 firefighters/EMT/Paramedics, 3 police officers, AND ESPECIALLY 4 lawyers?????"

No offense, but your an idiot. Think logically. Those are are probably off duty folks who are volunteering at the camp as camp personnel, giving their assistance in their particular areas of expertise to help make the program better. I am a career firefighter/ medic, I am highly involved in many programs in my community and church. I often lend advice over areas regarding my expertise because I want to help make those programs and events better and safer. There is nothing sinister in that.

Anonymous said...

If you have NOT been through this ceremony, you just won't understand. You can describe it all you want, but thats like your buddy telling you about a new movie you haven't seen, it just won't make sense until you see it. It's incredible, and if you are too hung up on whether or not your kid is too much of a pussy to run through the woods at night- just realize this is the stuff that make boys men. Not everyone gets to experience this type of authentic Native American culture. You carry these memories through your whole life.

Anonymous said...

Silence Scouts ! Silence ! Did we not learn to follow the Scout Law ! Buckeye Council BSA has a great overall program thanks to loyal and helpful parents, volunteers and leaders ! Parents that will not help out, don't know the facts !

Keep Scouting Alive !
Krusher 265

Dan Spies said...

What motivated a group of men with passion for the ideals of Scouting to create this program?

They were not clairvoyants intending to create a program to span generations. They saw a need to bulwark young men’s moral attitudes in a time of societal decline and changing life styles.

This time period also saw multiple waves of influenza sweep the nation, claiming thousands of lives.

The Good Old Days were not really so good. Scouting was ten plus years old and growing because of a need. Boys were now living in neighborhoods. Dad’s job was at the factory rather than working side by side with his sons in the fields; mentoring, teaching and passing down wisdom. Many boys were fatherless due to WWI or the flu epidemics.

Why a Pipestone ceremony?
Many cultures have a rite of passage. The American Indian sat his vigil. The Jew has a bar mitzvah. The African cultures have a test of manhood. Think of Pipestone as a five step rite of passage with each step more challenging than the first.

Tradition was/is under assault by the Social Progressive Movement. Some of the comments on this blog attest to the fortitude of those who campaign for social deform. Pipestone is not a cult, religion, secret society or in anyway injurious to traditional American values. Some can’t understand it; they simply see the world upside down.

The founders of the program used catlenite for the token as the Indian believed it to be formed from the flesh of their ancestors, it belonged to all tribes. Honoring tradition, ancestors, sacrifice and the commonality of mankind; dangerous concepts aren’t they?

Why a theatrical Pipestone ceremony?
Early 1920s: no boob-tube, no talkies in the theaters; you had to read to follow a movie. You had to participate to be able to enjoy the black and white world of fanciful, surrealistic entertainment flickering before you. You had to listen carefully, through the static and noise, to hear voices crackling from the radio as your family gathered to listen while images were verbally painted for your mind’s enjoyment.

From his movie experiences every American boy had a slanted concept of what an Indian was, and how he would act.

Is the Pipestone program an authentic Indian ceremony? NO; and was never intended to be one. One of the founders of the program was an avid naturalist and historian. He helped to create a theatrical impression of what an Indian would probably do. Yes, the ceremony gives homage to the character and values of the Native American; the good in all mankind.

Unlike our modern culture, the Indian maintains a high regard for self-discipline, elder respect and personal achievement. If your child is an overweight, unruly brat who can score in Black Ops but can’t run to the mailbox and back; he probably isn’t going to get much out of an Honor ceremony.

If you have a problem with any message from the Pipestone program work with your local Council to start your own program at your camp. Let us see how many parents send their boys to camp to hear a pro-homosexual message.

If you are a concerned mom; please note that adult women also participate in the Pipestone Ceremony.

If you are concerned that youth are being told “not to tell”; take a valium and ruminate: How hard is it for youth to know something wonderful and not to tell? In a tell-all world, can you be trusted? The boys aren’t instructed not to “tell”; they are admonished not to talk about the ceremony.

If you as a youth, or your son, didn’t “enjoy” the ceremony; I’m sorry, but this isn't "entertainment" and nothing conceived by man is for everyone. Perhaps you were not emotionally or physically ready for the experience. You are also pontificating from fast-paced memories and the human mind morphs events to wants and desires.

Harry said...

the program actually starts on Sunday night and continues throughout the week. it is such a sucsess that there are troops from
all over the U.S. and Canada coming
to Seven Ranges.
By the way I got my first year stone in 1958 and i had a geat time

Anonymous said...

A few years back I had heard that Tom Merriman (or Carl Monday…I forget which one) was planning on doing a expose on Pipestone. I often wished that had come to life. For one reason or another, it fizzled. Not necessarily to portray Pipestone in a negative light, but to present the facts and allow people to form their own opinions on the program. I mean, come on think about it - Let’s say you were the mother of an 11 or 12 year old scout going to 7R for their first year of camp and you saw even a 90 second clip of what was going on. Would you honestly allow your child to participate in something like that? At some point, somebody is going to sneak in an iPhone or similar device and video of the “ceremonies” will be leaked. If the BSA has nothing to hide, then they shouldn’t have a problem with this…right? I believe transparency is the word? After being so traumatized after my first year ceremony I WISH there had been a blog like this up at the time. I had every right to know what I was going to be subjected to that first Friday night. I remember coming home from camp and doing Google searches for more information on Pipestone, but all I could find was the usual BSA sanctioned rhetoric about this being a Camp Honors reward program, highly coveted, yada yada yads. My hat’s off to the author of this post. As far as the other posters comments about tech-savvy scouts performing Google searches on this, those scouts have every right to find information on Pipestone. I hope they do, and I ENCOURAGE them to do so. I mean, come on folks, get with the program. It’s 2011…there are no such things as secrets anymore. The things happening in Pipestone should NOT remain a secret. This secrecy perpetuates the scouts’ physical and mental abuse. Additionally, nothing that the previous posters have said about what happens in the ceremonies is untrue. I think some of the other posters are just trying to cover up the severity of these actions.

Anonymous said...

I leave my campsite with the laces on my boots duct taped, in jeans and a long sleeved sweatshirt (mind you, the temperature by now has dropped to a cool 88 degrees.) Oh yeah, and my glasses are tethered to my head. But this is only a precaution, as I’m going to get a reward for all of my hard work at camp. Now we leave the campsite, based on what year Pipestone you are a candidate for. We get “processed” at the administration building. And are just told to “wait.” So, we go sit in the field next to the admin building. 30 minutes…45 minutes…90minues…2 hours go by. Finally in a very gruff and stern voice something to the effect of “First year candidates stand up and form a line..etc….” So we line up, and they count us twice and walk us across Meter Road into the….woods? We continue walking into this clearing, and we are told to turn around, take 1 step into the weeds and “relieve yourselves”….one questions…what if you had to go #2. Mind you at this point it’s been a few hours since dinner, so that’s a real possibility. Keep this “bathroom break” in mind. This will be the last one you are allowed for a NUMBER of hours. (…this is ALL staring to make sense now ..THIS is why the older scouts didn’t drink any water at dinner a few hours earlier. But wait…it’s summer time, temps in the 80s and we were told at first aid merit badge to stay well hydrated..odd, but ok. ) Anyway, zip up, and continue walking into the woods. We are led to this fire circle and told to sit in rows. So, we do. We get some type of speech to stay quiet, look into the fire, and reflect on our week at 7R. At the end he says “Tonight you will see and hear many things, but you are to tell NO ONE.” 15 minutes go by….30 minutes go by….I’m guessing that about 45 minutes go by before the next “Event” happens. We see this road flare being placed in the fire, and this Indian jumps out from behind the fire ring. He dances around, goes around intimidating the scouts, staring at them. Then, all of the sudden, about a half-dozen more Indians pop out from the woods, and their flares go off simultaneously. We are VERY roughly roused up and put in line. But remember, we’re not talking, and there’s NO verbal communication with our new Indian friends. At this point I’m terrified out of my mind. We begin running through the woods with these surprise Indians carrying road flares. I must admit that I loved the toxic smell of the burning sulfur from there flares. It was a nice, after dinner treat. It almost brought a tear to my eye…literally. So, we continue running-stopping-running-stopping in the woods for a good 10-15 minutes. I mean, nothing is safer than running through the woods at midnight, lit only by road flares, with roots sticking up from the ground. The Indians rough up of a number of scouts “correcting” them for not standing with their arms folded when NOT running. Or for just general fidgeting or for talking. We finally arrive at this ceremony circle and are put into position, quite roughly I might add. We go through the ceremony one by one. As the other posters have mentioned, we are given this bitter drink. Mind you, whatever serving device they are using to give it to us has been used on the 30 people in front of us, so I strongly question the sanitation practices used. I was SO grossed out by this, I wanted to puke. Anyway, you go to the “Chief”…have a little chat, and he tells you that the this year’s password is secrecy. You go to the next Indian helper and you get your actual Pipestone. Yada yada, you get back in formation and then you sit down and get a speech from the chief. Once he’s done, you do the previous process in reverse.. run stop run stop..back to the uniformed people. Ok so now it’s WELL after midnight…you are told to go back to your campsite in the pitch black and any type of talking will result in your immediate death and dismemberment. Mind you, you don’t have a flashlight on you, because you weren’t allowed to bring one. Safety first, right? Ok so now you stumble back to your campsite. Awesome way to end the week right?

Harry said...

After reading Anonymous's post on Aug.12, It sounds to me like you were not even there. Especialy the part about the Indian dancing
in front of the fire and being told that you would die if you spoke before morning. There are no secrects between a scout and his parents.

Anonymous said...

This ceremony is an amazing experience that would mean nothing without experiencing it yourself. Its a shame that kids who just earned their 1rst year stones are already exposed to these stories and comments- especially those comments that were posted just to fabricate stories of abuse and mistreated scouts and scouters.
Its people like those commentors who ruin things for posterity's sake.
I wise saying everyone has heard from their mother at some point in time comes to mind- if you don't anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.
What good have you done by posting those comments about how bad pipestone is and how everyone who participates or puts it on should be ashamed and that they're awful people etc...? None. So don't ruin everything for everyone just because you hold a personal grudge towards someone or something.

Anonymous said...

I’m a five year Pipestone recipient, member of OA and an Eagle scout. I was a camp counselor at Camp Buckeye and worked 2 years as a cook at Camp Buckeye (found out the cooks made $75.00 a week). After my fifth year I served a 1 year apprentice and then was a brave for the Pipestone ceremony. I proudly have my Pipestone and Eagle award mounted in a frame and hung on my home office wall. I couldn’t remember all the values for my Pipestone so I decided to Google to help with my memory as I received my Pipestone in the late sixties. I came across this blog. I will have to say that in today’s internet world the bloggers story does hurt a bit to me as the secret word was to be used so new scouts getting their 1st year would have the same experience as I did. The writer did however bring me back to that campfire as a twelve year old and I relived it all over again. He did forget a few items so if the ceremony is not too water downed now the 1st year scouts still have a few surprises.
What I found disheartening was some of the comments trying to make this ceremony abuse to scouts. I know the world has changed and because of a few all must follow different life rules. As a scout in the sixties it was a bit rough going through Pipestone and the braves did shake and push you around a bit. They wanted you to pay attention and they got it. I never felt threatened at any time and in our troop you did not want to show weakness as the other scouts would have jumped on that. Heck we figured ways to get back at the braves. As they would run you down the path we would push them to the edge and a couple of them had a meeting with a tree. That was some of the fun of going through Pipestone. We would compare notes back at the campsite late Friday night.
For the gentleman who is a leader of OA he may want to remember what it used to be to be tapped out on Wednesday night (family night) in front of your parents. You were ripped out of line by a brave and besides other things received 3 hits on the shoulder with a cupped hand from an Indian. I don’t know how it happens now but I doubt in 2012 you receive 3 hits to the shoulder. I don’t remember any parents complaining about this. Again, different times.
Boy Scouts was one of the best times in my life and Pipestone was something I always looked forward to each year. So to all those who think this is hazing or abuse you could not be further from the truth. I’m sure these ceremonies are watered down compared to the sixties. This ceremony has stood the test of time and thousands of scouts have gone through this. Congratulations to all who have received their Pipestone. You should be proud of this accomplishment, and for those about to go through it enjoy, enjoy enjoy….

Anonymous said...

Pipestone is a cult. I am a leader in a troop that goes to 7R and it is a mistake. Multiple kids have left our troop because we go to 7F. Going to Manatoc next year.

Anonymous said...

Cult? far from it.
If your kids hated it so much, why did you send them through Pipestone? - It's not mandatory.
So long, enjoy Manatoc.

Anonymous said...

One more 5th Year checking in. I received mine...well shoot it would have been 2003 I think.

No need to expound on details, no one should have and others already have. My first 2 years I was actually pretty terrified to go through the ceremony but every year I was glad I put the work in for it. Pipestone was one of the defining experiences of my childhood. It did not scar me emotionally in any way. I had several friends that chafed at the discipline involved but I loved going to camp at 7R and I lived for the final night of each camp.

I now live near DC but if at all possible I will provide my son with an opportunity to experience Pipestone if he chooses to do so.

If you're a parent, or even a Scout reading this and you have concerns, for goodness sake call the Buckeye Council with your questions before assuming anything from what you read on this site.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed at all the mean spirited people posting on this site. the individual shared his experience in scouting. I grew up in scouting and received my 5th year, however; where in teh scot handbook did it say there would be secret societies within scouting that one could not share with anyone. I went back as an adult and found myself very much enjoying the lessons taught by pipestone, and at the same time disappointed that as a parent this would be concealed from me. think about it a boy 10 or 11 goes through the first year ceremony is given the word secrecy to remember. goes home proud of what he accomplished and when his parent asks how did you earn it. All he can say is I can't tell you. Even though parents CAN view the ceremony they are not told they can.( thats the big secret) So this man who wrote this post does not need to be ridiculed b you people who profess to be scouters. A scout is friendly. Which many of you are not. Scouting is not a secret and neither should be anything tied to it.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of all the petty arguments and criticisms of the pipestone CAMP HONORS PROGRAM, I think its a great program- one that has stood the test of time. Its human impulse to think that our time is different from all the other decades. Every previous decade and generation has brought about new challenges and new thinking, yet pipestone has stood strong as a constant moral compass. The lessons will always ring true. We should always recognize that.

Anonymous said...

The Pipestone Ceremony is often justified as a "Camp Honors Program" yet the requirements to attain 'Camp Honors' aren't posted. Does every camp earn this? If not, what percentage of camps achieve this 'honor'? What exactly makes 7Ranges so unique as compared to other camps? I would think a secret that can't be shared wouldn't be so honorable. Can someone please explain?

Anonymous said...

I only now googled pipestone to find out more info about it and am appalled at what I am reading. No I have not gone thru it, but my boys will tonight. I am tempted to call their leader and the camp this instant and tell him to keep them from it.

Obviously, everyone has a different perception of their experience. My suggestion would be that perhaps the leader needs to have a frank discussion with the parents ahead of time so that the parents can inform the leader if there are concerns for the child's emotional well-being. I have 1 child that I fully expect to be crying and begging to come home. An open talk with their leader would help to alleviate my fears and allow the leader to be informed so that he can provide appropriate support to the child.

You must all realize that every child is different and will react differently. Parents know their child better than anyone else and need to be having open communication from the leaders about events which can potentially have a negative effect on a child.

Youth protection is more than protecting a child from physical harm, emotional harm can be just as bad.

If my boy has a negative result from this, I will never hold the BSA in high regards again.

concerned mom

Anonymous said...

ok, we have heard about the 1st year pipestone ceremony, now is someone willing to share how the 2nd year goes? I am curious as the only things I have read anything on are the first, with a couple of brief mentions about the moral lessons in 4th year and the sharing of how the ceremony is pulled off to the 5th year. Please share.

Anonymous said...

I would have to politely ask that you remove this for you may not have bad intentions and you are bringing back memories you are also possibly ruining the ceremony for candidates who haven't had the privilege to go through the ceremony.

Anonymous said...

My son and I both went through it two nights ago. My son fell in some Jaggers and returned covered in red paint. Guess what he loved it! It was favorite part of camp. As an adult you are instructed to view the ceremony as an 11 year old. You are there to experience it with the boys and observe. It was an honor to be there and I look forward. To years 2 - 5 even year 4! Btw the original poster needs to take this down!

Anonymous said...

Perspective is important--don't take this down. After all, there's nothing to hide right? Parents need to know what their scout will experience--especially if scouts will be scared, embarased, hazed, and told to keep it secret. They can at least prepare them for the experience. Buckeye Council says this isn't hazing and doesn't violate BSA policy, so no harm right? No need to cover up this program right?

Anonymous said...

On July 7, Anonymous stated "the requirements to attain 'Camp Honors' aren't posted". Actually, they are in the camp handbook and each boy is told at the beginning of the week what is required to attain camp honors, and the requirements for their particular year. They include Rank Advancement, a Good Turn, Swimming, Plant and Animal Study, Astronomy, Merit Badge completion,and more. Perhaps you don't know as much as you think.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous from July 7:
"Does every camp earn this?"
No, it can only be earned in Buckeye Council camps.
"What exactly makes 7Ranges so unique as compared to other camps?"
The Pipestone program is what makes it unique. Scouts come from all over the country to earn the Pipestone Camp Honors.

Anonymous said...

I completed two years of this ceremony. This year, a boy was vomiting from stress. The previous year, a boy cried throughout. The rest of the circle ignores these kids, and the peer pressure not to excuse oneself is extreme. Cap it off with a promise to "keep it a secret" and this is hazing and child abuse, pure and simple.

Any time someone starts a ceremony and tells you it's not hazing, but don't tell anyone what happened, walk away. This is about older men using power to abuse younger boys to teach them to be "men." Instead, they are just creating another generation of abusers.

I will tell you that MOST of the boys, including my son, are very proud of themselves when they finish. But hard things can be accomplished by choice and without peer pressure.

If you are a scoutmaster or parent looking for information on this ceremony because you wonder how your kids are going to be treated, I do not recommend it.

Anonymous said...

Please don't take this down. People have a right to know what their children are going to be subjected to, and how different people have responded to it.

2003 Fifth said...

I am amazed at the ignorance I'm seeing in comments here. First, if you have questions about the Pipestone ceremonies, why aren't you asking your son's Scoutmaster about it? He/She would know first hand and they also know your scouts, and could give you an honest, competent answer. Second, the requirements to receive the Pipestone Camp Honors are in the Summer Camp Scout Leaders Guide, and are explained to the Scouts at the beginning of their week in camp - at least in our Troop they are.(how else would they know what they needed to do?)
Third, Pipestone is not a required program. We have had boys in our Troop who did not go through the program. It's not a problem. Summer Camp at Seven Ranges is a wonderful experience for a youg man, with or without Camp Honors.
Fourth, I am the holder of a fifth year Pipestone, as is my son, and also many of my friends. I have been a volunteer with the program for over ten years. I have nothing but good to say for the program. During the evening on Friday night, there is always supervision of each group of scouts, anywhere from four to fifteen adults at a given time overseeing them. The boys do travel through the woods and it is night time, so there is the possibility that a boy could fall and get hurt. There are also many scouts/adults going through the program that have pre-existing medical conditions, such as asthma, high blood pressure, allergies, etc. Their health and safety are the top priority. That is why there are indeed medical personell on hand, if needed. The worst injury I have been aware of over my years is an older adult volunteer falling slipping and falling down. Yes,there are usually one or two cses of vomiting in the course of the year, usually due to the scout being nervous by having been frightened about the program by his fellow scouts. There have been several cases where the scout has decided during the program that he doesn't want to continue. In those cases, the scout is escorted back to his campsite.
Fifth, Seven Ranges has one of the highest returning camper ratios in the country, largely due to the appeal of the Camp Honors program. Why in the world would people keep coming back to a program that was as bad as some here describe?
Please, if all you want to do is criticize, do us all a favor and keep your son at home. It's not for everyone. But if you want your boy to learn responsibility and leadership and to have a great time, send him to summer camp, and let him decide if he likes it or not.

Anonymous said...

I love and support the Pipestone program. I have my 5th year and proud of it. If your boy cant take a little jog through the woods, a little bit of pressure and nervousness and stress, then I'm sorry, you have raised a pussy. Man up buttercup, it pays off in the end. Quit pussyfing your kids.

Anonymous said...

It is a shame that you have felt the need to violate the promise you made and to attempt to disgrace the Pipestone program. However it is fortunate that the details put in by you to make it seem bad are also false. I hope that you meet whatever personal goals of satisfaction you were trying to achieve by disgracing an honorable program.

Anonymous said...

The purpose of secrecy element is to keep the suspense from other boys who have yet to earn the award, NOT to cover up or hide anything that happens there. It's like already knowing what is under the Christmas tree before Christmas morning.

IF YOU ARE A CONCERNED PARENT - please do not hesitate to call the camp office and speak with the camp director about your concers. Again, it is a secret for the boys, not for you. 330-738-2085

The program is a proud, positive experience your boy will be part of. Thousands have done so before, and thousands yet.

Bryan said...

The one who started the blog has no honor, I am a 5th year holder and I worked in the program for 6 years in the 1970's at Camp Tuscazoar and the blog started has disgraced himself his family and all that scouting stands for, to the Noreen that have never gone through the program keep ypur opinions to yourself and if you have gone through the program shhhhhhhh......

KD said...

I am an Eagle Scout, member of the OA, and have a fifth-year Pipestone from the 1960’s. I was also a Buckeye Council camp counselor for three years.
Any boy could complete the Pipestone Program that I went through, but there were certain elements that sometimes are a rare commodity among young boys. You had to demonstrate some self-discipline, remain focused on the goal, and occasionally, go to your personal limits, and then - perhaps to your own surprise - beyond them. The Pipestone was a concrete award given for proven accomplishment. The awards ceremony was spectacular when seen through young eyes, and a most impressive finale to an exciting week.
On the day after my first Pipestone ceremony, I did of course discuss with others the treatment that some of us had received. But I can’t say that it was in any way abusive. No one was hit, slapped, or beaten. Rather, I think it was the knowledge that silent watchers stood behind you and the sudden shock when they took hold of you, which made such an impression.
My father, a scoutmaster at that time, also received a fifth-year Pipestone. He was a gentle man, who never once touched his children in anger. He was also one of the most hard-headed men I’ve ever met when it concerned the safety of any young person who came under his wing. I am certain that if there had been anything remotely abusive about the ceremony by his very strict standards, then neither of us would have continued in the Boy Scouts.
While I was a camp counselor, I also played a role during the ceremony. Before I could do so, I - and other new participants - was given a talking to by those in charge. We were told flatly that the safety of the boys was our first priority. (It was for this reason that the boys were to be kept to the center of the trail. We, on the other hand, went through the bushes, crossed patches of nettles, tripped over tree roots and ran into trees.) We were reminded that we would be carrying equipment that could injure someone, and to be very careful about how we handled it in the darkness of the woods.
If any boy had a serious health problem during the ceremony then he was to be taken aside, if necessary laid flat on the ground, talked to, given first aid if needed, and if it came to that, taken back to the main camp. And a good part of our vigilance during the ceremony was devoted to watching for signs of anything like that.
All of us had first aid training. It was after all one of scouting’s required merit badges. I don’t think any group of boys has ever been surrounded by so many people who were prepared to give fast first aid. Almost all of us were in our late teens and some were in their early twenties. We were no younger than many a military medic. Our training may not have been hospital standard, but we had learned one very important lesson – act fast, and if in doubt, get more help.
As far as physical abuse is concerned, we were told that actual physical abuse would not be tolerated. We were reminded that the boys were in our charge and that this responsibility was not to be taken lightly. And I think that those of us who had just begun our career with the ceremony - like many other teenagers trusted with adult responsibilities - did take it seriously.
I note that the ceremony is 80 years old. I wonder how many thousands of boys and girls have received a Pipestone during the past eight decades? And how many of them have suffered a broken arm, or leg, or head, or some other serious medical or psychological condition either during the ceremony or as a result of it? I have no numbers, but I am willing to bet that 80 high school football seasons in Canton, Ohio, have resulted in more injuries to healthy boys and girls than the Pipestone ceremony.
A good friend and I were reminiscing about Pipestone some weeks ago. He called it: “A memory for a lifetime.” I have to agree. Therefore, I hope the Buckeye Council Pipestone Program will continue to give scouts an experience that they will never forget.

Anonymous said...

Your recollection is good. You did get the password wrong. I received my fifth year in 1970. I also was a ceremony participant after that. You did say things about the ceremony that should not have been said. I wish my son could have participated but we live in Minnesota now. After 44 years I still remember the ceremonies.

Anonymous said...

Having recently gone through 1st year pipestone I strongly agree with the some of the comments.

The Pipestone ceremony is clearly HAZING.
It is also clearly a secret society. The entire purpose of the pipestone ceremony is to tell you that its a secret to keep the mystique around the ceremony. You are threatened about telling anyone about what goes on in this secret society. They will take you're pipestone away from you.

The entire week is somewhat of a hell week. The bathroom stalls are large and have no doors to the shower house, so everyone showering can clearly see you and your private parts.

To an 11 year old who has been taught to keep his private parts private, it is beyond disturbing to be forced to relieve themselves in front of 11-17 year olds.

People say there is no bad behavior but in my brief time there I overheard kids talking about masturbation and using very foul language. Not a very comforting place to perform an essential bodily function. The kids try to hold it, but purposely, after a few days they have to give in, they can't hold it any more. This experience can be traumatic to some, others won't care about privacy. I find forcing this on children to be abusive.

Similarly all week its about how much abuse can you withstand. Entering the dining hall is always done in quiet with your arms crossed.

The pipestone ceremony is all about how much abuse you can stand. They needlessly make the scouts stand at absolute attention for hours. Any look to the side or the slightest body movement is not tolerated. You are physically man-handled to keep you in line. You are not allowed to see what is going on around you. You are forced to drink an unknown very foul tasting liquid.

Exactly what part of this is not hazing. People who defend this are delusional. This entire experience can be very frightening to an 11 year old. You don't know what to expect. No one could talk about it. You don't know how serious the consequences may become. You don't know what this liquid is.

Instead men running around practically naked with loin cloths. Whats the point of that. One of the scout masters witness one of the "indians" with a hard on creating a "tent" in his loin cloth. Sounds like a pedophile getting off on exhibiting himself to a bunch of kids.

The ceremony goes on regardless of weather. Its all about what you can endure. You're not allowed to swat insects, not allowed to scratch. If it rains you get wet. If it is cold you get cold. You are not allowed normal defensive actions as part of this secret hazing ritual.

The BSA publishes their rules which state hazing, even light hazing is not allowed and that secret organizations are not allowed. Yet Pipestone is both and is apparently allowed. If BSA fails on these two points, it makes you question their commitment to any part of their youth protection guidelines.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what bathrooms the last writer used at camp. We have latrines in the campsite, and for those wanting more privacy, each shower building has a toilet, and the doors do lock from the inside.I don't think the facilities are different from any other Scout camp.
If you overheard kids talking about things of a sexual nature, they probably picked that up at home or schol, not at scout camp.
I am not sure what is so hard about entering a dining hall quietly with arms folded? Perhaps this writer has some disorder with which he can't stand still?
Fact - Scouts do not stand at attention for hours. When you are sitting or standing waiting for something to happen, time seems to stand still. Get over it.
Yes , if it rains you get wet. We do, too. We also get cold. If there is severe weather, we pull everyone out of the woods.
I'm tired of seeing people making things up to scare people away. Most of this is untrue.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to all of you who "deeply" buy into the program but the secrecy aspect is BS and there is no reason for it. I am a second year pipestone holder and I have no problem spilling the beans on the incredibly stupid program. When I was there a few years ago I saw multiple kids throwing up at the back, kids who were slow runners in the back were roughly shoved along to be able to keep up, and the "Indians" constantly shook you and "corrected" you. I thought it was an awful experience full of people trying to relive their glory years. This hazing and secrecy has no place in scouts and it should cease.

Anonymous said...

Posting your comments on here is a start. Change to the program is not going to happen until troops start bringing their concerns to the council. Until the council is forced to answer to hazing and youth protection violation claims repeatedly, nothing will ever change. Speak up more formally!

Bill said...

If you should tell another boy what went on here tonight, you may lose your precious Pipestone. And that boy would take your place at the council circle of the braves. ????

Anonymous said...

As long as the council executive and his subordinates are knowledgeable of the Pipestone Program, it is not considered a secret organization. Order of the Arrow ceremonies are similar. If a parent has a concern about the program they should contact Buckeye Council in Canton, Ohio. I was involved with Pipestone from 2000- 2010 at Seven Ranges Scout Reservation near Kensington, Ohio. Pipestone was in existence for 80 at that point. A lot had changed over the years. I dealt with adults and candidates with physical and medical conditions. These candidates do not run. Ceremony personal knew any medical issues of all candidates. All Indians were strictly told what their limits were. Yes, sometimes issues do arise. Responsible Indians who are aware of issues will fill out incident reports and these are turned into the council office. I understand how this experience can affect some scouts. But, most candidates find it to be the highlight of their camping experience and can't wait to return the following year. Being a 5th year holder I wear my Pipestone with pride and look upon all fellow 5th year holders with the up most respect among scouts and scout leaders.

BUG said...

Wow.... Just wow....
Here are my credentials: 5th year Pipestone (5th period, 2001), Eagle Scout (May 2002, also before I turned 18 I earned 4 Eagle Palms), Camp Staff (2001-2003), Pipestone Volunteer (6th period 2001-2012, would love to continue but I cannot because of work). I plan on sending my SPECIAL NEEDS son through once he is old enough.

First off, it is supposed to be secret between the boys. I had part of the first year ceremony ruined because part of it was told to me that week by an ADULT who was going for his 5th year stone. Concerned parents should talk to the council leadership.

Secondly, NO HAZING OR ABUSE HAPPENS! EVERYONE in camp has to stand still, shut up, and let their eyes and ears tell them what they have to do all week long when entering the dining hall, because it is practice for Friday night. On Friday night the boys are told to (paraphrasing here) stand still, be quiet, and to let their eyes and ears guide them, folks that is not a hard task to accomplish! The corrections are basically 1000% less in force than what I have personally seen some parents do to their own children at wal mart. Volunteers are told to not return ever again if one other person even has an inkling of a thought of being too hard on the kids.

Thirdly, you do not win a Pipestone. You EARN it. It is an HONOR.

Pipestone is a voluntary program. No one has to participate. I have heard religious reasons all down to "it was just weird" and that's ok. The boys that say well the Indians kept correcting me, in my unit, we talk to them about it, and everytime we ask them, well were you moving, and if so were you supposed to stand still? They always say yes to both questions. Then we ask them was that your best? Could you do better? They usually answer no then yes! Then we always ask them if they want to participate and make it clear that it is ok if they don't want to. It is more enjoyable for your child if they can follow the simple instructions of stand still, be quiet. For the parents that may be thinking well my child has head-on-skateboard/guts-in-bag syndrome what about that? Every individual in the woods has a medical paper that states what is wrong with your child TO THE SCOUTMASTER'S KNOWLEDGE. If your child has ADD but you don't have it on his BSA physical, and don't tell the scoutmaster, the Friday night personnel won't know either so they can't give home some leeway with the fidgeting. That is your fault as the parent for not getting the necessary information to the scoutmaster.

Yes, you may sit/stand for a period of time, but it is not hours. It may seem like that after a long week at camp. It stormed during my first year and I loved it! It made my experience that much better!

In my opinion, I would like to humbly ask the author to remove this post so it does not ruin it FOR THE BOYS. In my opinion, Pipestone ranked up there in my scouting experiences. Honestly, in my opinion, OA was the worst. To the Vigil OA guy, I commend you on receiving the Vigil level, but I ask you to remember your Ordeal. We had to sleep outside with no tent, work all day in silence, meals were 2 pieces of bread, hard boiled egg for breakfast, piece of cheese for lunch and dinner. I also ask you to remember your Tapout ceremony. Being forcibly yanked out of line by one Indian and then being slapped hard on the shoulder 3 times by the chief. Please remember.

Please remember all official Pipestone information (requirements and other information) can all be found online through the Buckeye Council's website, along with the appropriate names and phone numbers of who to contact if you have further questions. Please, if you are unsure, seek out the correct information from the correct sources and make an informed decision.

Anonymous said...

Obviously there must be something to all these charges, as the national council of the BSA told Seven Ranges they must make changes to their program so it is not secret, no more hazing and none of the other questionable items in the ceremonies.

Seven Ranges and Manatoc were ordered to make changes. I'm on the ceremonies team at Manatoc so I know what I'm talking about.

Anonymous said...

What kinds of changes can we expect and what were the issues at Manatoc?

Anonymous said...

To call this program a "Camp Honors Program" means nothing if violating BSA hazing standards were acceptable at this camp. For adult leaders to knowingly support violating BSA standards, they should be ashamed and resign. Camp programs should be fine without this program. If the camps depend upon this program for scouts to return, then something is seriously wrong with the camp itself. Very happy to hear changes are being made.

Anonymous said...

I attended Seven Ranges in the late 90's with troop 555 from Columbus, Ohio. I am a fourth year pipestone holder. What the author described was very similar to what I experienced.

Most of the people commenting on this are overreacting in both positive and negative ways.

When I went through the first year ceremony, I was quite scared. This was partially because I had no idea what was coming, but also because I was a timid sissy at that age. I remember the "Indians" grabbing me when I wasn't standing still, but it wasn't even close to forceful enough for me to consider it abuse. During the ceremony I remember speculating,(as it turned out, correctly) that the "Indians" were just staff members from the camp.

It's funny how many people here are calling pipestone an achievement. When I was there, even by the 4th year, the requirements to earn the award were minimal. My final year, I needed "Star" rank, One merit badge earned at camp, I had to memorize some plant species, and a few other things that were so easy that I can't even remember... Basically, if you wanted pipestone, you could have it.

The description about the 4th year ceremony regarding homosexuality mentioned above was pretty accurate. I know Boy Scouts is a Christian organization, but it was funny to me seeing them take such a strong viewpoint on homosexuality, (even for the 90's)... For the generation before mine, it was normal to be a Boy Scout; however, nowadays it is not something that you will see the "popular kids" bragging about at school. Let's face it, you're not going to see the quarterback of the football team as the senior patrol leader... My point is that on average, boy scouts are less popular and know what it's like to be ostracized... and then they take this stance on homosexuality... hilarious... (I'm not gay)

Overall, Pipestone wasn't a bad experience, but I don't take it that seriously or have much respect for it either. I learned about the aforementioned drink that caused people to vomit. It tasted bad, but one must have a very sensitive gag reflex if it caused them to spew. Most of my friends in the troop would joke about the "passwords" each year. It's really not a big deal at all.

I enjoyed the article, and I even enjoyed most people's overblown reactions on both ends of the spectrum.

Anonymous said...

Digger 7/ William Wickes: Your blog post is not only ruining it for future scouts the ensuing comments bring their own issues. Your blog post shows up on the first page of google. Please delete it. Rick Byerly

Anonymous said...

William Fickes. Sorry.

Dallas, TX said...

My 12 year old just attended the camp and "ritual" this past week. He DID NOT have fun being pushed around while running in the dark or falling and being dragged until he got back up. He scratched up his hands and hurt his knee and tried to tell the "Indians" that he couldn't run and was ignored and forces to continue running. If this isn't hazing--I'm not sure what is. I'm extremely disappointed and angry that the Boy Scouts of America thinks this activity is ok.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious if Native Americans feel "honored" by the night time ritual. How about teaching our Scouts about America's early history with and treatment of Native Americans as a way to ensure history never repeats itself and TRULY honor Native Americans by asking them what Scouts can do to honor the memory of their ancestors. Somehow I think it will be very different than the pipestone ritual.

Anonymous said...

My son went thru first year pipestone. He did puke and was roughly pulled up and pushed by the adults running with them several times. Caused him so much anxiety that is not able to complete another year even though he tried. My husband believes in the program but I don't. Terrible to watch your otherwise normal child stress out over an unnecessary ritual. My oldest son who completed 3 years confirmed that boys do get pushed and pulled by the adults while running. Anyone who tells you the boys are never touched roughly are liars.

Anonymous said...

Our troop was concerned about YP issues - use of Bitrex provoking vomiting, adults dressed in loincloths (Ohio Indians would have been more covered), the separation of boys on medications and requiring them to wear a yellow vest, the Don't be a Homo speech, the refusal of the camp to allow adult leaders to review the script, the group urination, ... Pretty much every aspect of Youth Protection was violated. A group of our troop adult leaders met with the 7 Ranges council and BSA regional about nine years ago. They were a group of backslapping good ol' boys who had no intention of making changes to this ceremony. It could be changed in reasonable ways to meet compliance but at the end of the day the regional BSA representative turned a blind eye to concerns.
It is very sad to see the same concerns being raised all these years later.
Btw, my sons did Pipestone and loved it so it's not a personal ax to grind.

Anonymous said...

This is a real catch 22. Have to side with not approving of posting the details. I am 47 and remember being scared my first year. What an experience. Tap Outs were also very intense.
BE PREPARED is the best thing that I got out of scouting. Second to the fun.
Troup 254.

Anonymous said...

I completed one year of pipestone, walked out of the second. I refused to participate after a young man I was standing next to started to vomit from fear. He was removed and told to face away from the group. He stood there vomiting and crying for a few minutes. I tried to help him out, but was bodily prevented from doing so. (In other words, when I turned from the circle to go help him) one of the "indians" grabbed me, pushed me away from the child, and told me "to mind my own business."

I saw and heard similar things the first year.

The peer pressure to continue is intense, and participants are NOT told what to expect prior to the event. Nor are they told how to opt out. This is done to make the participants "men." It really teaches the participants to ignore people in need. That's not manly. It's abuse.

I reported this to the camp director and the director of the council and was brushed off both times.

I don't object to the kids participating, so long as they are informed ahead of time what to expect and they understand they have the option to opt out at any time. The parents should also know what to expect. That wasn't my experience.

My son completed it, and was proud he accomplished something hard. But we also had a long talk about what hazing is and what it teaches you. And the pipestone program is definitely hazing, in every sense of the word.

Anonymous said...

Back in the 50's and 60's I was fortunate to participate in the 5 year pipestone program. Then after military I participated as an adult for another 14 years before job requirements forced a move to Texas. Even today, each summer I still look at the sky on Friday evenings and can hear the call of the drum. An experience I'll never forget. After reading many of the comments, it's obvious some do not take the program as a serious step to adulthood. It is not a bunch of "bullies" pushing kids around, treating them as a hazing or initiation right (at least as I remember). There will ALWAYS be those who try to find something to complain or belittle if it doesn't fit their small world. Look at the past numbers who have experienced this fantastic program and understand the real purpose! Thank you to all who support, participate, and remember that pipestone is an Honor not a reward.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing our memories, tuscazoar is gone as a scout camp but lives on in our minds. Have desecrated our vows on pipestone, I think not as we reminisce together, it built our character to enter our adult phase of life. I appreciate the scouts who did scare the daylights out of me on Friday night, only because that enabled me to know fear will pass. I do treasure those weeks at camp, both summer camp, Klondike, and polar bear. Most kids today do not have or are nor allowed to participate in these events, and that is sad. I believe what we did not see were the monitors, out of sight, to insure the safety of the campers. The memories for those of us now 50-60+ will never be shared by the younger generations, because it is not pc by today's standards.
I appreciate and thank the older scouts and leaders of my youth, for helping me deal with my life's ups and downs....I am a better person because of it, hopefully a better dad and adult in society.

Anonymous said...

Glad you have good memories of the ceremony but it clearly violates BSA Youth Protection and several Scout Laws and the Scout Oath. You sneak around and hide the ceremony from the public for good reason, the charter sponsor organizations are liable for your behavior to the children. If you hurt a child, the BSA gets sued and so does your charter organization that is overseeing what you do in Scouts. They are contractually liable for the unit.

nounNorth American
noun: hazing; plural noun: hazings

the imposition of strenuous, often humiliating, tasks as part of a program of rigorous physical training and initiation.
"army cadets were hospitalized for injuries caused by hazing"
humiliating and sometimes dangerous initiation rituals, especially as imposed on college students seeking membership to a fraternity or sorority.

Your hazing is a humiliating ritual to strike fear into 11 year old boys, humiliate them if they cry out or move and then make them run, fearful, through a camp at night with bright lights shining in their eyes all so they can join a club of Pipestone wearers. Please tell me how this varies from the definition? You may not consider it to be hazing, but if you ever got sued, a court is going to side with the plaintiff because you physically rough up the kids and that is 100% spelled out in the Youth Protection program as unacceptable. Enjoy your ceremony, it may be the last.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

My son said this was the worst experience of his life and he called me crying after the ceremony begging for me to pick him up. Yes. He had his phone at camp only to contact me when urgent. He knew he was not allowed to speak but he was so upset he didn't care. This has ruined camp and scouting for him.

Anonymous said...

Why do you have to attend the ceremony to receive your stone? The ceremony is not listed on any paperwork as required. Only the other requirements: i.e.: wood, merit badges, parts of rank, swimming, etc. etc. Just because a scout doesn't attend a ceremony doesn't mean he didn't earn the award that he was working towards. In school if you got all A's but didn't attend the year end ceremony, would your honor roll certificate have been withheld from you? No.

Anonymous said...

Here is a description of the program, written by an adult member who participated:

Anonymous said...

Anonymous asks above "Why do you have to attend the ceremony to receive your stone?"

Because the rigors of the ceremony are required to "earn" the Pipestone.

No matter what anyone tells you, this is a "secret society" in which older men force younger boys to perform a ceremony which is painful and frightening.

That would be fine IF the boys were told in advance what will be expected of them and how to opt out. But the boys are intentionally NOT told that the program is optional or how to opt out if they choose to. Then, they are told that they must not speak for nearly 24 hours. Why? Because if they were allowed to talk about it, they'd mutually decide that this is abuse.

Doubt that? It has EVERY red flag imaginable:

No talking
Discomfort, pain, fear and occasional nausea
Peer pressure
Rough, physical handling
Power dynamic enforced by half dressed older men
Initiation rite
Separation from people you know
Performed literally under cover of darkness

Sound familiar? It should,, because all of these are characteristic of abusive environments.

I understand that many don't appreciate that this is abuse, but it is. Here's why:

It's ok to ask someone to do something hard. We SHOULD ask kids to do hard things. But it also has to be a choice. And to be a choice, it has to be an informed choice.

This program simply teaches young men that to be a man, you need to be able to tolerate abuse and dish it out to others who are smaller than you. That's not manly, it's cowardly.

Anonymous said...

"They are told that they must not speak for nearly 24 hours"

How about "until you wake", which would be about 7 hours, mostly spent sleeping.

"Separation from people you know"

They are separated by age groups and ability, most are with someone they know.

"Rough, physical handling"

physical, yes, rough no - I've been through it

"Performed literally under cover of darkness"

Really - what are you, a baby? - Waaah

Anonymous said...

^ See how this works? Dismissal of legitimate concerns, then name calling if you don't comply. If that isn't hazing, I don't know what is.

Anonymous said...

Not dismissal - correction of 3 false statements.

plus 1 line of sarcasm - honestly? You object to a ceremony being held at night?

Anonymous said...

As an adult leader I just completed the Pipestone Ceremony last week with my son, and most of the above descriptions are quite accurate. My feeling is that while some scouts in our troop enjoyed it, as an adult it seems really weird. From watching the initiates relieving themselves as a group, breathing road flare smoke, watching the fake "Indians" potentially burn down the scout reservation with their carelessly placed flares, being "corrected" by fake Indians for not facing ahead or letting my arms drop (they definitely put their hands on you), watching the Indians drag some crying kid away after he dropped his pipestone. Mind you, this "experience" went on for over five hours. I was hoping to learn something about Indian lore or legend, but this seemed like a type of psychological hazing disguised as creepy drama. I will not be returning to Seven Ranges nor will my son.

Anonymous said...

That's right! I forgot about the group urination. Everyone lines up in a forward facing line, then turns left and is told to urinate now.

Any "ceremony" that prevents people from relieving themselves privately during a 5 hour period is worthy of a trip to the county prosecutor's office.

Frankly, I'm amazed that the media hasn't sent a mole into this ceremony - I'm sure they'd love to break the story that leads to criminal charges and prosecution. They'd get some awesome video of half dressed middle aged men manhandling crying kids in the middle of the woods at night. A hidden cellphone and a few youtube videos would certainly put an end to this hazing ritual.

Anonymous said...

Here's the phone number for the Columbiana County Prosecutor's office, for anyone that would like to turn in a complaint. 330-420-0140

Anonymous said...

First of all, it is not a "secret society. The identities of the participants in the pageant are kept from the candidates for a couple of reasons. First, Pipestone is intended to be an honor bestowed on individuals in recognition of the accomplishments as scouts. It is not intended to be a popularity contest as is Order of the Arrow. All of the participants in the ceremony are, themselves, scouters and most, if not all, will have friends and family who, at some point, will be candidates for Pipestone. Making the identities of the participants known would subject them to potential harassment or pressure (as anyone who has coached school sports can tell you).

Second, the identities are kept secret (until you complete your 5th year), because the ceremony is supposed to be solemn and focused on the growth of the scouts not on those performing the ceremony. No one who participates in the ceremony is supposed to divulge their participation because the honor is not for them, the actors, but for the boys who have been brought to receive the Pipestone.

Many of the actors are prominent individuals in their communities. They understand that without anonymity, the attention might be on them, and not their purpose in being there. Some are in the law enforcement community and some in politics and believe me, if they actually thought this ceremony constituted hazing it would have been shut down decades ago. In fact, tens of thousands of scouts have passed though Pipestone and the fact that there hasn't been widespread media attention should tell a reasonable person that nothing illegal is tolerated.

Discipline is an important part of the ceremony because it keeps the scouts focussed on the message instead of where they are or what the identity is of their handlers.

My son has seen many things scarier than what he is likely to witness in Pipestone.

Great care is taken to protect the scouts and special assistance is available for those who need it. There is no inappropriate touching or handling of the kids.

And, yes, there is "group urination" (ever being in boys or mens locker room?). This is to prevent the scouts from suffering an embarrassing accident during the ceremony. This isn't an opera in which there is intermission. The lack of a formal "potty break" is in order to preserve the solemnity of the ceremony (having 80 kids stand in line for a latrine would be a logistical night mare.

In my years going through the program, I never saw anyone cry, not even the 11 year old first year scouts.