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Camp Fire Minnesota announces camp name change

May 10, 2022 — Guided by our goal to create welcoming spaces for all young people, Camp Fire Minnesota is taking action to address past and current Native American cultural appropriation and to work diligently to repair harm. That includes changing the name of our camp, Tanadoona, in Excelsior. As of today, our property will be named Camp Fire Minnesota, ending the use of the word “Tanadoona.”

cultural appropriation, noun, Cultural appropriation occurs when members of a dominant culture adopt cultural elements of a minority group in an exploitative, disrespectful, or stereotypical way.

Throughout our 100-year history, we made various changes to end culturally appropriative practices, but did not take the important step to acknowledge the changes and the harm these practices caused, nor did we take the necessary steps to address other areas of cultural appropriation.

At the start of 2022, Camp Fire National Headquarters launched a partnership with several Camp Fire councils across the U.S., including Camp Fire Minnesota, to understand where cultural appropriation continues. The goal of this initiative is to put a collective end to Native American cultural appropriation within the organization and take responsibility for the pain these practices have caused.

Over the years community members and staff had inquired about the origin of the name Tanadoona, which was understood to be a made-up word mimicking Native American languages. Earlier this year we confirmed this when we obtained a copy of the Camp Fire Book of Names, published in 1915.

This practice is culturally appropriative and harmful, so we will immediately end use of the word “Tanadoona” and officially change it to Camp Fire Minnesota. You will see this update across all of our materials over the next few weeks.

We understand that this is just one step. There is much more work to do. In the coming months, we will share an Inclusion Plan for the organization, which will serve as a roadmap and accountability tool for our equity work, including continuing to address cultural appropriation within Camp Fire. We hope you will follow along with us on our journey of creating welcoming and accessible nature experiences.

As we make this change, we want to assure all the young people we serve, their families, and our alumni and supporters that your beloved experiences of connecting to the outdoors and each other haven’t changed. Camp culture, the young people we serve, and our organization as a whole will all benefit from addressing cultural appropriation.

What is cultural appropriation?

Cultural appropriation takes place when groups adopt cultural elements of a minority group in an exploitative, disrespectful, or stereotypical way. The adoption of these elements (or mimicking of these elements) from another culture typically occurs without the consent of the people who belong to that culture and who have been historically marginalized. Sometimes “cultural appropriation” can seem like or intend to be “cultural appreciation”, but the intent doesn’t change the effect of the action and the harm it creates.

Acts of appropriation cause real harm. Recognizing this harm, the American Psychological Association has called for the end of these practices.

Summer camps have a long history of Native American cultural appropriation. This type of appropriation occurs in a context where the dominant group has attempted to eliminate Indigenous people and cultures while also stealing elements of those cultures.

Many camps, like Camp Fire Minnesota, are in the process of rectifying this in the way they program and the names they use: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2022/apr/05/american-summer-camps-rethinking-indigenous-names-rituals.

We invite you to learn more:

Camp Fire’s History of Cultural Appropriation

Camp Fire has a long history of connecting young people to nature and allowing them opportunities to experience different cultures; however, we have made mistakes and caused harm with many of our practices and traditions in the past.

Throughout our history, Camp Fire has used totem poles, gowns, language, stories, ceremonies, and many other practices that have been taken from or were made to mimic Native American and Indigenous cultures.

As called for by the American Psychological Association, these practices cause real harm, and we are committed to actively working to acknowledge that harm, replace those practices, end harmful language, and work to repair our relationships with Native people and organizations.

Learn more:

What does this mean for my experience in Camp Fire programs?

What you have loved about your or your child’s summer camp or Camp Fire program experience with us in recent years remains unchanged. Here is what will look different:

  • Our website and social media accounts will be updated to reflect the change from “Tanadoona” to “Camp Fire Minnesota”.
  • All emails will now come from “Camp Fire Minnesota” and feature that logo. Likewise, if you registered for an event or program in Active, that site will now display the name “Camp Fire Minnesota”. You will continue to access your registration in Active the same way you have in the past.
  • Signs at our property will now display Camp Fire Minnesota. Look for the logo you see on our website homepage.
  • If you or your event guests search for “Tanadoona” on maps or Google, they’ll soon be directed to Camp Fire Minnesota at 3300 Tanadoona Drive, Excelsior.
  • Shirts, gear and other items will no longer feature the word “Tanadoona”.
    • We are working with a sustainability consultant to develop a plan to sustainably dispose of “Tanadoona”-branded items. We encourage you to drop items off at Camp Fire on May 25, 4-6:30pm and June 9, 4-6:30pm. Contact us at info@campfiremn.org to coordinate another drop-off time if these collection dates do not work for you.

A message to our campers and young people

from Camp Director Gilly