At Farm & Wilderness, we occasionally revisit our history with a modern lens to ensure that we honor our roots, while remaining sensitive to current dynamics. In that light, F&W is reviewing potential cultural appropriation in the name of our Indian Brook camp, and we have started a conversation about a possible name change. We respect how words and policies may affect underrepresented communities. F&W founders Ken and Susan Webb wrote in their book, “Beyond Our Wildest Dreams,” that a Mohawk camper and staff, Wakio Rassenes, shared his tribe’s culture with Timberlake campers. The place where these skills and practices were shared was a location called Indian Village. “Because Indian Village was south of the camp near the brook which came down…to the lake, the brook became Indian Brook, and that’s how the girl’s camp got its name,” according to the Webb’s book published in 1989.
Knowing the history of IB’s name is helpful. In the summer of 2016, IB staff raised the issue and composed a letter to share with the Board of Trustees. Subsequent Facebook posts generated lively discussions on the topic.
The Board asked F&W’s Management Team to lead a process and discussion of a possible name change and evaluate the impact any outcome may have on current and future IB communities and alumni. At Indian Brook-Dark Meadow Reunion in September, Executive Director Rebecca Geary led a “threshing session” that attracted about 40 people invested in IB’s history and future. Similar discussions occurred at Harvest Weekend 2016, Ice Cutting and one is planned for Spring Planting 2017. Participants are asked to be open and to listen to various opinions, without trying to convince others. F&W wants to offer a safe space where candor can flourish.
Here are some perspectives raised during these heartfelt conversations: Let’s look carefully at reasons for a name change and how much this place goes beyond a name… What is the point of view of the Indian community? We should not look at this issue in a vacuum …Is “Indian” our word to use as a mostly white community? How does it look to someone new to F&W?
Similar conversations will be facilitated this Summer at the camp and at fair by Rebecca Geary and Megan Chamberlain, IB Director. After we gather and weigh the perspectives offered, the Management Team will make a recommendation to the Board at its October 2017 meeting.