For over twenty-five years I have been giving the talks and demonstrations that are gathered together in this book. Many of them have appeared in magazines or in the "Birch-Bark Roll" that has come out annually for ten years. But this is the first time in which a comprehensive collection has been made of the activities, customs, laws, and amusements that have been developed in my camps.
Some of the related subjects I have treated at too great length for enclosure in one book. Of this class are the "Life Histories of Northern Animals," "Animal Stories," "Sign Language" and "Forestry," which appear as separate works. All are merely parts of a scheme that I have always considered my life work, namely, the development or revival of Woodcraft as a school for Manhood.
By Woodcraft I mean outdoor life in its broadest sense and the plan has ever been with me since boyhood.
Woodcraft is the first of all the sciences. It was Woodcraft that made man out of brutish material, and Woodcraft in its highest form may save him from decay.
As the model for outdoor life in this country I took the Indian, and have thus been obliged to defend him against the calumnies of those who coveted his possessions. In giving these few historical extracts to show the Indian character, it must be remembered that I could give hundreds, and that practically all the travelers who saw with their own eyes are of one mind in the matter.
Commissioner Robert G. Valentine, of the Indian Bureau, the first Indian Commissioner we have ever had who knew and sympathized with the Indians, writes after reading my manuscript:
"On the question of the character of the Indians I am in absolute accord with you on everything that I believe any one would consider a basic point. In speech after speech I have fought the idea that Indians were cruel or lazy or vicious, and dwelt on their positive virtues - among these their sense of humor, and their deep reverence".
The portions of the manuscript called "Spartans of the West," and "Campfire Stories of Indian Character," have been submitted to George Bird Grinnell, of New York, whose life has been largely spent among the Indians, and have received from him a complete endorsement.
In a similar vein I have heard from Dr. Charles A. Eastman, and from nearly all of the many who have seen the manuscript. Some of my friends at the Smithsonian Institution take exception to certain details, but no one denies the main contentions in regard to the character of the Indian, or the historical accuracy of the "Campfire Stories".
Gen. Nelson A. Miles, for example, writes me: "History can show no parallel to the heroism and fortitude of the American Indians in the two hundred years' fight during which they contested inch by inch the possession of their country against a foe infinitely better equipped with inexhaustible resources, and in overwhelming numbers. Had they even been equal in numbers, history might have had a very different story to tell".
I was taught to glorify the names of Xenophon, Leonidas, Spartacus, the Founders of the Dutch Republic or the Noble Six Hundred at Balaclava, as the ideals of human courage and self-sacrifice, and yet I know of nothing in all history that will compare with the story of Dull Knife as a narrative of magnificent heroism and human fortitude.
This book is really the eleventh edition of the "Birch-Bark Roll," which I have published yearly and expanded yearly since 1902. On the first day of July that year I founded the first band of Woodcraft Indians. Since then the growth of the movement has called for constant revision and expansion. In the present volume, for the first time, I have fully set forth a justification of my Indian Ideal.
I am deeply indebted to my friend, Edgar Beecher Bronson, for permission to include the History of Chief Dull Knife's March, which appeared in his "Reminiscences of a Ranchman." It is a story that should be known to all the world.
I have also to express my obligations to Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons for permission to quote from Capt. J. O. Bourke's writings, to J. W. Schultz for the use of his charming story of "No-Heart," to Messrs. The Fleming H. Revell Co., for permission to quote F. W. Calkins' story of the "Two Wilderness Voyagers," to Miss Alice C. Fletcher for the use of two Indian songs from her book "Indian Story and Song," as noted, to Edward S. Curtis for the use of Sitting Bull's "War Song," to Miller Jordan and Geo. L. white for help in revising the parts on organization and honors; to Dr. Clinton L. Bagg for help in the " First Aid." To Dr. C. C. Curtis for the identification of toadstools; to Dr. Charles A. Eastman (Ohiyesa) for general criticism and for special assistance in the chapters on "The Indian's Creed," "Teepee Etiquette," and the "Teachings of Wabasha I".
Also to Robert G. Valentine (Indian Commissioner) and George Bird Grinnell of New York for critical reading of the historical parts of the book.
When I was a boy I hungered beyond expression for just such information as I have tried herein to impart. It would be a great joy to me if I could reach and help a considerable number of such heart-hungry boys tormented with an insatiate instinct for the woods, and if I fail of this, I shall at least have the lasting pleasures of having lived through these things myself and of having written about them.