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Czechoslovak woodcraft

In a history of human communities there are long eras when people lived in a manner close to the ideals set in the beginnings of the woodcraft realization. The 19th century was in such a trace penetrated with romantism in philosophy, art, sociology, pedagogy and other fields. In that spirit initial thoughs kindled and crystallized into forming the woodcraft methods, demands, manners and finally principles and rules formulated in The Law of Woodcraft, Nine Principles of Woodcraft and Rising up the Mountain.

Moreover by sheer studies of the philosophic, ethic and education streams not only in the recent history it is possible to find several outstanding personalities referring moral and social attitudes ineffably close to the ones embraced in the idea of lifelong woodcraft view and the concequencing behavior. Among such personalities we certainly reckon Saint Francescus of Assisi, Jan Amos Comenius, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Henry David Thoreau, John Ruskin and many others who partly promoted or executed ideas or activities corresponding to ideology of woodcraft.

History

The initial thoughs of the woodcraft spread to the Czech lands along with the boy scouts movement around 1911. In that time in Europe and United States new ideas for youth upbringing to bravery, restraint and selfreliance rose using romantism and love to nature and adventure. In that spirit E. T. Seton founded The Woodcraft Indians (*1902) in the U. S. and Colonel R. Baden-Powell the Boy Scout organization (*1908) in England. Though Baden-Powell used many factors of the Seton´s way of upbringing, unlike The Woodcraft Indians he attired his followers in uniforms and intended to train them up not only as good citizens but also as efficient soldiers and future officers of the colonial army of the British empire. Clubs of the similar manner also existed at the beginning of the 20th century in the Czech region which was then a part of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy. For example the Naturfreunde (*1895) belonged among them, but components of scouting and defence training appeared in the youth upbringing within the bounds of the sport organizations (Sokol, Orel…). It is to be mentioned that at the very outset there were not any differencies or discrepancies between the scouting and woodcraft, and nobody was looking for any, so there were not any contradictory actions which unfortunately appeared on forthcoming years. The both streams came together and in the Czech region inclined to broader term "Junák - The Younker"

1911-1915 - the first traces of woodcraft and scouting are possible to find in the trips of highschool students to nature under the guidance of their teachers: A. B. Svojsík, the founder of Czech scouting, came to know scouting in England and the new ideas incorporated into the training of his students; Miloš Seifert, a teacher of physics, natural history an mathematics at high school in Beroun established with his students Group of Friends of the Nature from which the first woodcraft tribe Děti Živěny (Children of Živena, mythic goddess of Life, Spring and Nature) arose in 1913. Besides a summer wandering with spending nights in tents they performed nature research and set up the first summer camp near Lochovice following the ideas of E. T. Seton (we have a chronicle!) where they made bows, arrows, shields, the first typi and other Indian artefacts after the Birch Bark Roll. Jan Hořejší was another pedagogue of similar mind, a teacher at high school in Prag who besides the naturalist trips organized a one-month summer camp near Rokycany in 1912 and established a scout club Psohlavci (name of the Czech historical community from the south-west Bohemia who used to guard Czech frontiers, they used to have a dog head as a symbol)

1915 - council at Zbiroh was held in April, the first woodcraft organization Obec Psohlavců (The Community of Psohlavci) was established joining woodcraft tribes (Děti Živěny, Psohlavci etc.) from Beroun, Praha, Příbram, Plzeň and other places which had about 400 members then. It was a sort of free association of independent groups with a common committee of chiefs but probably without any obligatory mutual programme. Psohlavci followed the Baden-Powell´s methods as well as the Seton´s ones though adapted to the Czech conditions. The activity was motivated by old Slavic mythology and tradition but the Indian primitivism also, with emphasis put on the stay in nature and love to the nature along with patriotic feels and service for the Czech nation, under the Austrian hegemony at that time. The "dog head" was taken as the official sign.

1914 - 1918 - the First world war raged around the Europe, the whole continent was tormented by diseases, starvation and poverty, lots of young men had to commence the military service and the activity of woodcraft tribes was very limited. Setting the summer camps was very restricted due to shortage of food, clothes and other material, nevertheless a range of woodcraft magazines was issued - Vatra, Slunce, Oheň, Slunovrat, Hlasatel

1918 - the war ended, the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy collapsed and on 28th October a new independent Czechoslovak republic was established. Obec Psohlavců renamed to Děti Svobody (Children of Freedom), but in 1919 returned to nearly original Junácká Obec Psohlavců

1918 - 1923 - there were discrepancies arising among the members of Obec Psohlavců relative to possible joining with boy scout organization Svaz Junáků Skautů Republiky Československé (SJS RČS, Union of Scouts of the Czechoslovak Republic) under the A. B. Svojsík leadership. The different views on scouting according to Baden-Powell or to Seton divided scouts and woodcrafters in Czech lands as well as in the other countries. At that time Obec Psohlavců or some of its tribes joined and left subsequently the Union several times. Beside the Obec Psohlavců there were other societies more or less apllying woodcraft ideas in its programme (Seton´s Scouts, Scouts of Work, Community of Baden-Powell´s Scouts etc.)

1921 - M. Seifert prepared and published his book "Životem a přírodou k čistému lidství" (Trail through Life and Nature to Pure Humanity, published by Dědictví Komenského Prag). The book became the basis of Czechoslovak woodcraft and entailed the definite breakup of M. Seifert with the Baden-Powell´s scouting. In November a council at Beroun took place and new statutes according to The Woodcraft League of America (WLA) were accepted. The system of exploits was founded, the book by M. Seifert was taken as a code of Obec Psohlavců. The community spread as Slovak woodcrafters Horní chlapci joined. Obec Psohlavců-Horních chlapců applied for a membership in WLA but E. T. Seton suggested to establish an independent The Woodcraft League of Czechoslovakia.

1922 - as a consequence of unfailing disagreements over the joining the Union of Scouts (SJS RČS) few tribes left the Obec Psohlavců and established new Zálesácká liga československá (The Woodcraft League of Czechoslovakia), the first official woodcraft organization in Europe which E. T. Seton declared as a sister organization of WLA. M. Seifert was elected as a chief. The Woodcraft League became a collective member of Federace čsl. Skautů (Federation of Czechoslovak Scouts, an antipole to the Union of Scouts) and markedly rised its activity. Brother Grünwald left for U.S.A. for the courses for guides of WLA. After his return he helped organizing the forest schools or courses (Chautauqua). A magazine Vatra was issued, one of the best magazines for youths of that time, and internal informative magazine Hlasatel. For the first time a camp at "Walden"1 placed in Slovakia in Svätojánská dolina under Smrekovica in Nízké Tatry mountains close to Liptovský Svätý Ján was set.

1923 - at spring council at Beroun a new modified name for the organization was acceptad as Liga lesní moudrosti - The Woodcraft League of Czechoslovakia (LLM). At LLM two ideologic trends started marking out - the first rigidly apolitic trying to keep the original woodcraft tradition and the latter one - leftish pervaded with thoughs of spreading socialism and inspired by opinions of John G. Hargrave, an English writer and founder of the Kibbo Kift Kindred organization, whose interest in social problems with accent put on the need to radical change of the whole society within the bounds of woodcraft influented a lot of the LLM members. The latter leftish trend gradually predominated in LLM and the supporter af the philosophic apolitic course, the chief of the LLM M. Seifert, was suspended (1923) and in fact excluded from LLM. Owing to the ideologic motives above the LLM consequently came into a deep crisis.

1924 - 1928 - generally very productive and creative atmosphere, the magazines Vatra, Hlasatel and range of tribal magazines were issued. In 1924 there were 985 members in 44 tribes, 7 groups and 10 units of rangers in LLM. From 1923 publishing woodcraft books in edition Walden started.

1925 - supporters of the apolitic spiritual course of woodcraft (under M. Seifert) established a new organization Liga pro výchovu přírodou - moudrost lesa (LPVP, The League for the Upbringing by Nature - The Wisdom of the Wood), in 1927 a Slovak tribe Deti Slnka (Children of the Sun) joined - "the only pure Seton´s followers" (V. Valovič - Manoki as a chief). LPVP published a magazine Moudrost lesa. The summer camps at Walden1 in Nízké Tatry were restored, Walden became a spritual center of woodcraft, there were spiritual talks, meditations, vigils; it became common as "the Walden school - the university of woodcraft" which rigidly accepted E. T. Seton as the highest authority. The camps at Walden were set up to 1945

1926 - nearly a hundred of members belonging to the leftish course of LLM parted to establish a radikal leftist organization International Socialistic Association of Woodcrafters (ISAW) which claimed that "the romantic woodcraft and the life of Indians is a past, the time of machines and their workers is coming", they put industrial futuristic "machinecraft" as an opposite of the natural woodcraft.

1929 - the council at Samechov2 accepted uniting of the two woodcraft organizations - LLM and LPVP as Liga československých woodcrafterů (LČSW, The League of the Czechoslovak Woodcrafters). M. Seifert was elected as a chief and once again he tried to press his spiritual dimension of woodcraft, consistent apolicy and distance from the leftish course. The old ideologic disputes between the Prag stream (concentrated around the tribe Bílý Slunovrat with M. Vavrda as a chief) and the branch Bratislava - Brno (tribe Deti Slnka and others) ignited again.

1930 - 1936 - the tribes worked actively, the summer camps at Walden and other places were set, but the ideologic disagreement deepened as the leftish course tried to react relevantly to the complicated economic and politic situation in Europe (the outset of fascism in Germany, the economic depression, the thread of the continental conflict, the spread of socialism). The crisis in woodcraft was hastened by an article "About the Future of the League" by J. Šimsa in a tribal magazine Slunovrat in 1932 which frankly attacked the apolitic attitude of the League in the current politic situation and recommended to increase the attempts to resistance against the war and efforts to work for peace and a new rightful social system. After the severe change of opinions then a part of members belonging to the leftish course left LLM and cooperated with other organizations (scouts, YMCA etc.). It was their suggestion and merit that E. T. Seton visited Prag in 1936. Several times there were attempts to reconcile the two wrangled groups, a new woodcraft center was founded - the camp Valacchian Walden3 near Nový Hrozenkov in Moravia which supposed to be a bridge to cociliation of the both sides. Moreover some new tribes with young woodcrafters unburdened with old quarelles were established (Wahpeton *1936).

1936 - E. T. Seton visited Prag; several lectures took place concerning Indians, animals and life in wilderness, wife of E. T. Seton demonstrated Indian songs and dances. The lectures were attended by hundreds of members of several organizations (LČSW, YMCA, scouts…); finally a big common discussion went off referring to religion, mysticism, culture, antimilitarism, socialism… The visit of E. T. Seton was a great impulse for the Czech woodcrafters but it did not solve their quarrels, Seton urged to tolerancy and apolicy what in the current knotty situation was not easy or even unpossible.

1939-1945 - on the basis of Munich Agreement between Germany, France and Great Britain Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia, the republic was split into Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia and Slovak State. Most of the organizations was banned. At the territory of Czech lands a new organization The League of Czech Woodcrafters instead of the banned LČSW was established which was registered as a sport club and worked though legally up to its abolition in 1944 and then illegally up to 1945. Many woodcrafters went off the war, some were taken to concentration camps. The flow of Czechs coming from Slovakia broadened the member base, solidarity increased and the activity deepened. Despite the raging war the tribes worked creatively, the activity was concentrated around The Tribe of Prag Woodcrafters, a new translations of The Birch Bark Roll and other books were prepared, the meetings and summer camps took place at Živohošť4, Stvořidla5, Valacchian Walden3 and Walden in Nízké Tatry in Slovakia also. The cottage house at Valacchian Walden had an undercover mission - it was used as the base for illegal transferring of persons cross the Slovak-Moravian frontier and fortunaetly it was not revealed despite the enorm effort of the Gestapo. In 1941 M. Seifert, the founder of Czechoslovak woodcraft and its longtime spiritual guide, died in Bechyně. The cottage house at Walden1 in Nízké Tatry burnt in 1945 during the Slovak National Uprising.

1945 - after the liberation the League of Czechoslovak Woodcrafters (LČSW) began its activity again, the first post-war concil was held, tha magazines began to be issued. In summer there was a woodcraft camp set on the garden of the castle Štiřín6 for the purpose of recovery of the abandoned children returning from the concentration camps. But even though the woodcraft programme was well-developed the children anguished by the cruel destiny did not pay very much attention to it and rather doctors, psychologist and psychiatrist got on the work.

1946 - 1948 - very creative activity, new books as original or adapted translations were published, the summer and winter forest school Chautauqua was carried on, a lot of occupation went off at the mountain lodge at Klínové boudy7, at Střela8, the summer camps at Walden1 and Roaring River9 (Belá) in High Tatra mountains and other places passed off.

1948 - 1951 - the government in Czechoslovakia was taken by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) which successively liquidated all the organizations and individuals insufficiently devoted to the government policy. Lots of people left abroad. In 1949 The Czechoslovak Youth Union (ČSM) was established which supposed to unite all the existing youth organization at that time and work under the direct control of the communists. In 1950 - 1951 a lot of summer camps passed off in the original woodcraft manner yet. In 1951 the LČSW was "voluntarily" dismissed as well as many of the similar organizations and all the property was confiscated in favour of ČSM.

1951 - 1965 - years in signs of the tough communist hegemony, trumped-up lawsuits and dispatching of the democratically thinking persons, publishing of many magazines and "free-thinking" authors including E. T. Seton, J. London or F. Cooper was forbidden. Lots of the woodcrafters were due to their attitudes persecuted, however, the woodcraft did not dismiss and spread out. Former members of LČSW kept meeting and guided children and youth in a manner of woodcraft under various legal sport or touristic organizations. At the end of 60th the issuing of Seton´s books became permitted.

1965 - 1968 - on the basis of Seton´s ideas a new rover tribe Dakota was formed (*1959) which step by step managed by artful way under legal circumstances to establish a centre Psohlavci (*1965) uniting few camping groups (Neskenon and others). Psohlavci were success to gain an abnormal independence in the temporary conditions as their own statutes, costume etc. Due to the partial releasing of the political circumstances in Czechoslovakia it was able to carry on the woodcraft activity in many touristic groups under ČSM or sport organizations. Members of the Dakota tribe cooperated with the former members of LČSW to prepare a legal restoring and registration of the woodcraft organization.

1968 - a preparatory committee for the League restoring met in June at Sunny Meadow10 near Křemešník and the proposal for the registration was delivered at the Ministry of Interior. However, after the invasion of the armies of the Soviet Union, Bulgary, Hungary, Poland and East Germany to Czechoslovakia in August the registration proposal was taken back and the League was not again restored yet.

1968 - 1980 - in spite of the reestablished communist dictatorship there were still many touristic groups continuing at the activity under legal youth, sport or ecologic organizations (ČSTV, ČSOP, Svazarm, Pionýr etc.). At the end of 70th a new adapted translation of the Seton´s Book of Woodcraft and The Birch Bark Roll by Miloš Zapletal was published what resulted consequently in forming many groups and tribes independently of themselves at different places (Tuscarora *1972, Taraxacum *1979, Netnokwa *1974, Mawaden *1974, Huron *1979, Konestoga *1980, Tussilago *1980, White Wampum *1980 and many others), a new tribal woodcraft magazine Wampum Neskenonu has become to be published (since 1973), the Neskenon tribe started organizing a sport tourney "lacrosse league" for friendly groups from 1972, apart from it they participated in ecologic programs (Aqua Brdy - mapping and restoring wells in Brdy highlands), a big intertribal competition in camp crafts Kiwendotha was held.

1980 - 1989 - although there were many legal groups working at the woodcraft basis, "the woodcraft" was still considered as a not-permitted subversive activity hostile to the Communist Party (KSČ), many guides or adult members had due to their attitudes problems with the secret police. The hide-and-seek carried on and the woodcraft tribes kept on meeting at covert councils and other regular activities as summer family camps (by Kepelský stream11 near Sušice etc.), occasional meetings (Přichovice12 in Jizera Hills, ancient cottage house Beaver castle13 near Sklené nad Oslavou etc.) and an official restoring of The League was proposed. In 2nd half of 80th the activity concentrated around the tribe White Wampum from Prag whose specific sign was a strong Indian orientation which had a main share at the formation of the euroindian hobby in Czechoslovakia later on as well as at the expressive Indian direction in the subsequently restored League (LLM).

1989 - the "velvet revolution" in November abolished the government of the Communist Party (KSČ) and the country returned to the democratic principles. A new preparatory committee of LLM was formed (M. Kupka - Logan, F. Kožíšek - Biminiji, J. Novák - Hukwim, D. Hoffmann - Wanblitanka), other woodcraft followers applied.

1990 - restoration of The Woodcraft League of Czechoslovakia (LLM) was ratified at a festive council at Little Walden14 near Sklené nad Oslavou at Czech-Moravian Highlands at June 2nd, M. Kupka - Logan was elected as a chief.
Since its restoration LLM has had about 1000 members, published a magazine The Buffalo Wind and internal bulletin The Totem Board. You are welcome to get more information about the present activities at the About us page.


Literature:

Břečka B.: Historie čs. skautského hnutí, published by Brněnská rada Junáka, Brno, 1999.
Klimánek E., Kožíšek F. a kol.: Kniha o woodcraftu, vydala Biblioteczka Walden, Katowice, 1995.

Geographic data and description of the campsites:

1 Walden - in Svätojánská valley under Smrekovica in Nízké Tatry Mtns.; campsite 49°01´25´´ N latitude, 19°39´55´´ E longitude; to SSW from Liptovský Ján
2 Samechov - 49°52´17´´ N latitude, 14°50´9´´ E longitude
3 Valacchian Walden - near Nový Hrozenkov in Moravia; 49°18´16´´ N latitude, 18°13´33´´ E longitude
4 Živohošť - the campsite is under level of the Slapy dam today
5 Stvořidla - campsite is at the left bank of Sázava river; 49°40´ N latitude, 15°20´ E longitude; 6 km SE from Ledeč nad Sázavou
6 Štiřín - 49°55´ N latitude, 14°36´ E longitude; NE from Kamenice
7 Klínové boudy - 50°42´33´´ N latitude, 15°39´10´´ E longitude; today in National park Krkonoše
8 Střela - 50°00´03´´ N latitude, 13°17´52´´ E longitude
9 Roaring River - Belá river in High Tatra Mtns.; campsite 49°07´34´´ N latitude, 19°53´17´´ E longitude
10 Sunny Meadow - under Křemešník (hill 765m n.m., 7 km to ESE from Pelhřimov), campsite 49°25´8´´ N latitude, 15°19´37´´ E longitude
11 Kepelský Stream - in Šumava Mtns., 49°13´1´´ N latitude, 13°23´46´´ E longitude; near Petrovice by Sušice
12 Přichovice - near Tanvald, 50°44´18´´ N latitude, 15°22´ E longitude
13 Beaver Castle - in Czech-Moravian Highlands; 49°27´29´´ N latitude, 16°3´7´´ E longitude; 2,2 km north from Sklené nad Oslavou
14 Little Walden - in Czech-Moravian Highlands; campsite 49°26´45´´ N latitude, 16°04´48´´ E longitude; WSW from Sklené nad Oslavou
Liga lesní moudrosti, Senovážné nám. 24, 116 47 Praha 1; e-mail: ustredi(zavináč)woodcraft(tečka)cz
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