STORY OF GUIDE & PRINCESS PROGRAMS
In the Beginning..."The Indian father raises his son. He teaches his son to hunt, to track, to fish, to walk softly and silently in the forest, to know the meaning and purpose of life and all that he must know, while the white man allows the mother to raise his son." These chance remarks made in the early 1920s by Ojibway Indian hunting guide Joe Friday to Harold Keltner, a St. Louis YMCA director, struck a responsive chord.
Closing the Gap
In 1925 Keltner arranged for Friday to speak before boys and dads in the St. Louis area. The success of the evening gave Keltner an idea. Keltner designed a father-son program based on the qualities of American Indian culture and life: dignity, patience, endurance, spirituality, feeling for the earth, and concern for the family. From this, Y-Indian Guide programs were born.
Rapid Growth After WWII
In 1926, Keltner organized the first tribe of Y-Indian Guides. The program was recognized as a national YMCA program in 1935. The popularity of Y-Indian Guides grew rapidly in the two decades after the war.
The Y-Indian Princess program is born
The rise of the family YMCA following World War II, the genuine need for supporting little girls in their personal growth, and the demonstrated success of the father-son program in turn nurtured the development of parent-daughter groups. The mother-daughter program, called Y-Indian Maidens, was established in 1951. Three years later, father-daughter groups began, which were called Y-Indian Princesses. Y-Indian Braves, a program for mothers and sons, emerged during the late 1970s.
Big Waters Federation is formed
In 1987, the group separated from the local YMCA and created the Big Waters Federation as a 501(c)(3) corporation to serve communities in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. It continues the mission of providing parents and children an opportunity to bond during one-on-one activities and creating memories to last a lifetime.
Changing with the times
In 2020, the Big Waters Federation decided it was time to stop using Native American imagery within their programs. Indian Guides and Indian Princesses became simply Guides and Princesses and headdresses were retired. However the mission of the program remains exactly the same.