YMCA Archives Logo
318 Elmer L. Andersen Library, University of Minnesota, 222 21st Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455

An Inventory of Its Records

Historical Sketch | Contents Summary/Organization | Administrative/Access Info | Contents Details | Related Materials | Indexed Terms/Access Points


Creator: Young Men's Christian Association of Metropolitan Minneapolis
Title: Indian Guides program records
Date: 1958-1973
Collection Number: Y.MPL.003-2
Abstract: Historical data, correspondence, reports, memoranda, articles, newspapers, pamphlets, photographs, scrapbooks, ephemera and other records documenting the YMCA Minneapolis Indian Guides programs.
Quantity: 2 cubic feet (2 boxes)
Location: See Detailed Description section for box listing.


The Y-Indian Guides program was developed in a deliberate way to support the father's vital family role as teacher, counselor and friend to his son. The program was initiated by Harold S. Keltner of the St. Louis YMCA as an integral part of association work. Inspired by his experiences with Joe Friday, an Ojibway Indian who was his guide on fishing and hunting trips to Canada, Harold Keltner created the Y-Indian Guides program devoted to strengthening the father-son, parent-child relationship, with the slogan "Pals Forever." In 1926, he organized the first tribe in Richmond Heights, Missouri, with the help Joe Friday, and William H. Hefelfinger, chief of the first Y-Indian tribe. Harold Keltner conceived the idea of a father and son program based upon the strong qualities of Native American Indian culture and life -- dignity, patience, endurance, spirituality, feeling for the earth and concern for the family.

The initial program served as an additional way for fathers and sons, already members of the YMCA, to spend time together learning about Native American culture. Boys starting at the age of 6 were encouraged to participate. Traditionally, each group of six to nine fathers ("big braves") and sons ("little braves") made up a "tribe," which maintained control of programs and activities surrounding Native American cultural traditions. The official goals of the program were listed as follows: "to be clean in body and pure in heart; to be 'pals forever' with my dad/son; to love the sacred circle of my family; to be attentive while others speak; to love my neighbor as myself; and to seek and preserve the beauty of the Great Spirit's work in forest, field and stream."

The first YMCA Indian Guide groups in Minneapolis were organized by John MacBean, West Lake branch executive, in 1947. Local activities included fathers and sons teaming up in small groups, meeting in members' homes to "plan projects, build things, go camping and take trips together." While the Y-Indian Guides was a national program, it was the responsibility of each tribe to plan activities best suited to the individual community. Two requirements of participation in the program included a family YMCA membership, and using the approved, standard materials of the program, including a headband, manual, and pin for the father, and a headband and emblem for the son. Each Indian tribe belonged to a "nation," representing the branch, and all nations were members of the Federation, representing the overall city-wide YMCA. The Federation was part of the Area Minnesota Indian Guide Longhouse, the North Central Area Council, and the National Longhouse in New York. Yearly fees, beyond the Y membership, were collected in order to provide a donation to the National Longhouse, as well as to provide funds for local activities.

In the fall of 1956, it was acknowledged that no city-wide efforts had thus far been made to promote the Y-Indian Guides program. The Minneapolis YMCA organization determined the program was important enough to do so, based on the following premises: the Y-Indian Guides should continue to be a voluntary program, that the entire Minneapolis metropolitan community should at least hear the term "Y-Indian Guides", and that if significant growth is to take place, in addition to radio, television, newspaper publicity, the boys should be the first to be approached directly, recruited personally, and they in turn could carry the message back to their fathers. In addition to scheduled meetings for both fathers and sons, meetings for just the dads occurred monthly or quarterly, which provided opportunities to meet without their sons to connect and get acquainted, plan and evaluate activities, and discuss matters relative to the needs and growth of their boys.

Because of the existing relationships developed between the Minneapolis YMCA and the Minneapolis public school system, information about the Y-Indian Guides program was dispensed in the appropriate elementary schools each fall during the mid-1950s-1960s, as well as through the city-wide PTA Council. It was one of the fastest growing programs in the history of the YMCA Minneapolis organization, as well as on the national level.

In 1955, there was a total of 42 "tribes," with 266 boys, and 237 men in the Minneapolis metropolitan community. In 1956, the program grew to 124 tribes, 736 boys and 676 men. Local activities included a yearly Y-Indian Guides Aquatennial float, Christmas parties, pow-wows, swim nights, summer weekend camping trip, hayrides, workshops, tours, matchbox derby, ice fishing contests, kite flying contests, and Good Friday breakfasts. Local trips and tours were conducted to community businesses and organizations, such as the Minneapolis newspaper, the University of Minnesota Museum of Natural History, Land O' Lakes warehouse and butter process department, WCCO radio station, Carlos Avery Game Farm, Northern Pacific repair shop, the American Swedish Institute, and the Coca Cola bottling company, among many others. The Minneapolis Federation launched a monthly community newsletter, "Tribal Drums" in November 1958. Coverage of tribe activities, craft projects, game suggestions, prayers, service projects, and articles on Indian culture were included. Harold S. Keltner, creator of the Y-Indian Guides program, was a guest speaker at the premiere YMCA Guide-A-Rama held at Southdale Center in September, 1960. In 1961, Minneapolis Federation of Y-Indian Guides hosted the second Y-Indian Guide-A-Rama, staged at Southdale Mall from September 11-17th. Over 300 Y-Indian Guide tribes from across the Midwest area attended. Governor Orville Freeman officiated the opening.

With the focused intent to expand the Y-Indian Guide program in Minneapolis, a new position was created - the meshenuwha. This role was designed for men who had either been involved in the Y-Indian Guide program previously, or who had other YMCA group work experience. Appointed by the chief of each nation, with recommendations from the YMCA secretary related to the program, a meshenuwha could supervise up to 4 different tribes at a time, in order to provide the appropriate amount of guidance. They were expected to visit tribal meetings on occasion, make certain that the fees were collected, check on the registration of the tribe, assist the office in seeing that reports were properly administered, be on the lookout for weaknesses, and in some measure suggest program possibilities.

At the height of the YMCA Minneapolis program's popularity, there were 250 Y-Indian Guide tribes from eight local branches, representing over 5,000 fathers and sons. The eight branches included: Northside (Algonquin), Eastside (Iroquois), Hiawatha (Hiawatha), Washburn (Chippewa), Washburn-Richfield (Richfield), Bloomington (Ojibway), West Central (Chinook), West Lake (Sioux) and Minnetonka (Minnetonka). Roles within the tribe included the "chief," who had the responsibility of the executive direction of the tribe, the "tallykeeper," who maintained the records for the tribe's activities, "wampum bearer," who maintained financial records, the publicity chairman, who represented the tribe on the national publicity staff, "tom tom beater," a "little brave" who was in charge of beating the tom tom drums at meetings and ceremonies, and the "little runner," who ran errands, collects and disperses materials as required, also a little brave. Additional officers included the "rainmaker," who was to teach the Indian dances, the "birch bark reader," who gathered resources on Indian lore, the "trailblazer," who educated the tribe on Indian lore and storiy telling, the "moccasin maker," who was responsible for all the Indian clothing for the tribe, the "chanter," who learned and taught Indian songs and chants, the "sign maker," who learned and taught Indian sign language, and the "craft maker," who planned craft projects for the tribe.

The Y-Indian Princesses program grew out of the Y-Indian Guide program. The program was designed for girls in the first, second, and 3rd grades, and the goal was to foster companionship between fathers and their daughters. According to the Resource Book (circa 1969), The Y-Indian Princesses program offered families an opportunity to "foster a deeper understanding and interest in spiritual ideas; increase understanding of family members and their needs; help parents share the child-rearing process and work as a team; develop a feeling of mutual love and respect through increased communication; develop the daughter’s self-confidence; and help develop a wholesome 'male image' which helps in selection of a boyfriend and husband."

Due to concerns of cultural stereotyping, the Native American components of these programs were phased out in the Twin Cities between 1972-1974; but because of the program's popularity and overall relevancy, the Indian Guide programs were reintroduced as the Y-Voyageurs and Y-Adventure Guides programs. The cultivation of relationships and respect for nature remained core tenants of the new programs, and barriers between the genders were also removed to create a more non-gender specific experience.

(Information taken from Breaking New Ground, Building Strong Lives: 140 Years of Youth Work with the Minneapolis YMCA by Paul Hillmer, 2006; from Builders of Men: A History of the Minneapolis Young Men's Christian Association: 1866-1936 by S. Wirt Wiley and Florence Lehmann; and from the collection).


Correspondence, reports, memoranda, articles, newspapers, pamphlets, and ephemera, and other records documenting the Y-Indian Guide program in the metropolitan Minneapolis area. Records relating to the YMCA Minneapolis Y-Indian Guide program, its function and activities from the 1955 to 1975 make up the bulk of this collection. These include financial records pertaining to the functions of the organization, as well as campaigns, programs, and membership activities. Also included in this collection are records on the hierarchy of the Y-Indian Guide programs, from the local (Minneapolis Y) to the state (Minnesota) to the Area (North Central Area) to the regional (West Central Region) to the national program (national YMCA organization).


These documents are organized into the following sections:
Events and Activities


Use of Materials:
This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.
Preferred Citation:
[Indicate the cited item and/or series here] Indian Guide Program Records. Young Men's Christian Association of Metropolitan Minneapolis. Kautz Family YMCA Archives. University of Minnesota.
See the Chicago Manual of Style for additional examples.
Processing Information:
Processed by: Jesse Harpestad and Kathryn Oosterhuis, May 2012.
Catalog Record ID number: 6395401



Box 4 Award sheets, 1970.
Blank sample Minneapolis Federation of Indian Guides award sheet for service to the organization.
Budget and finance, 1958-1967.
Committee minutes, 1958-1963, 1971. 1 volume, 1 folder.
Indian guide week kit, 1970. 1 volume.
Longhouse constitution, 1960-1969.
"Lord's Prayer", undated.
Manual of operation, undated.
Meshenuhwa awards, 1970.
Communications regarding the ordering of the physical awards for the 1970-1971 program.
Minneapolis Federation of Y-Indian Guiders, program resource book, 1965.
Includes roster list for each branch tribe.
Miscellaneous, 1969-1972. 2 folders.
National longhouse, 1967. 3 folders.
National Indian Guide Federation, Longhouse: Atlanta, 1970.
Administrative materials, primarily communications on the Minneapolis delegation to the National Indian Guide Federation Conference in Atlanta, Georgia in 1970. Communications internally, including meeting minutes; and externally, to the General Convention Chairman, Jim Leathers, on the suggestion to have Georgia Governor Lester Maddox ( 1967-1971) removed from the agenda, as he was known for his pro-segregation views.
National, executive committee, 1967.
Workbook guide for the National Y-Guide Executive Committee 30th annual meeting on April 28, 1967 in Minneapolis, MN.
Box 5 North Central Area, 1965.
Organization and operation, 1970-1972.
"Pathways to Value" research study, 1964.
This is the final report of the "Pathways to Value: A Research Study of Value Achievement and Potential of the Father and Son Y-Indian Guide Program of the Metropolitan Minneapolis YMCA", conducted from 1962-1964.
"Portrait of Y-Indian Guides", undated.
Box 5 Princess resource book, 1960-1979. 2 volume.
Princess supplies (resource books, promotional material), 1970-1973.
Program manual, 1973. 1 volume.
Programs for older boys, undated.
Promotion of programs:
Box 5 Miscellaneous promotions, 1960-1961.
Promotion and program supplies, 1971.
Promotional material, 1970, 1972.
Registration, 1964-1965.
Registration and fees, 1970.
Rosters, 1958-1972.
Support of United Church committee on Indian work, 1962.
"Tribal Drums", 1958-1960.

Events and Activities

Box 5 30th annual meeting, 1967.
Aquantennial float, 1963.
Aquatennial float, I.G. Federation, 1969.
Communications, invoices, parade route, and one black and white photograph for the 1969 Indian Guides Federation float for the Aquatennial parade.
Christmas party, 1962, 1965.
Guide A-Rama, Southdale center, 1960.
Indian Guide week, 1969-1970. 2 folders.
Longhouse, Seattle, Washington meeting, 1971.
Meshenuhwas, 1958-1959.
Mets camp-in, 1970.
Administration and internal communications on the Y-Indian Guides, Princesses, and Voyageurs outing to the see the twins versus Washington, plus camp out in the Metropolitan Stadium with activities, August 21-23, 1970.
Mets baseball, 1962.
Parent clinic, 1961.
South Dakota Indian project, 1966-1968.
Wives night, 1969.
Workshop, 1965-1969.


See also the Publications and ephemera records of the YMCA of Metropolitan Minneapolis, separately catalogued in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.


This collection is indexed under the following headings in the catalog of the University of Minnesota Libraries. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Boys -- Societies and clubs.
Girls -- Societies and clubs.
Youth -- Societies and clubs.
Social work with youth -- Minnesota.
Young Men's Christian associations -- Minnesota -- Minneapolis.
Minneapolis (Minn.).
Freeman, Orville L.
Friday, Joe.
Heffelfinger, William H.
Keltner, Harold S.
MacBean, John.
Maddox, Lester, 1915-2003.
Young Men's Christian Association of Metropolitan Minneapolis.
Young Men's Christian Association of the City of Minneapolis.