Spend much time around camp and you’ll start to hear a lot of talk about tribes. The Iroquois are looking strong this session. The Seminoles are going to win Commando tonight. One day I’ll be the Iroquois Chief. Next year my brother is coming to camp and he’s going to be a Seminole.

Seminole? Iroquois? What are tribes at Timberlake, and more importantly, why are they such a big deal?

To start with the ‘what’, all of Camp Timberlake is divided into 2 tribes. Every camper and staff member is initiated, and once initiated, you are in that tribe for life.  The tribes compete each session to win the banner and etch their names in the history books.

Ok so I know what it is, but why? At Timberlake we believe that tribes are a vital part of our program for a number a reasons. Here are just a few of our favorites.

  1. A place to belong

At camp our job is to make outsiders into insiders. Everybody is part of the group here at Timberlake. We do this in a variety of ways (cabins, activities, special events), but the most immediate and often most effective is our tribes. Within hours of coming to camp, a boy is not just one fish in a big lake, he is a Seminole, or he is an Iroquois. Immediately there is camaraderie with boys that are older than him, younger than him and different from them. He belongs.

2) A connection to the bigger story

Joining a tribe also connects our campers to the history and tradition of camp. The Iroquois and Seminoles have been competing for the banner every summer since 1983. Our boys love to keep track of the all time scores and are proud of their contribution to their tribe’s records. Second generation campers join the same tribe as their father’s and son’s initiate their dads every year at our annual Father Son weekend.

3) Competing well

As young men, competition is something that comes naturally. As we grow up, competition is all around us, but rarely is good, healthy competition modeled for us. Evening activities are just that here at camp. Every night, the best of friends line up across from each other and give everything they have to win, but every night they walk back to the cabins together, still best friends.

We love our tribes here at camp: the way they bring everybody on the inside, connect us to a larger story and forge deep friendships. All of this moves us closer to our mission of growth through friends and adventure. Thank you for sharing your sons with us this summer.


Director, Camp Timberlake

Proud Seminole

P.S. Dads, still not sure about this whole tribe thing? Be sure to join us next May for Father Son weekend and check it out for yourself!