By Martie Thompson
As local students head back to school, it is also time to consider extracurricular activities for the new school year. According to Native Sons and Daughters Florida State Chief Brian Quirk, one of the best ways to spend quality time with your son or daughter, away from the competitiveness of team sports, is by joining or forming a Native Sons or Native Daughters tribe.
“When I first joined when my children were young, one of the other fathers told me that you only have 18 summers to make a difference in your child’s life,” Quirk said. “That really hit home for me and I think it’s the most important part of what our organization provides — quality time.”
Native Sons and Daughters was formerly Y-Guides and associated with the YMCA. Formed in the early 20th century by Harold Keltner and Joe Friday, the organization rose to great popularity in the 1950s and 1960s with its theme of Native American tradition and culture. By the turn of the new century, however, the YMCA felt the need to disassociate themselves from anything that could be seen as politically incorrect and began mandating the elimination of the program’s name and Indian theme.
Some participants, though, were disappointed that the program they enjoyed would no longer be available. So, according to Quirk, a group of dads in Ohio met with the descendents of founders Keltner and Friday and received their permission to use the new name, Native Sons and Daughters.
“We have always tried to be very respectful to all native people,” Quirk said.
The local longhouse, named after the local Timucua tribe, was originally in existence as a Y-Guide tribe and continued to operate through the transition period to Native Sons and Daughters. Quirk said the Timucuan longhouse was the first group in Florida to convert to Native Sons and Daughters in 2011 and presently has about 500 total members. There are now six chapters in Florida.
The local groups within the Timucuan longhouse are called tribes and they are made up of seven to 12 fathers and children. There are separate tribes for boys and girls, and the tribes can be formed either by a group of members joining at the same time or fathers and children can be put on a tribe that needs members. Quirk said many tribes stay together for the full five years of the program.
Once formed, each tribe is assigned a sponsor from the longhouse who will attend the first few meetings and help with organization and guidance.
“The thing I like is each tribe can do what they want; they can be as active or inactive as they like,” Quirk said. “Of course, the more active they are, the more fun they will have.”
The longhouse hosts one activity per month that tribes may attend in addition to the tribe’s own meetings. These activities include costume bowling in October, campouts in the fall and spring and a pinewood derby in the winter. Tribes may also attend Jacksonville Icemen games, support Toys for Tots with a skating event and participate in a family campout. Coming up first is the Citywide Pow Wow. Children receive a patch for their vest for each activity they participate in. The Statewide Pow Wow will be hosted by the Timucuan longhouse in March 2020.
Quirk said information nights will be held soon at schools and churches, with dates and locations available at www.nsdjax.com.
Photo courtesy Brian Quirk