Know Better, Do Better

Know Better, Do Better Camp Roger’s ongoing commitment to belonging, diversity, and accessibility continually pushes us to uncover ways in which Camp’s history, intrinsic bias, or blind spots have shaped our programs.

Camp Roger cannot base decisions on our own insulated opinions or traditions anymore - we need broader perspectives and input in order to see our downfalls, helping us move forward in new and better ways. Through the lens of Christ’s teachings, we continue ongoing antiracism training from Ripple Consulting as well as having open conversations beyond our walls. We also have adopted Maya Angelou’s powerful phrase: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

We are beginning to understand more about why particular children have not chosen to attend Camp Roger or Camp Scottie. We have not always been a welcoming place for everyone. We are now reevaluating every area of our programs and ministry, even those camp traditions that have been in place for decades, with a greater understanding about how our actions and words greatly impact a camper’s sense of belonging. From analyzing lyrics in our songs, changing a particular game structure, and being conscious of costumes and site location names, Camp Roger is striving to undo harm caused by cultural appropriation.

As we moved forward with these adjustments, changing Boy’s Hill cabin names became a part of that journey. Indigenous tribal names were originally given to those cabins without the knowledge and background that we now have. Carelessness was used in spelling and white slang versions became reality instead of proper names. We now recognize that having an indigenous tribal name for a cabin is disrespectful to indigenous people and inappropriately labels a group of campers. For example, we have used phrases, such as “Come on, Ottawa boys” to a group of mostly white campers labeling them as people that are not actually part of an indigenous tribe. Similarly, it would not be appropriate if we called a group of children by a denomination or other category.

We have consulted with several Native leaders about Camp Roger’s history and the use of indigenous tribal names for cabin names. Doug Vanderwell, executive director, says, “One of the things that helped me comprehend (changing the cabin names) is more fully learning about the history of the land and that there were people who lived on this land who were forcibly removed. That is part of our history. We need to honor that, be more careful about it, and be respectful of that. Likely tribal opinions were not sought when naming the cabins, and there is a strong opinion from our conversations with these Native leaders, that using tribal names as labels would not be appreciated by them.” As a result of these conversations, we will have new names for the cabins this summer.

Another way to create belonging is to give two new names to the cabin “hills” this summer, using the term Village. A village is a small settlement usually found in a rural setting where everyone knows their neighbor, and there is a central meeting location. This community of people will gather and live together for the time that they are on our property. We will still divide the genders into separate locations for summer camp. During the school year, rental groups have been confused by the names Boys Hill and Girls Hill since, for example, their entire group might be divided into cabins on one of the hills. Boys Hill and Girls Hill have been changed respectively to Trailside Village and Hilltop Village.

In the end, there is no one great big sweeping change that will create belonging. It is going to take a thousand small steps. We will continue to seek ways that help us do better.

VISION 2025 is an expanded mission through increased belonging, diversity and accessibility where:
• People feel welcomed, loved and that they belong
• The beautiful cultural diversity of God’s kingdom is present
• Accessibility for those with varied abilities is increased
• Financial and transportation barriers are minimized

Friends for life.