Originally titled Waubeno Staffman's Manual

By Don Bivens, circa 1971

Waubeno Wigwam Director, 1967-1973 

Edited by Brian Back

Ed. Note: This rare document was produced as a 12-page, 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 booklet typed on a typewriter badly in need of a new ribbon, even keystrokes and some whiteout. This was not an official camp document. It does represent traditional staffman and guide roles  as were practiced in the 1950s, 60s and early 70s, in the transitional period, between the use of native-Canadian and Métis guides and today's use of non-native guides who are mostly former campers.

Some sections then, and more so today, that have an experienced staffman and guide who have traveled together in previous years, will practice more of a consensus approach to their decision making, with their roles less rigidly defined as either staffman or guide as described in this Way.


Keewaydin is organized for administrative purposes into large groupings called wigwams: Manitou, Algonquin, Waubeno and Temagami. These, in turn, are divided into trip sections. There are four, occasionally five, sections in Waubeno, which makes us the largest of the wigwams.


To reiterate the obvious, there is a certain order of precedence and seniority in the staff of the camp and the wigwam. The wigwam director is the senior-most staffman in the wigwam and is "primus inter pares" among the trip staffmen. Staffmen take seniority after him in terms of (a) years of experience at Keewaydin, and (b) years of experience in camping generally. This point should never really become sticky. By the same criterion of seniority, guides take precedence after staffmen, and assistants after guides.

Staffmen and guides have authority over campers, and assistants may at the discretion of their own staffman. The authority of assistants is limited to trips, however, and only applies to campers in their own sections regardless.  The authority to discipline campers is reserved entirely to the staffman.

Photo: old shop, Keewadyin, Temagami

Repairing canoe at the shop


Photo: Keewaydin

In-camp situations that seem to require drastic action are reserved for the authority of the wigwam director, or, in extreme cases, to Chief. Naturally, on trips full authority devolves to the staffman.


A Waubeno section is composed of ten campers and three staff members. A staffman is in overall charge, a guide is in charge of the mechanical aspects of tripping, and an assistant assists the staff and guide and interns in the art of leading a section.

The Staffman.  The staffman of a section is the Man in Charge. His authority over the section is complete, and his word is final. The only exception to this rule -- and it is an absolute rule -- is the guide's negative say on whether or not to move in questionable weather.

Specifically, the staffman's duties are those connected with the training and welfare of the campers. He is the person who represents his section with the Front Office and anyone else. And he is the poor shnook that is going to have to come up with the answers when anything gets screwed up.

In particular, the staffman's duties include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:

  • Instructing his campers in all phases of tripping and camping.

  • Maintaining a rigorous surveillance over all safety considerations.

  • Keeping watch over the personal welfare of his campers, viz. morals and discipline.

  • Supervising the establishment of camp at night (during trips).

  • Making all reports on the section and campers required by the Front Office.

  • Assisting the wigwam director in the maintenance of good order when the sections are in.

  • Seeing to the instruction of the assistant in all phases of trip and camp leadership.

Let it be reiterated here that the above is not a complete list and delimitation of the responsibilities of the staffman. The staffman is a surrogate parent to his campers. He is literally in charge of and responsible for every aspect of their welfare and progress. This is no small undertaking.

The Guide - Originally Keewaydin sections were guided through the bush by Native-Canadians (i.e. Indian) and others of mixed native ancestry. The position of guide, therefore, was traditionally one of total command over all aspects of the trip. It could at times be asked if the guide were not the Man in Charge, and fairly so, at that, since he was indeed a professional, whether or not the staffman was. Now, however, the guide and staffman, come from the same culture. The principal difference between them is often just age.

The guide is still in immediate charge of the mechanical aspects of tripping, and is himself the first echelon of command in these matters. While he is responsible to the staffman, among others, he is a person of authority. In some regards, he is accountable to Chief, viz. maintenance of the jewelry, navigation, and in general, repair of the canoes.

The guide's duties include:

Navigating the section on trips.

Cooking the meals when it is not a camper effort.

Checking out equipment at the start of the season.

Maintaining the equipment mentioned above.

Checking in equipment at the end of the season.

The staffman is a surrogate parent to his campers.

He is literally in charge of and responsible for every aspect of their welfare and progress. This is no small undertaking.

The Assistant - Of the staff members in the section, the assistant is the most junior. His functions are two-fold: to assist the staffman and guide in whatever is called for, and to learn the art of leading a section (in both mechanics and leadership). His position resembles that of a midshipman in the old navy, i.e. on-the-job training. Thus, the specific duties of the assistant are not enumerated, since it is assumed that he will be involved to a greater or lesser degree in all phases of guide and staff work.

Certain tasks, some of a leadership nature, and some mechanical, are customarily assigned to the assistant, viz.:

Supervising the dishwashing and pot walloping after each meal.

Assisting the staffman in the procurement of firewood and tent poles.

Assisting the guide in the maintenance of the section's equipment.

 A Few Leadership Hints  It is of paramount importance that the staffman, guide and assistant co-operate fully between themselves and present a united front to the campers. There are three leaders in the section, but there must be only one leadership. A certain amount of prior planning and agreement among the staff is, therefore, most advisable. If , for example, the guide is a lousy cook, the staffman and assistant ought to be able to assume part of that duty (if they are all lousy cooks, you've got troubles!). If, on the other hand, the guide has great charisma and relates well with the campers, there is nothing to prevent him from taking part of the responsibility for counseling the campers. Needless to say, there must be a certain quid pro quo in such matters. Nothing is more deadly to the morale of a section than even the slightest hint of dissension among the leadership.

The relationship between campers and staffmen cannot be defined with a precision. Some men can be very informal with boys without losing their obedience and respect. Others work best when relations are somewhat more formal and distant. In any case, the obedience of the campers must be immediate and absolute, for, when it is called for, the situation is most often one in which safety considerations are involved, and nobody in his right mind messes around with that.

The staffman is the poor shnook that is going to have to come up

with the answers when anything gets screwed up.

Whatever, therefore, the working relation between staff and campers, it is a question of safety that makes it imperative that the staffman be able to instantly command the immediate obedience of the campers when necessary. "Verbum sat sapienti."

The camp has a rule (though entirely different on trips), that profane and otherwise nonstandard English is not permitted on Devil's Island. The reasons are perfectly obvious. There are after all, numerous parents and other nice people around most of the time. Keewaydin is not a church camp, but gratuitous grossness should not be indulged where it might be awkward. It is expected, therefore, that staff members set an example of reasonable discretion.

It is a mark of self-pride, on the part of staff and campers alike, that the section come in from trips in good order. Obviously, they depart in somewhat better condition, in terms of cleanliness and the repair of the equipment, which is one of the purposes of the stay in camp. Difficult and rugged trips take their toll on the equipment, boys and clothing, but it is a different matter to bring in a section all shot to hell because it looks tough. Nobody is going to believe that a typical Waubeno trip is an Ordeal of Survival anyway. Quite to the contrary, a good section comes in from a trip in better repair and order, "pari passu", than a poor one.

Discipline is not stressed at Keewaydin, for the simple reason that it is not necessary to do so. The activities are, after all, pleasurable and regimentation is neither necessary nor in our case desirable. This does not mean, however, that the boys should be allowed to revert to savagery. A fine and reasonable line must be drawn, therefore, between, what goes and what does not.

Photo: store interior, Keewadyin, Temagami Interior of the store.


Photo: Keewaydin

This is left soley to the discretion of the staffman. The veneer of civilization is a thin one at best, and we really shouldn't send absolute barbarians back to their trusting parents.



On the water, the guide takes the lead, the staffman the rear, and the assistant is positioned somewhere near the center of the section. The section must not be allowed to string out excessively, for the obvious reasons of safety. The staffman is entitled to the strongest bowman, so as to have the fastest canoe in the section, again for considerations of safety.

Portages, likewise, are taken in the specific order: the guide leading, and the staffman or assistant bringing up the rear. Racing to a portage must not be permitted, for obvious reasons.

Normally,  a sternman and bowman take a portage by a system known as "load and a half." The cargo to be brought across consists of the canoe, wannigan, double pack and tent. The guide travels over the portage first with his canoe and marks the halfway point. The sternmen carry their canoes the entire length of the portage, while the bowmen carry the wannigans to the halfway point. The bowmen then return to the start, pick up the double packs and carry them the entire length of the portage. Having gotten the canoes across, the sternmen return to the halfway point, each picks up the wannigan from their respective canoes and brings it across the rest of the way. I seem to have forgotten the tent. It goes either with the wannigan or the double pack, depending on the circumstances. Paddlers will sometimes try to balance loads between them in fairness or in case of injury.

Once reloaded and on the water, the section moves out only when all canoes are on the water and everyone has finished adjusting clothes, gear, etc.



Waubeno sections are issued the following equipment: a jewelry wannigan, a Swede saw, a pair of fire irons, six canoes, two axes, a dining fly and five tents.  The tents are distributed as follows: a staff tent for the guide and staffman, an assistant's tent for the assistant and a camper, and three campers tents to take three in each.

The assistant's position resembles that of a midshipman

in the old navy, i.e. on-the-job training.



Not all tent sites at any campsite are equally desirable. Therefore, the staffman has authority in assigning tent sites and may do so as he pleases. "Section business," that is woodcutting, water drawing, fireplace construction, etc., take precedence over such "private business" as pitching tents, unrolling and all. Generally, the guide sees to preparing dinner, the staffman to the staff tent and firewood or tent poles [at the time of writing canvas tents were in use], and the assistant to tent poles, firewood or the assistant tent. Campers see to pitching their tents and some are chosen to assist the staff in section business. It is most desirable that the campers have the opportunity somewhere along the line to take a swim. The use of soap in the process ought to be encouraged.

The customary procedure for preparing meals is discussed at some length in the Keewaydin Cookbook.

Campers do not much care for washing dishes and walloping pots. They do not, however, as a rule, mind dividing up these tasks, provided it be on a precisely equal basis. The following system seems to accomplish this, and has in addition the weight of tradition.

The jobs are divided in three: washing, drying and pot walloping. These jobs imply precisely what they seem to imply with the exception that the dryer has the responsibility of seeing to the boiling of the walloping water. The campers are listed alphabetically and the three tasks assigned to the first three names. The jobs are rotated among the three at the next meal, so that each camper does each job once. Then the next three campers take over, and so on. This works out nicely when there are three meals a day. If you skip a meal, the system gets messed up quickly. This is not quite so bad if it is a rest day, since the meals are usually a rather ambitious undertaking, involving virtually everything in the jewelry.

Nothing is more deadly to the morale of a section

than even the slightest hint of dissension among the leadership.


A Keewaydin section marches on its stomach. Outfitting with food is an enormously complicated matter, considering (a) that the types of foods that can be carried is somewhat limited, (b) the probable unwillingness of campers to eat just anything you cook up, and (c) the probable penuriousness of the Front Office in outfitting sections with things that might be desired. That is only openers. A certain waywardness characterizes the delivery to camp of groceries as to date of delivery, percentage of the order filled, and what "they" fill the orders with. This is aggravated by the Front Office attempting to prevent overstocking, our remote location and limited communications with the outside world.

Whereas formerly the sections made up their own outfit list for each trip, it is now vastly cheaper to outfit sections from a master plan, permitting only slight deviations. A certain amount of bargaining with the storekeeper is possible, and trading is at least legally wide open.

The procedure for outfitting is rather simple. Sections are to report to the store on a schedule announced, usually at the last moment, by Chief or someone else. It is best to take the entire section, together with the wannigans and dining fly, to the store. Pick an area near the store to pack the wannigans and babies (traditionally a duffle with food, but lately Duluth packs have been issued). The staffman and/or guide go into the store, together with three or four campers and a couple of wannigans. As these are filled from the outfit list, they are hustled out, and the groceries are arranged in order by nature: meats, baking goods, fruits, breakfast goodies, and so on.

When the outfitting is complete, the wannigans are packed by themes: one wannigan for baking, one for meats, vegetables, and the like, and so on. Some care ought to be take, despite all this, to pack the wannigans rather evenly. Be assured that the kid who gets a heavy wannigan will let you know about it!! After the wannigans and babies are packed, they are tumped and stowed (in the staffman's tent) for the trip.




Happenstances of geography (our location astride all the main paths on the island, and the removal of Temagami sections to long trips) make us also the most visible wigwam in camp.  Therefore it is necessary that Waubeno be also the best organized. Generally, when the Front Office is in a squawking mood, Waubeno is the prime target. Furthermore, the Assistant Director lives in the Waubeno area, and the Chief has to cross our area going to and from the Imperial Residence.



All Keewaydin sections leave on their trips after breakfast on the first day of the trip. Naturally, the wigwam area is left clean and in good order, and sections are released only after the area has been inspected by the wigwam director.

The sections return to camp between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. of the day due in, period. After landing, the canoes and trip gear are stowed away, and the campers all take showers before mail is distributed. The staffman's duty is to return unused food to the store and to pick up the mail. The guide sees to necessary repairs to canoes and equipment. During or after lunch allowances are distributed on a section-by-section basis. Thereafter the campers are free to do what they wish, or planned events take place.

Each staffman is required to file an itinerary the evening before the trip leaves. The forms are available in the Front Office and are pretty self-explanatory.

A Keewaydin section marches on its stomach.


Other than specific events (e.g. movies, campfires and midseason contests) there is no organized in-camp program at Keewaydin. Thus the boys have time for activities on an individual or small-group basis, all of which is strongly encouraged.

So that it may nonetheless be possible to locate any camper at any time, it is necessary that all campers leaving the immediate vicinity of the wigwam check out with the officer of the day (OD), and report to him upon returning. Even though at times it seems bothersome, this rule involves not only administrative necessity, but safety considerations. It will therefore, be strictly enforced. By the same token, all hands are expected to be present at meals, unless specific permission has been obtained, and the OD notified.

From the standpoint of the wigwam, it is desirable that there be a staffman other than the wigwam director (WD) who is in a position to take authority if necessary, in the latter's absence.

The OD is the personal representative of the wigwam director and is, therefore, the ranking staffman after the WD.

Posting: The OD is posted and relieved between rising and breakfast. The tour of duty is 24 hours. The OD is relieved with the posting of his successor. He may be temporarily relieved at any time by anyone on the list for any reason, provided that there is a note to the effect in the log (see below).


(1)   Maintain a log in which he notes posting and relief, results of all inspections, camper departure from and return to the wigwam area, and any unusual occurrence.

(2)   Inspect the wigwam area once daily, shortly before lunch, noting results in the log and advising the WD if unsatisfactory.

(3)   Announce "call to quarters" at about 9:30 p.m., "lights out" at about 10:00 p.m. (These approximate times will probably be changed often by the Front Office.)

Personnel: Every staffman and guide is on the OD list. Assistants are excused this duty, since they have waiter duty and are liable for sundry "projects" at the behest of the Front Office.

 The veneer of civilization is a thin one at best, and we really shouldn't send absolute barbarians back to their trusting parents.

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