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This begins a series of blogs that I want to do on the Scout and the American Indian.  I’ll also be giving away a free copy of the ebook, THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR.  All you have to do to enter into the drawing is to come in and join the discussion and leave a comment.  Void where prohibited.

The first comment that I’d like to make is that the Boy Scouts and their teaching of tracking, cooking over a fire, communication in the woods, etc. come directly from the American Indian.  Forgive me for forgetting exactly which tribe that was and who was responsible for first setting this up — because most of my books are in boxes (as my husband and I relocate), I’m unable to tell you exactly who set this into motion, but my gut instinct thinks that it might be Charles Eastman of the Sioux.  If you know this datum, please do refresh my memory on this.serveimage

Much of my information on scouting and the American Indian comes from the book, THE SCOUT, by Tom Brown, Jr., who as a young boy was taken under the wing of an old Apache Scout, who taught him the ways of the scout.

It was a well known fact in the Old West that an Indian could come upon you from behind and you would never suspect it or know of it.  But beyond using the scouts in the military — as Custer and others did — little was really known about the scout.

Indian&boyscoutsAnd so I thought in the next series of blogs that I would talk about the scout.

Boys who were to become scouts were trained by the Old Scouts of the tribe.  Interestingly, other people in the tribe seldom knew who their scouts were — it was kept secret for a reason, and mostly for the safety of the scouts, themselves.  Sometimes the boys didn’t even know who the men were who were the scouts, since the scouts often were in disguise.

From the book, THE SCOUT, I learned that boys were trained to follow trails at an early age.  To memorize everything they saw so that they could recite it back perfectly days, weeks, months later.  They were also trained to memorize everything quickly.  Thus, when a real scout came into a room, his glance (which we might think was quick) would take in everything in the room instantly and memorize it.  It was an ability trained in the scout early.

IndianScouts1One of the tasks of young boys in the making to become a scout, was to follow trails — starting with larger trails and gradually becoming more and more able to follow the slightest of trails — even to tracking ants.

They were taught to memorize when the rains came and other natural forces — how many days ago — so as to determine when a particular track was made.  But even beyond this — because the earth records everything about a man or woman making the track, they were able to tell from different indentations in the track the general overall make up of the person — as to what he was thinking when he made the track — whether he was happy, frustrated, scared — and also how healthy the person was who made the track.  Unless one reads Tom Brown, Jr.’s book, this sounds a little far-fetched — until he describes exactly how it is done.

IndianScouts2Another skill the scout had was the art of disguise.  Using mud, a scout could make himself look wolf-like and if he also had a wolf skin, it would complete the disguise.  The scouts often wore the disguise when at home with the tribe so as to protect his identity.  But there were other disguises, as well.  Whatever was in nature where the scout was going would become a disguise of some sort.

The ability to see all, to hear all and to witness all and report it back to the tribe made the scouts one of the most important men in the tribe.  Upon their witness stood the fate and the safety of their people.  They were taught to be honest to a fault and report exactly as it is/was with no embellishment.  To the scout, to be discovered was the worst thing that could happen to him.  He was expected to see without being seen, to hear without being heard and to draw the right conclusions from the evidence found.

AngelAndTheWarrior-The-CoverWell, that’s all for today.  This blog was meant to be an introduction into the realm of scouting — in further posts, I hope to go into this art in more detail.  The books that I have which have a hero who is a scout is THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF, THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR, THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF, THE LAST WARRIOR and to some degree RED HAWK’S WOMAN.

THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR is on sale now at  You can purchase it in either e-book or tradepaper.

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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  1. I had heard about the scouts before, but I hadn’t realized they were a kind of combination of Sherlock Holmes and the ninja.

  2. Where do you find the pictures for this blog? They are fascinating! Great lead-in to your book.

  3. Thanks Karen! This was interesting. Both of my sons are Eagle Scouts and a lot of the ceremonies do have a Native American feel to them. When the boys were about 12, they had to spend the night in the woods alone with nothing except a sleeping bag and a ground cover. I can’t remember which milestone this was, but I remember when my youngest was supposed to do this, rain was in the forecast, and Mama Bear was a nervous wreck over my “baby” spending the night in the rain with nothing more than a sleeping bag. His ground cover was a fairly large tarp, so I gave him detailed instructions on how to form a tent of sorts using a tree trunk or low-lying limbs. Of course, he thought the whole thing was a grand adventure.

    My oldest and his best friend were initiated at the same time and even though they weren’t supposed to have flash lights, I think they had small ones in the boots. They managed to locate each other across the “wide, unending forest” (okay, what, 200 feet maybe? lol) and kept each other company flashing their lights.

    • Hi Pam!

      Yes, indeed, the entire idea of the scouts comes directly from the American Indian. What you’re talking about was the common for a young boy who was seeking his first vision. The vision seeking still occurs on the rez, but I think it is now lost to the boy scouts. But that was its original purpose — for the vision would tell the boy what he must accomplish with his life. Thanks for your post.

  4. What an interesting post! My brother was an Eagle Scout and I envied him all the camping and hiking and camaraderie. It seemed all I had to look forward to in Girl Scouts at the time was sewing badges…which was way to tame for me at the time. I had never heard about telling the mood of who was walking…but it sounds quite possible.

    • Hi Kathryn!

      Same with me with girl scouts, although i do remember learning to cook over a fire as part of our girl scouts. Yes, they could tell other things from a print — what tribe — how much the person weighed — what organs in his body needed attention — there was a movie once with Graham Greene played a policeman on the rez and said to some white person that he could tell how much money he had in his pocket. And of course, it was right on. They really could tell these things. My next post is going to go into my own personal experience with this. : )

  5. Okay Karen, I need a scout that can track Ants!! I cannot seem to find their entry point!

    Seriously I love this post. Once again, Karen , you have given me information I was unaware of.

  6. I checked Amazon and Mr. Brown has an interesting variety of books available. I have several books on these and related topics. A compilation of ideas and viewpoints from them all gives a good view of the scouts and their abilities and knowledge.

  7. Hi Patricia!

    I agree. I have many of his books, also. There’s one on Grandfather that is particularly endearing. But almost all of my books right now are in boxes as my husband and I relocate. So I, too, went to Amazon and reordered another copy of THE WAY OF THE SCOUT, my favorite of his books.

  8. Very interesting post. I didn’t realize that the scouts were trained to memorize their surroundings and be able to recite what they saw. It was a very important task to be a scout as a Native American. Whatever they saw they would report back to the tribe . I remember the old cowboy movies where you saw a scout overlooking a cliff to see who was approaching their camp. He was very valuable and kept the tribe safe. He could readily identify tracks of an animal whether it was from a bear or a horse. I very much enjoyed your blog. Thanks for sharing with us. I’m part Comanche so I’m always fascinated to read about my heritage.

    • Hi Deana!

      Thanks so much for your post. Hope you come here often. I’m beginning this series on the Scout because my newest books deal with scouting to a great degree. Yes, they’re romance, but they incorporate much about the old-time scout.

      What a wonderful thing to know what tribe you are. The Comanche have such a glorious history. Please come back often.

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