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Integral to the structure of a Camp Fern camper's life is his or her tribe. New campers are randomly selected into their tribes in a special ceremony the first night of camp. All campers remain in the same tribes year after year until they complete their last year as a camper or come back as camp staff. Both 4-week campers (including the 2-week campers within the 4-week session) are initiated into one of two tribes: boys may be Caddo (blue) or Tejas (red); girls, Bena (red) or Owaisso (blue). Each tribe has secret grounds, songs, and sponsors.

Each tribe is guided by two elected leaders, a chief and a firemaker. Two senior campers are chosen by their tribe members as Chief and Firemaker to lead and inspire their tribe members during tribal events, such as Field Days, War Canoe Races, the Horse Show, and other evening activities. Staff members work alongside these campers to help guide them in their efforts to create an inclusive, positive environment for friendly competition.

The culmination of this friendly competition is Banquet Night, when a plaque honoring the summer's winning tribe is unveiled.


Fern's one-week coed session campers are initiated into the Apache (purple) or Cherokee (orange) tribe. While their competition is less involved, it is still aimed at teaching the value of sportsmanship, teamwork, and working toward a goal.

Camp Fern believes that teaching healthy competition is necessary to child development. We provide opportunities for our campers to learn how to compete in proper ways, and come alongside them when the need arises. We model our behavior and mirror this approach to illustrate proper sportsmanship, teamwork, and problem solving, and include a variety of other elements to round out this program.

Campers’ tribes often become a “smaller family” within our camper body, and serve as an additional way to bond our campers to one another. The same can be said for peers on different tribes; many of our campers and alumni share that their best friends were on opposite tribes. Competition is a unique element of the Camp Fern experience and adds a great deal to the time spent in our programs.

Competition at Camp Fern is a part of what we do, but it is not all we do. We provide wholesome programming with a goal of helping every camper find enjoyment in their time with us. This means many of our activities are centered around having fun as a cabin unit, getting to know one another, being silly, and enjoying the great outdoors! The transition to camp life isn’t easy for every child, but we seek to get to know each person and find out what will make their experience special! Whether it’s meeting a new friend, trying a new activity, staying the night in an outdoor setting, or jumping out of their comfort zone in an effort to develop resilience and self-esteem, we seek to serve every camper family that comes through our gates with respect, honesty, and appreciation!

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