What does “cultural appropriate” mean:

  • The use of one culture’s elements by a group or individual who does not belong to that culture. The adoption of these elements from another culture typically occurs without the consent of the people who belong to that culture and who have been historically marginalized.
  • Acts of appropriation and their implications are not determined by the intent or awareness of those engaged in such acts but are instead shaped by, and in turn, shape, the social, economic and political contexts in which they occur.
  • Undoing the harm that has been caused by cultural appropriation requires engaging in dialogue with individuals and communities that have been impacted.


How Camp Fire Alaska’s sleep-away camp got its name:

The ritual of naming resident or sleep away camps by using native indigenous terms and names was a common practice in the Camp Fire youth development system nationally as well as in many camping organizations.

Camp Fire Alaska’s resident camp was originally named Camp Kushtaka by a group of campers (only girls at the time) in 1966 as they believed “Kushtaka” to mean “the spirit of lake and trees”.   Camp Kushtaka kept its name until the early 2000’s.

Over the years Camp Fire Alaska learned about the inaccuracy of their understanding of the meaning of the word and came to appreciate that in a variety of Alaskan Native Cultures,  “kushtaka” refers to a mythical creature or spirit that can trick or fool others. Loosely translated, kushtaka means, “land otter man”.  Since the kushtaka mainly preys on small children, it has been thought by some that it was used by Tlingit mothers to keep their children from wandering close to the ocean by themselves.

Clearly, once the realization of the inaccuracy and inappropriate usage of the term and a more in depth understanding of misappropriation of an indigenous term settled in, Camp Fire Alaska staff, volunteers and alumni knew that a name change needed to occur.  Maintaining the “K” from the original name, the Camp Fire Alaska staff and board of directors officially changed the camp’s name to “Camp K on Kenai Lake.” This name change coincided with a major redevelopment of the camp and helped identify the resident camp by its physical location.

Camp Fire Alaska respectfully acknowledges and apologizes for the inaccurate use of a Native Alaskan term for many years.  While we know the campers of 60 years ago may have been well intended, today we recognize that the Agency’s usage of the term was unacceptable and inappropriate.

Today, Camp K provides youth with a wide variety of outdoor and environmental experiences – where they have opportunities to find the best in themselves and others in a fun, safe, learning environment.


To learn more about Camp K on Kenai Lake go to www.campfireak.org