In 1922, Arthur E. Roberts,
Scout Executive and Camp Director of Camp Friedlander of the Cincinnati
Area Council, founded the Tribe of Ku-Ni-Eh. It was founded as a Brotherhood
of Honor Campers who exemplified the Scout Oath and Law. The Ku-Ni-Eh became
almost as popular as the Order of the Arrow and was used by many other
Councils because they felt that the Order of the Arrow wanted too large
of a fee to join. The Tribe of Ku-Ni-Eh was used by the Cincinnati Council
until the early 1950's. In 1951 their members chose to join forces with
the Order of the Arrow and thus became the Ku-Ni-Eh Lodge #462 which is
now #145 following a merger into the Dan Beard Council.
Ernie A. Meyer, former Lodge Chief of the Otena Lodge, provided the following information concerning the Kunieh Tribe (Lodge) in the Comanche Trail Council. "The Kunieh Tribe (Lodge) was started at the original camp (Camp Billy Gibbons) in 1934. Gaitha Browning had been a member in the Waco Camp, came back and discussed this with Mr. C.L. Pouncy*, who was then Scout Executive (and his former Scoutmaster). Mr. Pouncy got the necessary materials from the National Office and the first meetings were held in the first Billy Gibbons Camp at the mouth of Brady Creek in the summer of 1934. The organization continued to be well organized up until the time the National Scout Office replaced this with what they considered a better program, the Order of the Arrow. This was in 1945.
"The two organizations are similar, except Kunieh was more Indian oriented, using many Indian Legends and Indian Poetry in their ceremonies. The Kunieh and the Order did differ in that the members of the Kunieh Lodge selected the candidates, whereas in OA, the Troops choose the candidates. Also, Kunieh induction and calling out ceremonies were not open to non members.
''The first meeting place of the Kunieh was up on a rocky canyon South of the old Scout Camp. There an altar was built, and many paintings done on the rocks telling the story on the Kunieh organization. Gaitha Browning painted these rock pictures in Indian fashion and some of them may still be there."
According to James B. White, M.D., “The paintings were placed in a rocky overhang and shaded by scrub trees so that they are never touched by sunlight or rain.”
Gaitha Browning confirmed
Mayer’s account of the Kunieh Society in his letter of February 18, 1973,
when he wrote: “When the first honor organization was organized by Dad
(C. L. Pouncey) and I, I painted the insignia and story on the cliff where
the meetings were held. I was very proud of this as I was the first
honor Scout in the Council, having been taken into this organization on
a teaching trip in camp at Waco, then I came back and Dad and I went to
work and organized the Kunieh. Now those paintings on the cliff are regarded
as ‘old Indian’ by everyone. They have weathered beautifully and
were done on the style of the early cliff paintings - so, the story of
this has now become legend, after a short 40 or 45 years. It belongs
to legend for it is truly part of the land and the people.”
KUNIEH SOCIETY INDUCTION CEREMONY
It was said that at Camp Billy Gibbons you might wake up in the middle of the night to discover that your tent mate had disappeared. You would not see him for three days and no one talked about what had happened to him. The fact was that he had been selected to be a candidate for membership into the Kunieh Tribe and was involved in the initiation ceremonies.
Frank Pellizzari, Jr., longtime Scoutmaster of Troop 63, Breckenridge, remembers being inducted into the Kunieh Society at the old Camp Billy Gibbons. At the time of his induction he was a Boy Scout in Troop 31 of Breckenridge. He gave this description of what went on.
He was serving on the camp staff that summer. Everyone, including staff, was required to go to bed at 10:00 p.m. each night. That was easy to do as there was no electricity in camp. He remembers being awakened around midnight by a member of the Society and being quietly led to another place in camp away from the other campers.
Once everyone was gathered at the site, a needle was used to scratch an arrow on each candidate's arm. They were then blindfolded and put on a rope. After being led around camp in the dark that night, Pellizzari, Jr. pulled cactus needles out of himself for a week. They were then put out for the night and at dawn had to build a fire to cook breakfast. Also the next morning they all had to take a bath in a very cold water tank to cleanse themselves. The day of toil was spent working in the kitchen helping the cook. The candidates gathered wood for the cook stove, washed dishes, pealed potatoes and did other chores in the dining hall.
As part of the ceremony they were given an arrow shaft and told to make a complete arrow with their name on it. Thearrow was then placed in a quiver. If, for any reason they disgraced the Scouting ideals, the arrow was pulled from the quiver and shot in the air. If you were able to find your arrow you could then return to the Society, otherwise you were out.
The following story appeared in the Billy Gibbons Daily Bugle Call on July 28, 1937