The YMCA Indian Guide Program is an evolution of the original YMCA parent-child program called Indian Guides.
The father and son Y-Indian Guide program was developed in 1926 to support the father’s vital family role as teacher, counselor, and friend to his son. Harold S. Keltner, a YMCA director in St. Louis, initiated this program around a blazing campfire while he was on a hunting trip in Canada with his friend, Joe Friday, an Ojibwa Indian. Friday told him, “The Indian father raises his son. He teaches his son to hunt, track, and fish, walk softly and silently in the forest, know the meaning and purpose of life and all he must know, while the white man allows the mother to raise his son.” These words struck a chord for Keltner, and he arranged for Joe Friday to work with him at the St. Louis YMCA.
After World War II, the rise in YMCAs that served the whole family, the need for supporting young girls in their personal growth, and the demonstrated success of the father–son program nurtured the development of other parent–child programs. A mother–daughter program, called Y-Indian Maidens, was established in South Bend, Indiana, in 1951. Three years later, father–daughter groups, called Y-Indian Princesses, emerged in the Fresno YMCA of California. In 1980, the national YMCA recognized the Y-Indian Braves Program for mothers and sons, thus completing the four programs and combinations that made up the Y-Indian Guide Programs.