The current home of the original Tribe of Mic-O-Say is the 250 acres of Camp Geiger, two miles northwest of St. Joseph, Missouri. Mic-O-Say has thrived and provided leadership in that location since the camp’s founding in 1935.
But Mic-O-Say and Camp Geiger share a heritage which began in a different century. Dr. Charles Geiger, who would donate the land that became our beloved Reservation, was born during the national mourning period for Abraham Lincoln, buried a short distance away from Geiger’s birthplace in Champagne County Illinois. By 1882, the Geigers were living on farm property near St. Joseph, Missouri, and the sixteen-year-old Charles were exploring the land which he would one day give to us at Camp Geiger.
By 1910, when the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated, Roe Bartle was eight years old, receiving his early schooling amidst the poverty and coal dust of Norton, Pennsylvania, a mining town. In 1911 a child was born on a Kansas train rolling toward Hays, Kansas. The son of Henry and Ellen Fiske, he would be known to Mic-O-Say Tribesmen as Chief Swift Spear, Finley F. Fiske.
On July 16, 1916, the St. Joseph Council was formally organized. Eleven-year-old Simon Rositzky, who would become our beloved Chief Two Moons, counted the days till his twelfth birthday when he could join the Scouting Movement. Roe Bartle was by then a fifteen-year-old military academy recruit in Fork Union, Virginia. The future founder of the Tribe of Mic-O-Say, who would in later years possess the ability to speak extemporaneously to the delight of millions, the man who would become one of the nation’s most sought after public speakers, hid beneath his bunk in order to avoid attending a debating class. The young Roe Bartle was terrified of public speaking.
In 1919, the St. Joseph Council received a first-class charter from the national organization, and John Tilden was employed as its first official Scout Executive. Scout Leaders embarked on a search for a suitable permanent summer camping area. Near Agency, Missouri they located an ideal site near the Platte River. The owner, W. E. Brinton, eventually deeded the tract to the local Scout council at no charge. Camp Brinton, as it was known, would be the place in which Mic-O-Say would begin. In 1922, the 21-year-old Bartle joined the Scouting movement, accepting a position as the Scout executive for the State of Wyoming.
In Wyoming, Bartle became extremely interested in the heritage and culture of the many Indian reservations in Wyoming. He spent many hours listening to stories about the Indian tribes and soon began to incorporate Indian values and ideals into his Scouting program.
Bartle was inducted into a local tribe, and according to traditional Tribal legend, was given the name Lone Bear by the chief of a local tribe.
While it is likely that the Indian based Scouting societies of the early twenties had their beginnings in Scouting’s national desire to incorporate Native American culture, it is also only fair to acknowledge that only a person of Roe Bartle’s insight and enthusiasm could have served as midwife to the Mother Tribe of Mic-O-Say as we know it. In May of 1925, the new Scout Executive awarded eagle claws to eleven adults during a ceremony at Camp Brinton. They were the first members of Mic-O-Say.
During the next four years, Bartle would carefully nurture the new honor organization. Prior to 1928, he had conferred the title of Medicine Man on several of his valued Scouting Assistants, and had named several St. Joseph businessmen as Chieftains. These individuals, among them Wiley Cox, H. M. Nusser and E. H. Steffens, would assist Bartle as the ceremonies involved larger numbers of Scouts, and their tribal designations would be incorporated into the Paint Stations some twenty years later.
In the fall of 1928, Bartle accepted a transfer. He would become the Scout Executive of the Kansas City Area Council. Mic-O-Say had become a vital, flourishing part of Bartle’s brand of Scouting, and he established another Mic-O-Say program at Camp Dan Sayre near Noel, Mo. That chapter was soon transferred to the banks of the Osage River near Osceola, Missouri. Since that time, many ideas and ideals of Mic-O-Say have traveled to other Councils throughout the United States, but only the two Tribes of Mic-O-Say exist today: The Mother Tribe at Camp Geiger, and the Tribe at the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation near Osceola, Missouri.
A succession of Scout Executives in the Pony Express Council helped the honor society to grow and prosper. Among them were Rex Gary, M. N. (Red) Leavitt and Lester B. Miller.
During the 1930’s, as Dr. Geiger donated the property for a new camp, Tribesmen found themselves transplanted to a temporary summer home at Camp Coronado in Eagle Springs, Kansas. The Mic-O-Say program continued to flourish. By the end of 1930, Mic-O-Say membership was approximately 160 strong.
By the end of 1950, Tribal membership had grown to nearly 1400, and Don Weekley, a Camp Staff member, had become its first Hardway Medicine Man.
In 1952, a new camp was begun high on the northern ridge of the camp. Wayne Taylor (Chief Medicine Man Fears No Wind) guided the Tribe through those early years in its new location. The Brave to Warrior Ceremony and paint appointments, which had been held early in the morning following the induction ceremony, were incorporated into the main ceremony. The following year, the peace pipe ceremony was discontinued due to the ever growing number of members. The pipe ceremony was reintroduced in 1980.
Mic-O-Say continues to flourish. Many of Bartle’s original ideas and concepts remain, as does the influence of Frasier, Taylor, Fiske and Weekley.
Certainly the story of the Mother Tribe is not complete without an additional acknowledgment of the remarkable leadership and authority of Roger Thom, the Directing Medicine Man for nearly thirty years. Swimming Rock’s indelible stamp upon Mic-O-Say, as well as his unique ceremonial style, can be observed in virtually every aspect of our ceremonials.
At the Tribal Feast of 1987, Swimming Rock was elevated to the Council of Chieftains, and his role as chief in the ceremonies evolved throughout the next twenty years.
On July 21, 2006 at the last Friday evening ceremonials of the season, Chieftain Swimming Rock announced that he was “hanging up his war bonnet,” and would retire from his ceremonial role as chief. After approval from the Council of Chieftains, Thom then named the Directing Medicine Man, Ken Baker, to fill that role in future ceremonies. In 2007, Mic-O-Say moved forward under the leadership of Directing Medicine Man Walks Tall, Ed Stroud and a strong young administration of new Tribal Leadership.
As a result of these and many other leaders, Mic-O-Say is nearly seventeen thousand strong. The Pony Express Council is among the top Councils in the nation in the number of Eagle Scouts each year. The council is consistently among the country’s highest with its ratio of Scouts who attend long-term camp. Our council also consistently wins top honors in program quality, and Mic-O-Say plays no small part in those honors. Our dancers are in demand at many Scout and civic functions, and have performed at both National and World Scout Jamborees. Eighty years ago, Roe Bartle had a vision. Today, his foresight is confirmed in a living testimonial to Scouting at its best.
In the beginning, it was Bartle who came to us in the Spirit of Friendship and Leadership. And to the very end, Bartle was Mic-O-Say. In 1972, two years prior to his death, the Chief visited the Geiger Reservation to witness what would be his final Mic-O-Say ceremony.
As he sat listening upon the high bench the aging Lone Bear is alleged to have noted with approval to those close about him, “This is the way I remember it.”