Greetings Camp Onas Community,
We write today with some exciting news: During this summer’s Older Camper Session, Onas staff and campers worked together on a special and important project — Establishing new names for our bunks.
While the Camp Onas program is filled with beloved traditions, from favorite activities to songs and sayings, sometimes, when we evaluate traditions with fresh eyes, we see a need for change. In this case, the bunk names we were using conflicted with our community ideals and values.
We want to take a moment to recognize that campers, staff, and alumni may have strong memories attached to the old bunk names. Many of us have carried these names with us throughout our camp experiences and beyond.
Our hope is that these new bunk names will be cherished for years to come and provide a backdrop for camp memories, hopes, and aspirations, just as the old ones did. With an important difference: We will feel a little more at home living in the bunks at Camp Onas when their names don’t appropriate Indigenous words and cultures, and no longer erase or negate the people whose words we were using without context or recognition.
The pavilions on either side now carry the names of local flora that grows at Onas, and the tents are named after constellations and stars we see on summer nights.
We expect campers will be just as excited to start their camp experience in Sundrop or Chicory … to have their first tent summer in Lyra or Altair … or graduate from Arcturus or Polaris as they were when the bunks had different names.
When we reflect on the values and ideals our community holds, the new bunk names feel less like a change, and more like coming home to the Camp Onas we’ve meant to be all along, and we hope you will share our joy, excitement, and pride in using our new bunk names:
Blue Side (AKA B-Side, from youngest to oldest):
Sundrop – A native wildflower. They grow in rock piles and can be found around Camp. Sundrops attract hummingbirds, pollinators, songbirds, and some specialized bees. It’s lore includes the flower being a symbol for success and achieving set goals.
Hyssop – A tiny purple, pink, and sometimes white flowering plant. They can be found near Narnia, in the Upper Fields. Hyssop has been used to purify and protect sacred spaces. It has also been said that Hyssop corresponds with the energy of Jupiter, one of the planets usually visible in our summer sky.
Bluestem – A Native tall grass that grows in Narnia. It is an important habitat and food source for many of the butterfly species we see around Camp. It is also important for erosion control.
Aspen – Native tree to Bucks County. They have tall trunks, up to 25 meters (82 feet) tall, with smooth pale bark and black scarring. Our aspens are commonly known as “quaking aspens” because the leaves shake and shimmer in the breeze.
Cedar – The Upper Fields used to actually be fields. When we stopped mowing them, they started a natural progression from field to forest, and Eastern Red Cedars are one of the first trees in the progression of new forest. Cedars were once the predominant tree in the Upper Fields, which continues its progression from cedar forest to hardwood forest.
Lyra – A constellation represented as an eagle or vulture carrying a lyre (a string instrument). Lyra is associated with the myth of the Greek musician and poet Orpheus. It was first catalogued by the astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century.
Antares – The brightest star in the constellation of Scorpius, earning it the nickname “the heart of the scorpion”. When viewed with the naked eye, Antares is made distinct by its reddish color.
Vega – The North Star of the Past and the Future. Vega is the second brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere, located just 25 light-years from Earth, and is one of the brightest stars we see when we stargaze at Camp.
Arcturus – Arcturus is a red giant star, and is the brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere. It is part of the constellation Boötes, and a favorite among Onas campers and staff.
Ursa Major – The largest Northern constellation, meaning “the great bear.”
Gold Side (AKA G-Side, from youngest to oldest):
Chicory – A somewhat woody, perennial herbaceous plant, usually with bright blue flowers. At Onas, these can be found growing in Narnia and along the edges of the areas we mow. Chicory is commonly used as a coffee substitute, and has a variety of medicinal uses. According to folklore, the chicory root has the ability to unlock closed doors and remove obstacles.
Bugbane – Known as the “bedbug repeller” and blooms in late summer. Bugbane is used medicinally for its anti-inflammatory properties, and its lore includes the propagation of love, courage, and a long & happy life.
Silverleaf – Native to North America and can be found growing near streams and the pond. It is tall and blooming with small, dangling orange tubular flowers. Also known as Jewelweed, when silverleaf is placed underwater, tiny bubbles form on the bottom of the leaves, giving them a silver appearance. Silverleaf has skin-soothing properties, and the juice from its stems can relieve irritation from bug bites, poison ivy, and stinging nettles.
Goldenrod – Found all around Camp, Goldenrods are an important food source for pollinators like bees and butterflies, especially in the late summer and fall when other plants have finished flowering. Goldenrod is often mistaken for Ragweed, with the latter giving many people seasonal allergies, but Goldenrod is unlikely to make folks sneeze. Goldenrod is associated with good fortune, and even finding lost treasure.
Sycamore – Native to the eastern and central United States, Sycamore trees grow prolifically in the Yuck and on the banks of Rapp Creek (Sheephole). Sycamore are beautiful, long-lived trees, distinguished by their mottled bark which flakes off in a gray, green, and brown camouflage-like pattern. They make great climbing trees, and provide excellent cover in a game of Hunter.
Altair – Brightest star in the constellation Aquila. Altair is derived from Arabic for “the flying eagle, and is the second brightest star in the “Summer Triangle,” along with Vega and Denab, making it easy to spot, and a favorite among stargazers.
Cassiopeia – Constellation named after the confident queen of beauty, the mother of Andromeda, in Greek mythology. It is easily recognizable due to its ‘W’ shape, formed by five bright stars.
Izar – The second brightest star in the constellation of Boötes, after Arcturus, and one of the first telescopically observed binary stars, or a star system consisting of two stars orbiting around a common barycenter.
Polaris – The North Star. The brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor, and navigationally important as it can help travelers stay on-course. .
Orion – It is one of the most conspicuous and recognizable constellations in the night sky. It is named after a hunter in Greek mythology.
More about the process:
Onas campers and staff have been talking for years about how we might address the names of the bunks, which previously carried names derived from Indigenous words, and were used without context, history, or recognition of the cultures from which they were derived. This summer, there was an overarching sense that campers, staff, and our community were ready to make a change.
Through many individual and group conversations, the 2021 staff started work on a collaborative document to work on new themes and names for the bunks.
Camp staff worked on researching new bunk names that fit those themes, including the meanings and origin stories of the new names, and the staff spent much of the second and third sessions working on the list, sharing thoughts and reactions to the words that would become the new bunk names.
On the first full day of the Older Camper Session, we held an Evening Activity in which all campers and staff met to talk about the need to make this change, and to consider and give feedback on the new bunk names. Following robust and overwhelmingly positive discussion, campers and staff completed a survey to share their individual preferences on the new bunk names, and the surveys reflected similar feelings and preferences when we reviewed them.
Camp Onas adopted the new bunk names the following day, and used them for the remainder of the session.
As is often the case with necessary change, it was amazing to see how easily we all adjusted to calling the bunks by their new names, and the pride and joy we felt in using them was an amazing experience we shared during the Older Camper Session.
Is the name of Camp Onas changing, isn’t Onas an Indigenous word?
We do not intend to change the name of Camp Onas. Onas (along with Mequon) was a name by which the Lenni Lenape called William Penn, an early Quaker. The name Onas is thought to be a reference to a pen or writing quill, and it is our understanding the name was used amicably.
The Camp Onas Staff