History of the Program

The Indian Guides program was established in 1926 as a way to ensure that hard-working fathers stayed involved in their sons lives. The program was developed by Harold Keltner of the Saint Louis, Missouri YMCA, with the help of, and based on the example of his friend Joe Friday, an Ojibway Indian. According to Joe Friday, “The Indian father raises his son. He teaches his son to hunt, track, fish, walk softly and silently in the forest, know the meaning and purpose of life and all he must know.”

Keltner designed the father and son program based upon the strong qualities of American Indian culture and life–dignity, patience, endurance, spirituality, feeling for the earth and concern for the family. The Indian Maidens, a sister organization for mothers and their daughters was established in South Bend, Indiana in 1951. The Indian Princess organization for fathers and daughters got its start at the Fresno, California YMCA in 1954. Finally, in 1980, the US national YMCA recognized the need for an Indian Braves organization for Mothers and Sons.