Camp Dreamcatcher History, DEI Statement & Action Plan and Land Acknowledgement

Our DEI Statement and Action Plan is available as a PDF File.  Click here to view.

Our Gender Inclusion Policy is also available as a PDF File.  Click here to view.

Camp Dreamcatcher History:

Patty Hillkirk, the Founder and Director of Camp Dreamcatcher, started her work in the HIV/AIDS community in 1986 after her best friend was diagnosed with HIV.  She became a Red Cross volunteer, and a volunteer therapist facilitating weekly groups for adults living with HIV/AIDS. In 1995, she was inspired to create a therapeutic community for children coping with HIV/AIDS after watching a “60 Minutes” segment about a camp in NY for children impacted by the disease.  The decision to name our organization Camp Dreamcatcher came out of  our wish to make dreams come true for children coping with HIV/AIDS by creating a therapeutic home where they can be free of the stigma, isolation and judgement associated with the disease.  Over the past 26 years, 6,000 youth have participated in the free therapeutic, educational and recreational programs offered by Camp Dreamcatcher and our dedicated volunteers have provided over 300,000 hours of service to the organization.

Camp Dreamcatcher has been partnering with Indigenous People since our inception in 1996.  The camp week’s Opening Ceremony, our Wish Log Ceremony, and other camp week programs have been facilitated by Indigenous People.   In 1998, two members of a local Indigenous community created and donated eleven teepees to Camp Dreamcatcher.  They brought the teepees to camp and the children learned about Indigenous Tribes and Cultures.  They then led the children through a process of painting the teepees.  These teepees are very important to us because they include the drawings and handprints of children we have lost to AIDS over the years.  The teepees surround the area where we hold our Wish Log Ceremony.  All Native Traditions and Ceremonies have been introduced and facilitated by Indigenous People at Camp Dreamcatcher.

The Camp Dreamcatcher administrative office, and the land where we hold our camp session, is on the traditional territory of the Lenni-Lenape, called Lenapehoking.  We recognize and respect Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land.  Click here for the Land Acknowledgement statement from the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation.

 Ojibwe Dreamcatcher Story:

“This is the way the old Ojibwe say Spider Woman helped bring Grandfather Sun back to the people. To this day, Spider Woman will build her special lodge before dawn. If you are awake at dawn—as you should be—look for her lodge and you will see how she captured the sunrise as the light sparkles on the dew which is gathered there.

Spider Woman took care of her children, the people of the land, and she continues to do so to this day. Long ago, in the ancient world of the Ojibwe Nation, the Clans were all located in one area called Turtle Island. When the Ojibwe Nation dispersed to the four corners of North America, Spider Woman had a difficult time making journeys to all those baby cradle boards, so the mothers, sisters, and grandmothers weaved magical webs for the new babies using willow hoops and sinew. The shape of the circle represents how Grandfather Sun travels across the sky.

The dreamcatcher filters out the bad dreams and allows only good thoughts to enter into our minds when we are asleep. A small hoop in the center of the dreamcatcher is where the good dreams come through. With the first rays of sunlight, the bad dreams will perish.

When we see little Spider Woman, we should not fear her, but instead respect and protect her. In honor of their origin, many dreamcatchers have eight points where the web connects to the hoop (eight points for Spider Woman’s eight legs). Some people place a feather in the center of the dreamcatcher, to symbolize breath or air. From the cradle board, a baby can watch the air play with the feather and be happily entertained with the blowing feather.”

Acknowledgement: Native STAND Curricula