Cascadia Scouts: Portland’s Alternative to the Boy Scouts

I’M SO EXCITED.

I’m jumping up and down, looking for someone to hug.

Two Portlanders–Ethan Jewett and Travis A. Wittwer–started the 55th Cascadia scouts–an inclusive scouting alternative to the Boy Scouts.

It’s fundamentalist, progressive scouting.

Wha-what?

Basically it’s back-to-basics and welcoming to everybody… totally Portland. (But as I also learned, totally American–the 55th Cascadia is part of a larger US scouting organization, the Baden-Powell Service Association, with the motto “Traditional Scouting for Everyone,” which in turn is part of the World Federation of Independent Scouts. I think that last one may be a cover for a global Jedi-training program.)

Cascadia Scouts

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I was super psyched that 2013 would be the year that the Boy Scouts of America stopped discriminating against people based on sexual orientation. But here we are, halfway through the year, and gay scouts are allowed, but gay leaders are not.

And I’m thinking, You know who would make the best Boy Scout leaders ever? Baby Woww’s godmothers, our super good friends (and married partners) Marisa and Gretchen.

Exuberance? Organization? Camping skills? Practicality? Ability to save people during a flash flood? Extensive knowledge of campfire games?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and YES.

But according to the Boy Scouts they’re not good enough. Well that’s not going to work for our family.

We’re Christian. Like go-to-church-on-Sunday, pray-every-day kind of Christians. And for our family, God is LOVE. The Bible says some weird sh$t (as you find out when you read everything in there), but you know the message that The Book beats you over the head with?

Love. Love your neighbor. Love your enemy. LOVE.

So here I was, in 2013, a Christian mother of two boys, having to write scouting off.

NOT ANY MORE!

Thank you, 55th Cascadia!

Cascadia Scouts Campfire

The 55th Cascadia scouts welcome “everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion (or no-religion) or other differentiating factors.”

IT GETS BETTER!

They allow boys and girls, women and men to be scouts. I can be a scout, and so can you!

CAN IT KEEP GETTING BETTER?

Yes. Yes, it can.

Cascadia scouts have a back-to-the-fundamentals approach to scouting, as part of the Baden-Powell Service Association. That’s right, this is scouting that’s fundamentalist and socially progressive. (Read: more time surviving outdoors, less time earning badges like “technology” or “game design.”) Here’s what the 55th has to say:

“Scouting is an outdoor movement and that is part of its character. The appeal of true scouting has always been to that element of the vagabond, pioneer and explorer which is part of our nature, and is at its most evident in youth.”

Cascadia Scouts Flag

There’s just no substitute for being outside. In Oregon, we go outside when it’s overcast, raining, misting, dewy… and occasionally sunny. Everyone owns a Subaru or a Prius, and most have racks on the top to hold whatever gear you love most–bikes, kayaks, skis, canoes….

There’s only one problem with the 55th Cascadia scouts.

There are no troops on the West Side. So here’s your call to action readers: Pack your camping gear, and start up a troop over here west of the Willamette. I want to do it within the next three years, but until then, it’s up to you.

Let’s get this campfire started!

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Post Update: This just in from the Baden-Powell Service Association…

“It should be noted in your article that “Cascadia Scouts” is actually the 55th Cascadia scout group of the Baden-Powell Service Association, so it’s actually part of a much larger “Traditional Scouting” association and not completely independent nor Portland based. In fact, the BPSA is part of a worldwide Traditional Scouting organization called the World Federation of Independent Scouts (WFIS).”

What does this mean? You can be part of this awesome scouting movement wherever you live in the U.S. Thank you, B-PSA, for writing in and letting me know! Sorry for my previous confusion.

Click here to like the Baden-Powell Service Association of the U.S. on Facebook.

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Find the 55th Cascadia scouts on Twitter.

And while you’re at it, follow the Baden-Powell Service Association, too.

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For those who don’t know “Cascadia” is the term that affectionately refers to the Northwest Kingdom (Oregon, Washington, Vancouver BC). Cascadia has a flag and other patriotic swag–go to a Timbers game to see for yourself.

All photos courtesy of and trademarked by the 55th Cascadia scouts.

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11 responses to “Cascadia Scouts: Portland’s Alternative to the Boy Scouts

  1. That is awesome! I want to be an honorary Cascadia Scout (I’m a little out of the geographic region, unfortunately). As a former Girl Scout, who worked as a counselor for many years at a summer camp in So Cal (after attending it for even more years as a camper), I can tell you that a huge contingent of the leaders/counselors in the GS organization are gay. But, it doesn’t matter. They are as competent and enthusiastic as any other leader and utterly admired by the campers, who never had a clue about their sexual orientation… because, it’s not an issue… it doesn’t NEED to be an issue. Everyone got along great up in the mountains, removed from the idiocy of civilization. I also love the “fundamental” approach Cascadia embraces. I spent way too much time as a GS working on the “fashion, fitness, and makeup” badge, when what I wanted to do was sleep in a tent, cook on a fire, and get dirty. You should definitely start a troop for your boys! If you need any games, songs, or campfire recipes, let me know!

  2. Bless you, Evelyn! Thanks for such a fabulous post. On behalf of our family, I appreciate you taking such a stand. The Boy Scouts will look back on this era with regret, and will eventually come around. In the meantime, Cascadia Scouts, here we come! What a great organization- focused on what really matters, which is giving kids a great experience instead of focusing on identity politics and needless exclusion.

    And Caitlin is right about the Girl Scouts. I LOVED Girl Scouts– the songs, the sports, the camraderie, the frumpy and functional vests, an emphasis on the benefits of sensible shoes…. come to think of it, Girl Scouts was strikingly similar to every down-home lesbian bar I’ve ever set foot in. I guess there were early signs…

    • Hilarious! You always find a way to bring humor and warmth to politically-charged topics, Marisa! Can’t wait to hear more from you.

  3. As a (NE) mom whose sons (ages 5 and 8) are both in the 55th Cascadia, I can tell you it really is wonderful, and I’m so happy that this exists. I don’t HAVE much by way of outdoor skills (despite years in Girls Scouts), and as a single mom these days, it felt daunting to try to do this by myself. So being able to impart a love of the outdoors and a basic skill set and values through this awesome group has been so rewarding. Camping as a group has been fun too and empowering!

    One note, the 55th Cascadia is part of a larger whole – the Baden-Powell Service Association (Baden-Powell was actually the guy who “invented” scouting, the precursor to Boy Scouts and other scouting organizations in other countries (and his sister founded Girl Guides)), so there is a lot of tradition and lore around BPSA that is very interesting and also somewhat reassuring that we aren’t reinventing the wheel; there are a lot of resources to pull from. There’s a N/NE contingent (the 55th Cascadia), a SE contingent (the 636th Mt. Tabor), a Vancouver one (45th Columbia River), and definitely room for the other parts of this area to represent!

    • Kinnari, thanks for sharing your experience! I know I can totally relate to having the enthusiasm for imparting these outdoor skills to my kids, but not the know-how. And I appreciate you shouting out the Baden-Powell Service Association, as well. So awesome to know this is a real movement. Hope to meet you one day at a scouting event. 🙂

  4. It should be noted in your article that “Cascadia Scouts” is actually the 55th Cascadia scout group of the Baden-Powell Service Association, so it’s actually part of a much larger “Traditional Scouting” association and not completely independent nor Portland based. In fact, the BPSA is part of a worldwide Traditional Scouting organization called the World Federation of Independent Scouts (WFIS). Just wanted to make sure that was clear. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for the additional clarification! I really appreciate it, and have added updated the post to reflect the accurate titles and reference Baden-Powell, with links to Facebook, Twitter, and your main page as well. So glad to hear that traditional, inclusive scouting is a worldwide movement! 🙂

  5. What a fantastic idea! I wish there was a group around us when Ryan was younger… we didn’t join Boy Scouts because of their discrimination policy but I would have signed up for Cascadia Scouts in an instant!
    Lisa

    • Right, Lisa?! I’m really excited that when my boys are ready, I can be a scout, too! It’s like being able to go back in time and learn all that cool stuff I want to know.

  6. Pingback: My Writing on Believe Out Loud | momsicle

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