"Bushcraft": British nomenclature's subversion of the American lexicon?

stm1957

NotMy1stRodeo
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What is today referred to as "bushcraft" is similar to what we here in the U.S. have referred to as "woodcraft" or in some places "woodscraft" for many years.

Bushcraft is a British term that has commonly been used for many years in Africa and Australia . It refers to the very broad skill set used to somewhat comfortably sustain oneself in the "Outback" of Australia, or the "bush" of Africa. This can sometimes entail a very significant re-engineering of the local environment such as a semi-permanent Safari campsite or a "work camp" in the Outback. It typically can include fireplaces, non-portable shelters, tent platforms, and enclosed latrines, and it is the craft of constructing these things from the materials at hand. It also entails hunting, tracking, and the butchering and preparation of game meat, potable water procurement, personal and group hygiene, and even livestock management. All and all, not the most environmentally friendly mindset, but very much inline with 19th century England's concept of world colonization.

The American idea of Woodcraft (and Scoutcraft) is a bit more environmentally friendly and focuses less on construction, but more on: orienteering, the use of tents for camping, fire making, camp cooking, edible plant and wildlife identification, knots and lashing techniques, wilderness first aid, and emergency survival skills.

Wood / woodscraft has more recently taken on the connotation "bushcraft" perhaps because the term "woodcraft" started becoming a popular catch phrase with hobbyist woodworkers referring to their collective skill set... And also possibly because many of the more media savvy contemporary "outdoor authorities" are of British or Australian nationality or heritage.

I suspect very few of us in this country refer to the areas in which we camp as the "bush"... More likely we camp in the "woods".

Interestingly enough the American concept of "woodcraft" has evolved very much in the last 30 years and is much more inline with the Leave No Trace Principles developed by The National Forest Service in conjunction with the National Outdoor Leadership School. Modern woodcraft is more about minimizing your impact on the natural environment, rather than restructuring it to suit your particular whims.

I for one will continue to practice the modern concept of "woodcraft" and leave the "bushcraft" to the Brits and Aussies.... After all... Does a bear poop in the bush?

I think not!
 
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Grandpa

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I think we stole a lot of words from the Brits. And a bear poops where ever he wants. But a good explanation stm, thanks.
 

wvbreamfisherman

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I'll stick with Woodcraft (a la Nessmuk).

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary -James Nicoll
 

dinosaur

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Although I am one who is continually disappointed at the *******ization of the language, I really don't care what you call it: bush craft, wood craft, witchcraft, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

I will continue to practice what my Daddy taught me; how to live well in the woods. He never called it anything but woodsmanship. You take what's around you and do the best you can with it. We were not as interested in labels as we were in staying warm, dry and well fed.
 

Theo

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The American idea of Woodcraft (and Scoutcraft) is a bit more environmentally friendly and focuses less on construction, but more on: orienteering, the use of tents for camping, fire making, camp cooking, edible plant and wildlife identification, knots and lashing techniques, wilderness first aid, and emergency survival skills.
I guess you've never read George 'Nessmuk' Washington Sears or Horace Kephart?

While the term bushcraft is British, Americans had the same destructive practices as our British cousins, back in the day. And today, the British are just as environmentally conscious, good and bad, as Americans.
 

stm1957

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I guess you've never read George 'Nessmuk' Washington Sears or Horace Kephart?
Actually I read both of their books back in the early 70's... Even then they were considered by most people to be historical treatises on "woodsmanship" rather than actual manuals on the then contemporary practice of "woodcraft", though both authors very much contributed to "woodcraft" becoming established as part of the American lexicon.

By the late 1960's the environmental movement was starting to take off and many outdoorsmen were starting to understand that their responsible enjoyment of the "wild areas" also included a certain sense of stewardship toward the land and conservation of the pristine qualities that made those very areas so appealing to them in the first place.

So as I said, I read them, but even then, considered them antiquated; inspiring in their philosophies but antiquated in their practices.

Although I am one who is continually disappointed at the *******ization of the language, I really don't care what you call it: bush craft, wood craft, witchcraft, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
The title of this thread is... "Bushcraft": British nomenclature's subversion of the American lexicon? I think that this implies that I for one do care about the collective "*******ization" of the American language (notice I said American, not English). That was the whole point! It irks me that when because of a particular fad, collective laziness, or mass nescience, the excepted American vocabulary changes in un-American ways....

I could have launched a similar diatribe about that little key on the telephone and keyboard that up until 2 or 3 years ago we Americans called the pound key or pound sign. Now because of social media and computer programming protocols, it is known as the hash key or hash sign, and is used to leave a hash tag... Huh???... But guess what? The British have always called it the hash sign... Go figure?

And just to make my point,Dinosaur, I notice that your Daddy referred to it as "woodsmanship" and not "bushmanship" (which to me at least, has a very different connotation). So whether it's bushcraft, brushcraft, bushmanship, brushmanship, Busch Beer, or Fuller Brushes.... We Americans have always called it "woodcraft" and I for one am not changing just because some "Johnny-Come-Lately" media-ite declares it the "flavor of the day".

Now before you all get your "knickers in a twist" (see my intentional use of British slang?) the preceding post is meant as a humorous, and a very,very "tongue in cheek" discourse.

As my "good buddy" Sheldon Cooper might say, "Buzinga!"
 
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ppine

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To equate woodcraft with leave no trace is a mistake.

The Conservation Movement started in this country. We inherited some ideas from Europe but most of them were not that useful here. Such as the idea that wild game was owned by the King.

Once conservation gained some momentum, traveling and vacationing in the outdoors became in vogue, mostly by the upper class at first. The "sport" hunter and fisherman, Adirondack lodges, and some camping. It took some time to "filter down" to the masses. Accessing the outdoors took time for a lot of people that lived in cities before the automobile was popular. Once we had cars, after WWII lots of people became campers.

Woodcraft and bushcraft cannote ax work and building furniture, beds, and fireplaces out of native materials. As the conservation ethic evolved woodcraft has fallen out of favor for methods with a lighter touch on the land.
 
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stm1957

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To equate woodcraft with leave no trace is a mistake.
True... If you define it by "Nessmuk" and Kephart's writings of the early 20th century.

But the Boy Scouts of America's "scoutcraft" program teaches woodcraft skills (orienteering, camping, camp cooking, safe axe and saw skills, knots and lashing techniques, first aid, fishing, fire making, etc.) and they are also one of the foremost advocates of the "Leave No Trace Principles". They realize that the two are very much interconnected...

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Definition of WOODCRAFT
1: skill and practice in anything relating to the woods and especially in maintaining oneself and making one's way in the woods.


There is a certain skill set that can be practiced at permanent, or semi permanent campsites on private land, and another skill set (Leave No Trace) that should be practiced on public lands, especially when backpacking, but even when just camping at an undeveloped campsite. Two different criteria but both, according to Merriam-Webster, still "woodcraft".

My point is that the concept of "woodcraft" has evolved and is probably still evolving.... The "woodcraft" that was espoused by Nessmuk and Kephart in the early 1900's is very much different than the "woodcraft" currently being taught by the likes of The National Outdoor Leadership School.

The practice of "Leave No Trace" is still very much "woodcraft"... In my opinion.

Your mileage may vary.
 

ppine

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Stm1957,
I am out of touch with the Boy Scouts and NOLS now. Thanks for your insight about the evolution of "woodcraft." To me it will always be the early guys you mention, plus Rustrom, Whelen, and Angier. It will always involve an axe. It will always involve long periods of time in the bush, not a weekend of backpacking.
 

Theo

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Not much *woodcraft* involved with LNT, not that there is anything wrong with that. Being in the woods and living out of a backpack for an extended time does not a woodsman make.

Just sayin'. ;)
 

dinosaur

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I can't quote any authors. Don't really care. What I learned came from my father and a couple of his buddies. We lived good and we kicked a-s-s in the woods. You need to learn these skills from others not a book. It's not the same. These are things that are passed down from generation to generation. It's an old an venerable way to learn about the woods that is irreplaceable by books. You can't just read about it, you have to live it.
 

ppine

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Dino,
I agree with you. People that learn about the outdoors from REI seminars or a class at the community college are missing out on the lore and tradition of outdoor living.

I am now spending part of each Nov day in my wall tent in the backyard looking thru the open tent flaps at the Pine Nut Mtns covered with snow. As soon as I get this bronchitis under control I will be sleeping out there. It is a great way to stay in touch with all of the memories of trips with my Dad and two brothers. If only the tent walls could talk.
 
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