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History of Girl Scout SWAPS


SWAP buttonWhat Are SWAPS?

"Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere" or "Shared With A Pal"

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The History of SWAPS

The idea of exchanging mementos as a token of friendship is probably as old as mankind. At the first National Girl Scout Round-Up in 1956 the term “swap” was introduced on a national level by GSUSA in what was called the “Swap Tent.” This was a popular gathering place where Girl Scouts made new friends and exchanged personal tokens. At that time a SWAP was a little remembrance that one Girl Scout gave to another. It was handmade and represented the girl, her country, her community, or her background. Swapping was a way of starting correspondence with Girl Scouts from other states and countries. For this reason, girls were encouraged to attach their name, troop number, and address to the swap for future reference. The first Swap Tent was such a success that SWAPS became a part of the National Girl Scout Round-Up Conferences and Wider Opportunities (now called "destinations"). Today Girl Scouts of all ages enjoy sharing SWAPS at national, regional, and local Girl Scout Council events.

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Origin of SWAPS

SWAP pinThe origin of SWAPS can be traced to Potlatch, the ceremonial distribution of gifts practiced by Native Americans of the Northwest. The first potlatch was used to explain how birds received their colored feathers. According to the legend, two Native American girls took feathers from a strange, magical bird and distributed them to all the birds in the forest - yellow and brown to the meadowlark, red and brown to the robin, brown to the wren, yellow and black to the finch. Native Americans had potlatch ceremonies to commemorate special occasions such as birth, marriage, and the coming of age. These ceremonies usually included speeches, songs, dances, games, races, and refreshments. The potlatch gifts, symbols of the family and their status in the village, were often elaborate and presented at the very end of the ceremony.


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