The name "Kiwanis" stems from an
expression of the American Indian tribe that lived in the Detroit area, the
area where Kiwanis was founded. The original phrase in the Otchipew language
was "Nun Kee-wanis." It means "self expression," or "to express one's self." It
was shortened and modified to become "Kiwanis."
"We build" is the motto under which Kiwanis
has advanced and become widely known throughout the years, and the purpose of
Kiwanis is to provide service to Youth and the Elderly, to the Community, and
to the Nation. The objectives of Kiwanis are to:
- give primacy to the human and spiritual, rather than to the
material values of life.
- encourage the daily living of the Golden Rule in all human
- promote the adoption and application of higher social,
business, and professional standards.
- develop, by precept and example, a more intelligent,
aggressive, and serviceable citizenship.
- provide, through this club, a practical means to form
enduring friendships, to render altruistic service, and to build a better
- cooperate in creating and maintaining that sound public
opinion and high idealism which make possible the increase of righteousness,
justice, patriotism, and goodwill.
Kiwanis was founded in Detroit, Michigan,
January 21, 1915. The first Kiwanian was a merchant tailor named Joseph Prance.
The original name was "The Benevolent Order of Brothers," and its purpose was
the mutual exchange of preferred treatment in professional and business
dealings. Within a year, the name was changed to "Kiwanis," and, since the
original purpose lacked the power to attract and hold members, the purpose of
the organization became "community service," a concept from which Kiwanis has
In 1916, a Kiwanis club was formed in Canada (Hamilton,
Ontario), and Kiwanis became an "international" service organization. In 1962 a
Kiwanis Club was formed in Mexico, breaking the long-standing tradition of
serving only in the U.S. and Canada. In 1989, women were welcomed to join
Today, there are more than 500,000 men and women
in over 8,400 Kiwanis Clubs serving the needs of people in 79 countries around
the world. Kiwanis is part of a twentieth-century phenomenon. The "service club
movement," as it has been termed, is one of North America's most important
contributions to the life of our times. Today, the service club movement is
bigger, better-accepted, and more desired than ever before in its history. For
more information, see Kiwanis