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Liz

Culturally neutral Webelos face painting script?

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Hey! Our previous Pack did face painting at every rank advancement, and our Cubmaster had a set of scripts from *somewhere* that I really liked. But now that I search for face painting scripts for Webelos I'm finding stuff that is full of half-assed and stereotypical Native American references. I wouldn't necessarily mind NA references if it was done well, but to avoid even the appearance of cultural appropriation I'd prefer a face painting ceremony script that is culturally neutral. That is what we had - no references to or copies of any specific cultural face painting that I recall.

I have messaged my previous Cubmaster but I'm not sure I'll get an answer quickly enough as we had a kiddo earn Webelos at the very last minute and we have a Pack meeting on Monday!

He had a set of these scripts that he made copies of, and they had diagrams of the different face paint designs for the different ranks... he got them from somewhere. Help?

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We did it in our pack - but I'll admit, we didn't have too detailed a script.

It was normally done at rank advancement.  The Cubmaster would get up with the Scouts, ask them to talk a little about some of the funs things they did.  After that, he'd paint a strip on each cheek - one red, the other green.  He'd explain that Webelos stood for We'll Be Loyal Scouts and that these colors signified their journey on the way to becoming Scouts.  I find the goal on these kind of ceremony is to tie it to the journey they are on - celebrate something about what they earned.  Or, celebrate some kind of future goal - such as becoming a Scout.  I was never one for tying this stuff into NA imagery.  I know some people like the NA imagery, but I also found trying to make a connection like that very awkward and forced as a Cubmaster.  So, I just never did it.

In our pack, it took maybe 3-5 minutes to do the whole thing - that's about as long as we could sit for a ceremony.

Sorry I don't have something more concrete for you.

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I am definitely just looking for something short, and just didn't really want to write it myself. I found something I think will work with some minor edits. 

Many cultures worldwide have historically used symbolic face painting, including (but not limited to) NA, Celtic, and African tribes. So I don't see any reason why such a ceremony should be tied to any particular culture other than Scout culture. It seems much safer in terms of not stepping on the toes of people whose culture the participants don't belong to, to just make it about Scouts and not about NA cultures. I was surprised to find that most of the scripts I pulled up on the Web were comparing the Scouts to "braves" and the face painting to a NA ceremony. 😕 

I want a script because with social distancing it's going to be the parent performing the face painting. I don't want to put the mom on the spot to make something up while holding some face crayons in her hand. LOL!

Thanks! I think I've got something now. 

Edited by Liz
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Can't use white-face, black-face or red face.  Why not white-face?  It would offend mimes.  

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Just now, TAHAWK said:

Can't use white-face, black-face or red face.  Why not white-face?  It would offend mimes.  

FWIW - when we did it, it was tied to rank.  We also didn't paint the entire face, more put marks on their cheeks.  Basically, we matched the color of the program:

  • Tiger - orange
  • Wolf - yellow
  • Bear - blue
  • Webelos - green & red
  • AOL - green, red, & yellow

 

 

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Where to begin.  

There's no such thing as culturally neutral.  Everything we do, all of our symbols and ceremonies, occurs in the context of culture.  BSA is awash in cultural appropriation.  Heraldry, uniforms, patrols, salutes, etc. all came from different cultures.  Woodbadge beads?  Appropriation.  Vikings, Trojans, Spartans, Valkyrie patrol patches?  Appropriation.  Heck, the entirety of the Cub Scout rank system, based on the Jungle book, was written by a racist defender of British Imperialism and stereotypes culture.   

Further, appropriation of culture goes way beyond the words.  As you mentioned above, many cultures use face painting for any number of reasons.  Some cultures use face tattoos for similar reasons (face painting is just a temporary version of the same).  Therefore, the very act of face painting, even in complete silence, is potentially appropriative in its own right. 

Our postmodern zeitgeist tells us that it's not the intent of the actor, rather how ones words or actions are perceived, that defines appropriation.  So, even if your Pack comes up with something they all agree is inoffensive (i.e. works for the culture of your Pack), anybody from outside that takes offense at the action has the postmodern moral high ground.  

To be clear, I'm just a stranger on the internet.  I don't really care how your Pack celebrates your scouts and I'm happy that you are in fact celebrating in person.  Just be honest about your reasons for change.  Now, don't get me started on Yankees making grits!  🤣

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1 hour ago, walk in the woods said:

Our postmodern zeitgeist tells us that it's not the intent of the actor, rather how ones words or actions are perceived, that defines appropriation.  So, even if your Pack comes up with something they all agree is inoffensive (i.e. works for the culture of your Pack), anybody from outside that takes offense at the action has the postmodern moral high ground.  

 

Well, maybe "less culturally charged than a script that refers to the young Scouts as 'Braves'" would have been more descriptive of what I'm looking for.

It is true that pretty much everything we do has cultural origins from somewhere. That is unavoidable. But I'm not really worried about a group of white kids (all the families in our Pack currently are as pale as the snow, as the fact is we don't live in a very racially diverse community) doing something that heralds back to Vikings or the ancient Celts. I am concerned about the perception that as we stand on the soil that was previously occupied by the Kalapuya Nation until our own (well, my own) direct ancestors arrived about 170 years ago and displaced them, we specifically call out Native American traditions and pretend that what we are doing is copying what they did, when in fact we haven't done a lick of research, made up the ceremony ourselves, and wouldn't really have any cultural right to use theirs even if we did know anything about what their traditions entailed.

I'm not one to see cultural appropriation behind every rock and bush, but at the same time, I think it's always appropriate to be sensitive to our neighbors.

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My opinion is that generic face painting on toddlers and young elementary kids is face painting. It's fun and they like it. Painting rank or advancement based stripes on kids that are entering the older elementary grades starts to feel a little kitschy to me. 

 

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Because his kids aren’t allowed in classes yet, my son is learning how to make creative videos to give his 10th graders assignments. He is doing Harry Potter characters this month. He was telling me how much fun he is having being creative. I told him now he understands why I had so much fun being a Cub Master.

Cub Scout age kids don’t care about politics, political correctness and so forth. They just like a stories of adventure, fun, and humor. I made a new one each meeting. I invited the parents of different ethnics, races and cultures to help plan them. I made sure the stories were interesting and had a lot of participation for both scouts and parents to wear them out.

Same ideas went behind my Scoutmaster minutes; they had to be under 2 minutes long, interesting, funny, or adventurous. Humor never failed.

Kids will enjoy face painting or anything like that if you make a great story. I had a few Native American stories that were too generic to offend anyone.

You will know if you’re going the right direction when the scouts aren’t talking to their neighbor. And if they do, don’t blame them, just do it better next time. That’s how I learned 2 minutes is max for troop age scouts.

Have Fun being creative.

Barry

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Europeans truly regarded the inhabitants of the New World as scarcely better than wild animals - if that, entitled to own nothing.  our diseases slaughtered indiginous peoples. 

I wonder what the Kalapuya thought of the peoples they drove out of the area  or the slaves that they "owned." They must have regarded them as fellow beings as they allowed for intermarriage and adoption.   Thus, their form of slavery seems to have been far, far less oppressive than American chattel slavery.

https://libraryguides.lanecc.edu/kalapuyaRobert H. Ruby and John A. Brown, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992): at p. 10.

After 1829, the Klickitat Tribe invaded the Kalapuya lands and conquered much of it.

"The numerically lessened Kalapuyans were by 1840 a trivial annoyance to settlers who took their lands and employed them as laborers but did not preserve for them any of their traditional homelands for their villages or for their resources needs. By 1851 there was no land in the Willamette Valley unclaimed by American settlers, who also called for the removal or genocide of all Indian peoples."  https://ndnhistoryresearch.com/tribal-regions/kalapuyan-ethnohistory/

 

Also of interest:  https://www.willametteheritage.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/What-Price-Eden-PDF.pdf

 

 

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13 minutes ago, TAHAWK said:

Europeans truly regarded the inhabitants of the New World as scarcely better than wild animals - if that, entitled to own nothing.  our diseases slaughtered indiginous peoples. 

I

I know the history is problematic. But the fact that indigenous people were here before us is still something that stills my heart and inspires awe, no matter how horrible the history. They were still here. They still need to have their stories told. We are lucky enough to live in an area that has some local history, some of it very colorful. Oral history about trails, encampments, token local characters. I did not like the native American appropriation in the scouting program including OA, but I did try to create a sense of wonder in cubs by taking them out to hike on trails that were here before we were, to see natural artifacts -- boulders that were used as grain mortar sites, lookouts, rumored ghosts, etc. I was not above planting purchased arrowheads in waterways for cubs to "find" on hikes. I can't fix the past. I'm not exactly sure how to appropriately tell the stories today, but I try to create an appreciation for what was lost. 

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On 9/25/2020 at 9:15 PM, Liz said:

... I wouldn't necessarily mind NA references if it was done well, but to avoid even the appearance of cultural appropriation I'd prefer a face painting ceremony script that is culturally neutral. That is what we had - no references to or copies of any specific cultural face painting that I recall...

I would suggest just re-writing it if you can remember any of it. That's what I've been doing for various ceremonies and scripts. I just did the Webelos Tribe story at a den meeting, and I took what i found online and modified the heck out of it.

A lot of this stuff was never official BSA programming, and was just written and/or edited by various scouters over the years. I use those documents as a starting point, but I re-write stuff as needed. Not just for cultural significance but also just to get the right kind of story, ceremony, or script for what I'm trying to do.

I even edit campfire skits, songs, and stories. Not too much that it changes the story, just to personalize it or to get it into a flow or tone that I'm more comfortable with so it sounds more natural. Or to add local flare. When I do the Horrible Pirate story and the narrator says they were down by the docks, I say "down by the [Your Town] Docks" to give it a local reference (and as a bit of added comedy since because we have no bodies of water in or near our town).

My point is, scripts in scouting don't need to be adhered to exactly. These aren't exactly sacred documents, they have already been edited and revised numerous times over the years. Take what you like, remove what you don't, add whatever makes it work better for you.

Same for the face painting. Don't worry about how close it is to whatever your remember being done previously. Ultimately what you want with the face painting is a color that matches rank. Put a couple of bars of the rank color on each kid's face and you're good to go.

Edited by FireStone
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I will admit, the only time I ever did any kind of face painting with my Webelos den was at my first AofL ceremony, and only because I was new, unsure of what I was doing, and cajoled into it begrudgingly by a domineering parent. After that, I asked the kids what they thought of the face-painting tradition. Most were apathetic, two were downright uncomfortable with it, and one was actually afraid and nervous about it, the poor little guy. So I just axed the whole thing! And I never missed it. I HATED face paint of ALL kinds as a kid - and still do (I don't know how the ladies do it every day), so had no qualms about retiring the entire tradition and finding better, more engaging options during my three years as Webelos Den Leader.

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