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Burnside

Use/Abuse of Native culture in Arrow of Light Ceremony

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They have quite the nice faclility there with an impressive display of Eagles over the years. The current governor of Colorado is an Eagle from that troop.

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Welcome, Burnside.

 

I hear what you're sayin', eh?

 

There are indeed some crews and OA chapters (Koshare bein' the preeminent) that do a respectful job at portraying Native American tradition and dance.

 

But the average unit or district who puts on an AOL show with boys dressed in pseudo-indian garb is really workin' off the old white man's odd view of the "noble savages" or whatnot. It tends to be a caricature or "Disney cartoon" version of Indians as Pappy pointed out. I can see where that would be uncomfortable.

 

Rest assured going forward into Boy Scouts the cartoon and caricature elements go away for the most part, so you can think of this as a one-time oddity perhaps. I'd encourage yeh to share your thoughts with the pack committee and CO, though. Sometimes these "traditions" continue (and get more odd) until someone speaks up.

 

Beavah

 

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". It tends to be a caricature or "Disney cartoon" version of Indians "

 

So what? So are the grade school re-enactments of the first thanksgiving. So are the Geico caveman commercials.

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Burnside,

Welcome to the fire!

 

 

Funny, on Saint Patrick's day no one cares how you dress or what shade of green you wear.

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No way am I guilty!!

Cub Scouting and the real Jungle Book,not the Disney movie, did hail from my side of the pond.

But the number of times I have been asked "Do you have Thanksgiving in England?" is almost countless.

My normal reply is "No, we didn't have the Native American Indians, but Englishmen were the first to celebrate it!"

Ea.

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Glad I asked! Interesting responses, I appreciate the information shared. For the record, I never suspected actual intent to offend; yet given the historical relationship between Native Americans and European Americans, I think it is worth thinking about and maybe even challenging tradition.

 

I have to say that, offense or no offense, I remain perplexed by the desire to cling to the fiction ( Disney, as a couple of people put it). Yes, I grew up with the Cowboys and Indians stuff. But my boys have replaced those fantasies with the likes of Star Wars and I think it would be just as ridiculous to have scouts holding Jedi ceremonies (tho my kids would love it). And as far as suggesting that the Disney style portrayal of real live Native Americans is as harmless as the Geico cave men commercials, well, I don't know where to begin.

 

I beleive that knowlege and understanding of history is invaluable. I would welcome more emphasis on real history in scouting ceremonies and activities, and leave the fiction to the campout skits. Old Grey Eagle has some interesting ideas.

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Hold on there Gold Winger, you might be mistaken, weren't cavemen of the Homo erectus or Homo ergaster variety in which case this wouldnt be racism, rather its specism.

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And, (sounding out in full and glorious geekdom)(Hear Samuel L. Jackson as Jedi Master Mace Windu) Why, would it be ridiculous to have a Jedi Crossover ceremony?!

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>>I have to say that, offense or no offense, I remain perplexed by the desire to cling to the fiction ( Disney, as a couple of people put it).

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A couple of thoughts:

 

First off, Akela is the name of the wolf pack leader from R. Kipling's "Jungle Book", thus the use of his name as the cub's authority figure. The role and name of Baloo is also borrowed from that book.

 

The benefit I see from the use of Native American imagery in the AoL ceremony is the way it lifts the event out of the ordinary and mundane. I'm sure if you ask any of the boys, they can tell you that it's all make-believe. But in the moment, they can imagine themselves to be the young hero, being measured and deemed worthy to contimue his quest. And even better, grown-ups who are important to him are participating in the make-believe.

 

As some have already pointed out, there are other traditions and myths that we can pull from to produce this kind of event. But, IMHO, we should be careful to use only those that strongly appeal to the boy's romantic imagination. Because of our popular culture, Native American references appeals strongly to most boys. If you wanted to use Revolutionary War heros (and appealing to military heros has its own pitfalls), I think you'd want to be careful to build an appreciation of that into the program throughout the year. Otherwise, the boys just wouldn't have the internal script to be a part of the make-believe.

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Interesting comment Cheerful Eagle:

 "If you wanted to use Revolutionary War heros (and appealing to military heros has its own pitfalls), I think you'd want to be careful to build an appreciation of that into the program throughout the year. Otherwise, the boys just wouldn't have the internal script to be a part of the make-believe."

     It is unfortunate that you may be right, as there definitely seems to be a really sad lack of knowledge about even basic history or the country among not only the children of today, but their parents. When I was that age, there were many more movies and early TV programs that featured such subjects. Also, a lot of the juvenile literature was fact based historical fiction, and often biographies of early notables in the development of our country. I can remember devouring stories on the building of the Erie and Panama canals, frontier development, revolutionary heroics, and of course the myriad mountain man and sod-buster stories. Even the comics featured these subjects.

     On Tuesday evening, I sat on an Eagle board of review for an 18 year old. He wants to be a historian, and his thoughtful answers reflected his having given serious comparative thought to some current issues. It was refreshing, especially when he brought up the idea that "looking back" helps us to avoid similar mistakes. A simple premise for some of us, but one that seems to me to have been forgotten, especially by many of our esteemed leaders and captains of business.

JMHO

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"Why, would it be ridiculous to have a Jedi Crossover ceremony?!"

 

Indians and knights are and were real people with real traditions and ceremonies based on rights of passage.

 

Jedis (really hate to break this to you) are imaginary people thought up by George Lucas and any ceremonies they have were created for making money.

 

We may not be 100% accurate when we represent Indians or knights but we still honor what their cultures represented.

 

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The reason I posted the question on this forum, at the suggestion of a fellow scout who visits the site, was to learn what I did not know about the use of Native references and ceremonys in scouting, because to my own sensibilities it felt uncomfortable.

 

I appreciate many of the informed responses and was very glad to learn of the partnerships between many scouts and their local Native communities. I hope that is the norm, but I don't know if it is or not, and it seems to me that if we are going to incorporate such important references from another culture (particularly one which our early American ancestors worked so hard to destroy), that it is not out of line or self-serving to ask if there are guidelines for such things. Thanks again to those who offered great information.

 

The discussion seems to be breaking down at this point, so I'll say thanks and sign off.

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I have seen several Boy Scout ceremonies over the years which use a Native American motif, AOL, OA etc... Some very good, some not so good. The intent is not to offend, but to present an example of the simple pride, and respect the early Native American culture had for each other and the earth around them, which was often represented in their dress. Unfortunately, often times the costumes and ceremony are not historically correct, but as a leader do we really have time to put together accurate regalia for one ceremony. We should not worry so much about the presentation, and focus on the meaning of the ceremony, giving boys a sense of pride, history and awareness of the world around them.

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