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Burnside

Use/Abuse of Native culture in Arrow of Light Ceremony

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It's heartening to read comments from Scouters who agree, even if for different reasons, that Scouts and Scouters should de-emphasize or drop many "playing Indian" activities and traditions.

 

"Play Indian" at all, and you'll offend someone regardless of what pains you take not to. The eager to be offended will go far out of their way to experience the exquisite frisson of victimhood or preening self righteous indignation on behalf of supposed victims.

 

So don't stop "playing Indian" because it offends. Stop it because it's absurd to mark high points in our lives with ritual and pageantry rooted in beliefs and culture the likes of which most of our ancestors quit millennia ago as they developed the better way of life we enjoy today.

 

It's not some unintentional discourtesy or unkindness that's the problem. It's inappropriate reverence. Pre-Columbian North American cultures include useful examples of crafts and skills useful in survival, camping, and outdoorsmanship. It's interesting stuff and being historically informed is fine. But let's not make it a fetish.

 

If we must "play Indian," make it fun, not serious ceremony. Cheerfully ignore calls to make pseudo-Indian pageantry reverent or authentic. Maybe as a courtesy, refrain from using any real tribe's name. Heck, you could, without even knowing it, be coming close to emulating your own ancestors... even if you are 100% Caucasian.

 

That's because Native Americans aren't unique in having ancestors that... lived like Indians. We ALL have ancestors like that. Our way of life today differs from that of our distant ancestors because at many points throughout history they changed their ways as they discovered and invented better ways, or learned that some beliefs and practices were erroneous, harmful, or irrelevant, or they were conquered and assimilated into more advanced civilization. Native Americans don't own all primitive cultural territory just because their genetic ancestors lived that way more recently than other folks.

 

Imagine a self professed "full-blooded" European Caucasian (or even a 1/10 blooded European Caucasian - claiming to be just white enough to feel he owns some share of the legacy) presuming to take on the role of cultural policeman to regulate the participation of non-Caucasians in Renaissance Fair type activities... imagine him warning Native Americans that they'd better not offend any European Caucasian sensibilities... that they'd better make sure any imitations of "white" custom is done in an authentic and respectful way. Or imagine him telling them on behalf of "his people" that Native American participation in Renaissance Fair activities was offensive to white people. Let's say he's a descendent of Leonardo Da Vinci... do we need his approval to costume ourselves as a Renaissance Italian from Vinci? Humbug.

OK, no BillyBob da Vinci costumes then.

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Eng - I'm sure there are Trekkie who wold take offense at your suggestion.

 

Written on the elevator in my college dorm: "Beam me up, Jim"

Written the next day: "Scotty does the beaming you moron."

 

I am really impressedd with the whole PC approach that teaches "Don't do it at all."

Sure beats wasting time telling a cub to "Do your best."

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Johnponz writes, "My understanding is that the ceromonies have been clreared by rerpresentatives of the Indian tribes. If they have cleared them why do we all have a problem with them. Seems like a bit self rightous to me. "

 

That nonsense is repeated over and over again, and its the same logic that the US Government used to take their land in the first place. "We spoke to that guy over there, and he says it's OK. The rest of you are just malcontents."

 

We did a bobcat ceremony years ago where the den leader put yellow and blue stripes on the boy's cheeks. The boys loved it. The OA played their drum.

 

Oops: One of the boys was a pure native american. His mother was furious. After the ceremony, she was literally in tears. The face painting is religious for them. Their nation never had drums in their culture. The boys were dressed up like an enemy nation of the their tribe.

 

Her words: "How would you like it if we peed on a bible in our tribal meetings? Or how about if we dressed up like Nazis and had a club that your children were invited to join at school where one of us dressed up like Hitler?"

 

Regalia quality and ceremony acting quality have nothing to do with anything. Adults vs. Kids is also irrelevant. What matter is that white guys are dressing up like they are characters from many different civilizations we destroyed.

 

It isn't like dressing up like police officers or soldiers, knights or jedi, or other generalized roles which existed across cultures. We're picking a nation of people, and mocking them.

 

 

Whether you intend to honor them or not, it is still mocking them. You say you can make the regalia accurate? I doubt any chief of any nation in the world would look at it and say, "Yep, this is a great idea. Look at this cool stuff. Definitely. Right on, brother. Way to go."

 

There's no need for indians at an AOL ceremony. Ever. You guys defending this practice sound like the Southerners who defend the rebel flag. *redneck accent* "It's our history! You'll take it from my cold dead fingers!"

 

A Mohawk had great comments about it here: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090925215755AANYIPP

 

BSA's membership numbers continue to plummet from year to year because BSA is more and more seen as a group of country, overweight bubbas and far right wingnuts.

 

Not all of us are like that. Some of us understand the difference between our own selfish fun and being sensitive and courteous and kind to others around us by not dressing up in costumes that mock them.

 

(This message has been edited by BSA24)

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>>BSA's membership numbers continue to plummet from year to year because BSA is more and more seen as a group of country, overweight bubbas and far right wingnuts.

 

Not all of us are like that. Some of us understand the difference between our own selfish fun and being sensitive and courteous and kind to others around us

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I saw Michael Moore speak a long time ago. I think while the OJ trial was going on. While I agreed with some of what he said politically he was a real rude jackalope; very rude and condescending to everyone who asked questions.

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See I've had the complete opposite expereince. As a youth in the OA, we actually had someone from the local nation come out and help us restart our dance team, and helped us with getting period regalia made for our ceremony teams. We also helped them out by passing information to folks about them since they are in the process of getting federal recognition.

 

When I attended NOAC, we had Native Americans present, teaching classes, and judging dance competitions, including the head man of the Ponca Hethuska Society.

 

At 2 seminars I attended, we also had local Native Americans present.

 

When I did a Indian Lore MB class, I had a leader who was a full blood Native American sitting in the class as she wanted to find out what exactly we were teaching, and how she should go about doing the merit badge as she just signed up to be a MBC for it. I admit I was a little nervous with her there, after all there were over 400 different tribes in North America with different beliefs, customs, and traditions and I didn't want to offend her. But one of the best moments for me was having her come up after the session and start talking about how she was surprised and glad that the class was as good as it was. Another plus was that she also like some of the regalia I made.

 

And I found out last year, one of the local drums was started at the council camp. Now I knew they were friendly with the lodge, the AIA adviser is very well known locally and two of our members sing with the drum. But I didn't know how strong the connection was until I was talking to the head singer after his Ordeal.

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With the decline of Cowboys and Indians on TV, and the politically correct types deriding BSA/OA using an interpretation of Indian Lore to inject mysticism into our ceremonies; what will be left to mark the passing of Native Americans?

 

I'm certain that the Cherokee don't want to be remembered as the 'drunks who own the casino'.

Once they all get stirred into the great melting pot, nobody will care...

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...what will be left to mark the passing of Native Americans?

 

I would not worry to much about that. I say that because more and more folks are embracing their heritage. You have more groups receiving state recognition and fighting for federal recognition. Powwows, which were traditionally a Western thing are now spreading all over. Nations that have lost elements of their culture are now pursuing it, and sometimes using Arrowmen and former Arrowmen, to help in the process.

 

Now in regards to having ceremonies cleared, only the nationally mandated ones, i.e. Pre-Ordeal, Ordeal, Brotherhood, and Vigil, have been approved. I know at one time national had a recommended Call Out Ceremony, but I do not know if it was approved or not.

 

 

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I recommend the OA spend time researching of the Native American Tribe the OA was trying to emulate when it was founded in 1915. The tribe or nation were the Delaware Indians.

 

Quote: "We did a bobcat ceremony years ago where the den leader put yellow and blue stripes on the boy's cheeks. The boys loved it. The OA played their drum."

 

Regarding the cub scout Bobcat rank, I'm not sure why anyone would use a Native American ceremony. The ranks used in Cub Scouts (Bobcat, Tiger, Wolf, and Bear) are based on characters from the Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling. The symbols and ranks used in Cub Scouts have nothing to do with Native American lore. Further, the symbols and ranks used in Boy Scouting have nothing to do with Native American Lore.

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>>Regarding the cub scout Bobcat rank, I'm not sure why anyone would use a Native American ceremony. The ranks used in Cub Scouts (Bobcat, Tiger, Wolf, and Bear) are based on characters from the Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling. The symbols and ranks used in Cub Scouts have nothing to do with Native American lore. Further, the symbols and ranks used in Boy Scouting have nothing to do with Native American Lore.

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Jeff,

 

At one point, and please someone with a little more knowledge on OA history expand if possible, the OA encouraged folks to research and look into using local nations. I think it was the 1920s or 30s.

 

I do know most lodges names haev something to do with the local nations, whether historic or current. For example, Chilantkoba mean Brown Pelican in Choctaw, and that lodge uses an English-Choctaw dictionary when selecting Vigil names. Occoneechee Lodge is named after a local nation, which subgroups still live in the area.

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>> The reputation of the American Indian early culture is one where man lives harmoniously together with nature. That part of their culture allows us to blend the traditional of the scout program with the mystic of nature.

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BSA,

 

I go ahead and respond to those comments I can.

 

OA members don't know. They are not anthropologists.

 

Actually some Arrowmen are anthropologists, archeologists, and historians. I know someone who last time I talked to him was almost finished his MA or MS, and was looking forward to his PhD in anthropology. He got his interest in anthropology from studying NA culture and dancing. Since I talked to him over 5 years ago, I am assuming I can call him "Doctor" next time I see him. He's active in the OA: doing seminars, and teaching classes at NOAC, etc.

 

Another Arrowman I know was an archeology grad student with an interest in NA culture, again from being in the OA. When I met him, he had a dream job: he was teaching Archeology MB at summer camp and doing some advance work for a possible dig. The school had been trying to get permission to do a dig at the camp. When Archeology MB came out, he got permission from the council to do some preliminary work as part of the MB program. So not only did he get paid, he also got college credit since it was a field project.

 

 

I know I was history undergrad and took a course on LA colonial with an emphasis on NA-European relations. When I went to grad school for the history MA, I took a seminar I course on US colonial history, and focused on NA-European relations. Did a whole bunch of research on that and was planning to do the thesis on it, when it was announced that the prof doing the course was not going to offer the seminar II course, nor advise students as she been promoted within the department and had new responsibilities. And guess where that interest came from...Scouting and the OA.

 

OA people are helping native tribes regain lost culture? That's ridiculous. Please name the tribes doing this. I will definitely call their tribal office and ask them if they have sought out help from the Boy Scouts on understanding their own heritage and laugh my head off in unison with the person at the other end of the line.

 

United Houma Nation, and a book on their history mentions non-Native helping them out is The Houma People of Louisiana: A story of Indian Survival by Bowman, Greg and Curry-Roper, Janel. There was a journal article that came out prior to their book by these two authors that was copied and passed out at the 1994 NOAC. While they did not seek OA and BSA help i the matter, nor are the OA and Boy Scouts are not mentioned by name in the article and book, a lot of folks who have helped them in this process have strong Scouting and OA connections. When you call them, make sure to ask them about Jack Heriad. He's an Arrowman who produces Whispering Wind Magazine and a founder of LIHA. He's been one of those who have helped the Houma out.

 

Also when I was planning on doing a thesis on Houma-European relations, the real reason for it was to try and find any possible information that may have been missed or overlooked. Had a good discussion with one of their former council members on the research I did, but the bulk of it was pretty much already known. And a lot of other have also helped out.

 

I cringe every time I see OA doing native stuff. I've been in it a long time. I love the service. I love the people. The ceremonies, drums, and dancing make me embarrassed for the people doing it just like watching people fall on their faces in fail videos makes me embarrassed for those people.

 

Yes I can relate to a degree as I too cringe when I see poor ceremony teams. Even folks who know better sometimes don't do the right thing in regards to ceremony teams, and part of it is expense, part of it is that alot of folks want the "Hollywood Indian" and will confront you if you do not meet the stereotype, and some of it is pure laziness on the ceremony team.

 

But when you see a ceremony team that does their homework....WOW.

 

As for the singers and dancers, well if the NAs I dance with at powwows are OK with me in regalia and dancing, then what the problem? Ditto with the drum that has accepted 2 of our Arrowman onto their drum, If they don't have a problem why should anyone else?

(This message has been edited by Eagle92)

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