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Burnside

Use/Abuse of Native culture in Arrow of Light Ceremony

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I was taught the gift is a sign of respect and it's good manners to do. I was told pipe tobacco is the best gift as there are religious and purification uses for it. Sweetgrass is another item that is good to get' date=' but harder to get. Alcohol is a no-no, but other drinks and food are OK.[/quote']

 

You were taught this for which tribes?

 

Understand that there is no "Native American Culture", just lots of native tribes with different cultures. While some tribes value tobacco, in others tobacco has no traditional role. The traditions of a Salish tribe in the northwest maybe very different from the traditions of a Creek tribe from the east coast, or a Lakota tribe from the plains.

 

I remember in school being taught about "Native American" religion, and culture. It was presented as "Indians believed X, or did Y", not "this tribe believed X or did Y". They tended to lump all Native Americans into one generic stereotype "Indian" culture. That is something we have to be careful about not doing.

 

The "Hollywood Indian" stereotype is heavily based on the plains and east coast cultures (feather head dresses, teepees, tomahawks, etc.). One of the sad things about the destruction of native culture, is that for many Native Americans, the "Hollywood Indian" is mostly what they know of their "history". Plus some modern cultural "artifacts" are imposed from outside. For example, some tribes had no concept of a "blood" requirement to be a member. You were a member of the tribe if the tribe said you were (according to a Lakota friend of mine, the Lakota were like that. They got the concept of being a "blood member" from the white man - see the Dawes Act).

 

One of my best friends is a Lakota Sioux from South Dakota. He grew up on the Rosebud reservation. The Sioux are lucky, they have a large tribe that was conquered late in the game, and a lot of their culture is intact (religious, linguistic, social, etc.). Many of the other tribes in the country weren't as lucky. Here in California, a lot of the tribes have lost their language, their religion, and most of their culture. Some of the tribes where completely wiped out and all we have left of them are some names. So there is a lot of cultural borrowing going on between tribes as they try to "fill in some of the blanks".

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Rick,

 

You are so correct in that there are over 500 different Native American cultures. And each has their own beliefs, customs, etc. Sorry if I generalized. I know better. Also please bear with me if I use poor wording below. I am not rying to denigrate or lessen the significance of anything. It's just my brain is frozen form all the snow and I can't think properly at the moment. ;)

 

Originally I learned from the Houma of SE Louisiana, but the concept of gifts has been reinfoced here is NC with the Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, etc.

 

One of my theories, and again this is my theory based upon powwows, why alot of cultural borrowing occured is because of WWII. A large percentage of Native Americans served, and met folks from all over the US. That included other Natives. Powwows is a Plains activity, and other areas really didn't really do. When folks returned home from the war, friends would maintain contact and visit each other. the concept of the powwow spread and was modified over time. I've seen this in some of the differences between powwows in Louisiana and in NC.

 

As for losing culture, religion, and language, a very good case study on that is the Houma. The French Jesuits did a very good job of converting them to Catholicism. They also did a great job of teaching them French. During the Spanish and US colonial periods, French-speaking traders almost exclusively worked with the Houma. A lot of the elders when I was there spoke only French, and today many speak French and English. I also have one of their histories that is written in English and... French.

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OA may think it okay NOT to wear war paint, but wearing a war bonnet is just fine.  Won't be long before some activist will do a number on OA and that, too will become a thing of the past.

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@@Respectful, welcome to the forums!

Do you know if the article is recent? It doesn't have a date, and he material referenced is 6 years old. I wonder if anything has changed in response to it.

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Do you know if the article is recent? It doesn't have a date, and he material referenced is 6 years old.

July, 2014. Recent? No.

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July, 2014. Recent? No.

I would consider that recent enough. The follow-up would be interesting. Four years later ...

Is the writer's boy still in scouts?

Has he considered joining O/A or is the sense of appropriation too offensive to him?

Have they talked with their tribal elders about how they should react to this?

Did the lodge make any adjustments?

Are things better, worse, the same?

 

Side note: last meeting the troop had a visit by a local amateur historian who ended with the story of the chief who is our township's namesake ... a very interesting piece of local history that would otherwise be forgotten.

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The local tribes in our area seem to be more concerned about the operation of their many casinos than they do about their heritage.  Things have changed a lot in the past 50 years.

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The local tribes in our area seem to be more concerned about the operation of their many casinos than they do about their heritage.  Things have changed a lot in the past 50 years.

One thing that has changed in the last 50 years, for the better, is that there is a lot less tolerance for the kind of ethnic stereotyping that you just did.

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I think those who grew up in certain ethnic areas understand the struggle. It makes one more sensitive to the situation and very difficult to break down the stereotypes. It is difficult to educate those who don't want to be.

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I think those who grew up in certain ethnic areas understand the struggle. It makes one more sensitive to the situation and very difficult to break down the stereotypes. It is difficult to educate those who don't want to be.

 

When having difficulty getting a point across, its always easier to blame your audience - maybe assuming they don't "want to" learn, or maybe assuming they are incapable of learning due to lacking your own first hand experience.  Its much more difficult to look inward and evaluate both the legitimacy of your argument, and the effectiveness of your communication.

 

There's also the clear logical fallacy in trying to diminish the relevancy of one issue (ie, cultural appropriation), because of an unrelated issue (ie, casinos).

 

While I can appreciate the validity of concern surrounding cultural appropriation, I would argue that, if and when the OA does dissolve, it would be wrong to blame cultural appropriation as the main reason.  In my own experience with the OA, which now comprises several decades, chapters and councils worth of exposure, there seems to be a consistent disconnect between the OA's programming, and what the teenage boys of today resonate with, and find fun and interesting.  Not to say that the cultural appropriation question shouldn't be explored and resolved... but be careful of using that as a scapegoat for why the OA is falling out of favor.

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I attended my son's Arrow of Light ceremony and was surprised and somewhat disturbed to see that the ceremony included Boy Scouts dressed up and identified as Akela, Medicine Man etc. Complete with feathers and beating drums, the "Akela" pretended to inspect each arrow (made by machine I'm sure and decorated by parents via a kit) and declare it "worthy" or not. For an organization which requires respectful behavior from the scouts, I am confused and frankly a bit ashamed. I think if I were a Native American, I would be quite offended by this farce. Additionally, after years of our boys visiting museums and police stations and battleships to understand the world around them, why conclude their scouting chapter with such a fictional ceremony ... fictional Akela pretending to inspect store bought arrows etc. These young men do not require such folly, it teaches them nothing of actual Native culture ... which would be interesting for them to learn by the way ... and devalues the sacred symbols of other cultures. Is this condoned by the BSA?

 

I have no idea why you would be offended in any way.  I'm Native American (or as I like to call myself, an Indian) and I love that the BSA and Order of the Arrow honor my people in so many ways.  I get so sick of people screaming racism and bigotry when there isn't any.  I've seen and participated in many Arrow of Light and Order of the Arrow ceremonies where people of all races and backgrounds have dressed up like Indians.  They work hard to have authentic (or at least, good looking) regalia and work even harder at memorizing the lines and learning the characters.   There is no bigotry to be found in it.  Completely the opposite.  There is a lot of reverence and respect that these kids put into this.  I think it's great.  By the way, I'm also a fan of the Washington Redskins and the Atlanta Braves, and I have never met another of my kind that is offended in any way by them.  Although I'm sure there are some thin red-skinned among us that are.  Next time you see them do a ceremony dressed in amazing regalia, thank them for it and enjoy it.

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Maybe with today's culture of super heroes the OA might want to consider going this route.  After all they are supposed to be the exemplary scouts of the council.  Maybe the Indian theme is outdated and no longer intrigues the boys.  It surely doesn't do much for our boys beyond the sash and dash routine of today.

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