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Use/Abuse of Native culture in Arrow of Light Ceremony


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#81 Jay K

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 10:03 AM

Ripley Rendezvous, Minnesota (Camp Ripley) 2007. Native americans and enthusiasts of other cultures are doing a demonstraton of costumes and competition dancing. They are encouraging middle aged white guys (me) to step into the circle and learn some dance steps. They tell us that in high level competitions that there are wild free form non traditional dancers, and very traditional dancers, and dancers in between, in definite divisions. Not all competitors are Native American. They caution us about doing religous dances,(don't!) but encourage us to dance our hearts out and wear anything we want as celebratory expression. After that, I'll never have a problem with celebratory expression by anyone in any authenticity level of costume. What see in our area is that the ceremony teams grow in authenticity in time, and have an intellectual curiosity about the historical sources of true NA traditions. I've seen OA literature and saw stuff about researching the traditions and types of garb for the tribes that were in your geographical area, and try to create ceremony clothing like that. It works for me. WWW Jay, Brotherhood
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#82 JewishScout

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Posted 04 March 2015 - 12:24 PM

I think this all depends on who is doing the ceremony -- and who is viewing it. When I was growing up on the East Coast I never gave a second thought to the Indian themes because I had never met any Native Americans. Later, when I moved to the Midwest, my awareness was raised. There is a difference between actual Native tribes who sponsor units and use their own ceremonies, and non-Indians trying to do such ceremonies. People might not intend to be offensive but sometimes it does happen. In our pack we have a mixed race family who are part Ojibwa and the boys' mother does NOT like white people dressing up as Indians. She sees it as being like people wearing blackface. I wrote a more universal ceremony based on Jacob's Ladder, which in Jewish mysticism, has seven rungs (similar to the seven chakras, for those of you who know yoga.) They are not exactly the Seven Virtues that some packs use, but similar enough so I was able to combine the two traditions. The arrows we award in our ceremony represent being straight and true -- a good straight arrow hits the target, etc. This is universal enough that everyone can relate to it. I just posted the whole ceremony on my blog at JewishThoreau.com. Feel free to use and/or adapt it. There are alternative Arrow ceremonies out there, if you search the Web you'll find a lot of different ones written by various packs, some serious and some, in my opinion, bordering on the ridiculous. But if it works for them, then why not?. I think the important thing is for it to be meaningful for the boys and the families who are participating. This is something that can only really be decided by your own pack committee.
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#83 NJCubScouter

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Posted 04 March 2015 - 01:09 PM

JewishScout, first of all, welcome to the forums. Interesting account name you have there. I used to be a Jewish Scout myself. (That was so long ago, my patrol leader was Moses. Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week.) Now I am a Jewish Scouter. (Not as a formal title of course; just a Scouter who happens to be Jewish.) I just want to make sure you are aware that you have "resurrected" an old thread here. Which is fine, but some people may have different reactions to it, and if there is not a lot of commentary in response to yours, that may be one reason. This thread was started in 2008, and the last post (before yours) was in 2012. In the first couple of pages I see some names of people who have not posted in this forum in a long, long time. I have not looked at the later pages; who knows, I may be in there somewhere myself. So, as I said, there may or may not be interest in discussing this again. And again, welcome, and I hope you will comment in some of our more recently-started discussions.
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#84 Eagle94-A1

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Posted 05 March 2015 - 09:16 AM

JS, 1) WELCOME TO DA FORUMS! (And yes, that is me screaming at ya in a welcoming manner.) 2) The use of Native American culture in Scouting goes back to the very beginnings of the Scouting Movement in 1907, and some would say even before with Burnhill's influence on B-P, Seton's Woodcraft Indians, etc. 3) The perception of Scouting within the Native American community varies from individual to individual. I've met folks who had reservations about Boy Scouts and their use of Native American culture, and I have had others rejoice and gladly shared with us. See post # 76 for info on how BSA has helped Native American communities. 4) This conversation reminded me of an incident that happened after I wrote that post above. I was asked to teach Indian Lore MB at a merit badge college. Part of the reason I taught the class was OA related as we were trying to re-establish the Lodge American Indian Affairs (AIA) committee. I've found folks get interested in AIA through Indian Lore Merit Badge. I went all out on it. I brought the stuff I made, the reproductions, actual artifacts, everything I owned and some of the OA's stuff too. As Scouts are coming in they are looking at stuff, and you can tell they are really stating to get into it, and I am proud of all the work that went into setting up the room and getting ready for the class. Then a knot got into my stomach, and I felt like a ton of bricks hit me when I saw a Lakota Sioux lady walk into the room. She told me she wanted to see what was involved in doing the merit badge and "audit" my class. Talk about stressful. Here's someone who could not only teach the class, but could do a heck of a lot better job than I could becasue it is her culture! She sat quietly in the back, not saying a word until there was I question I could not answer, and stated as such. Then she raised her hand, asked if she could answer it, and then proceeded to answer the Scout's question ( that's how I found out she was Lakota). She then sat down and continued to say nothing. After class we talked. She told me she signed up to be a MBC for the merit badge, but wanted to see what the BSA was teaching, and what was expected of her as an MBC. She was impressed by what I knew and taught the kids. But more importantly she was impressed by my honesty in saying that I don't know answers, and how I suggested the Scouts look for the answers themselves (go to a powwow or other cultural event, being respectful, offering a small gift of tobacco to an elder to answer the question, and be willing for the elder to not answer the question if it involved religious or cultural significance). Her biggest concern was one you indirectly expressed, the notion of "Hollywood Indian" stereotypes of the 1950s and 60s. She saw that in Cub Scouts and wanted to know if that was something the BSA taught. She was glad she could teach the right way to do things.
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#85 NJCubScouter

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Posted 05 March 2015 - 10:10 AM

...and how I suggested the Scouts look for the answers themselves (go to a powwow or other cultural event, being respectful, offering a small gift of tobacco to an elder to answer the question, and be willing for the elder to not answer the question if it involved religious or cultural significance).


Um... a person who has no Native American ancestry whatsoever is respectfully raising his hand with a couple of questions.

Are you also telling the Scouts that the actual obtaining/purchasing of the tobacco products, as well as carrying them and handing them to the elder, should be done by an adult who has accompanied the Scouts to the cultural event?

Is there some other acceptable gift item, one that would be appropriate for a Scout to obtain and possess?

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#86 Twocubdad

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Posted 05 March 2015 - 10:46 AM

Slowly shaking my head.... It's not like a kid is going to take a pack of Camels out of the smokes pocket on his uniform sleeve, shake up a couple of coffin nails and light up with the guy... NJ, I absolutely get your point and understand the potential firestorm which could arise from kids presenting a gift of tobacco to an elder, but how sad is that. It would be like your inviting my family to Seder and me making a fuss of my children to sipping the wine. OBTW, in my tribe/clan the elders prefer gifts of single-malt whisky.
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#87 Stosh

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Posted 05 March 2015 - 10:56 AM

It only goes to show how ignorant people appear when they try to duplicate the norms of another society when they are imitating stereotypes. There has to be a better way of presenting the program without exploiting others. Stosh
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#88 Eagle94-A1

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Posted 05 March 2015 - 01:57 PM

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, but harder to get. Alcohol is a no-no, but other drinks and food are OK.
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#89 NJCubScouter

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Posted 05 March 2015 - 08:52 PM

Slowly shaking my head.... It's not like a kid is going to take a pack of Camels out of the smokes pocket on his uniform sleeve, shake up a couple of coffin nails and light up with the guy...

NJ, I absolutely get your point and understand the potential firestorm which could arise from kids presenting a gift of tobacco to an elder, but how sad is that. It would be like your inviting my family to Seder and me making a fuss of my children to sipping the wine.


TwoCub, it probably is not the first time I have caused people someone to slowly shake their head on the subject of tobacco and/or smoking in this forum, and it probably won't be the last. I realize I am somewhat of a "hard-liner" on the subject.

I am not suggesting there would be a "firestorm." (Where there's smoking there's a firestorm? I'm so funny.) And I don't know what the Scouts are going to do. I was basically just asking whether there are alternatives.

As for my family's Passover Seder, the children are provided with grape juice when it's time to drink the "wine." (I didn't come up with that, it was the custom in my family from before I was even around to drink the grape juice.) If an older teenager wanted a sip of actual wine, it wouldn't be a problem. But that's a controlled situation, in private, at home. And the person who bought the wine is of legal drinking age.

I really didn't mean to make a "big deal" out of this. It just sort of struck me as odd. But I also appreciate Eagle providing the information about this Native American custom, of which I was not aware previously.
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#90 Twocubdad

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Posted 05 March 2015 - 09:12 PM

I'm with you. I'm mostly just bustin' you chops.
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#91 Rick_in_CA

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Posted 06 March 2015 - 01:49 AM

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, but harder to get. Alcohol is a no-no, but other drinks and food are OK.


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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#92 Eagle94-A1

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Posted 06 March 2015 - 09:12 AM

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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#93 Respectful

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Posted 27 January 2017 - 11:55 AM

Please see this Native American's reply to a similar ceremony: http://lastrealindia...heebeegay-ikwe/.

 


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#94 Stosh

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Posted 27 January 2017 - 02:50 PM

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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#95 Chadamus

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Posted 27 January 2017 - 06:08 PM

Please see this Native American's reply to a similar ceremony: http://lastrealindia...heebeegay-ikwe/.


While the link is not exactly applicable to the title of this thread, it's interesting to read one opinion on the OA.
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#96 qwazse

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Posted 27 January 2017 - 08:23 PM

@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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#97 Stosh

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Posted 27 January 2017 - 08:28 PM

Oops, @Respectful sorry, I missed it was your first post.  Welcome to the forum and thanks for a good first post.


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#98 Chadamus

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 12:34 AM

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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#99 qwazse

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 09:17 AM

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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#100 Stosh

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 09:38 AM

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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