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Use/Abuse of Native culture in Arrow of Light Ceremony


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#101 NJCubScouter

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 07:21 PM

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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#102 Stosh

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 07:57 PM

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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#103 jwest09

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Posted 31 January 2017 - 09:11 AM

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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#104 krypton_son

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Posted 31 January 2017 - 09:33 AM

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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#105 Stosh

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Posted 31 January 2017 - 11:31 AM

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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#106 Stosh

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Posted 31 January 2017 - 11:40 AM

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.

 

I grew up in an area of heavily Indian influence.  The attitude you indicate here is what I normally get from those I associate with.  For a long time I was confused as to where the "racist" problem was coming from.  It wasn't until I began to see the pattern of a few that grabbed the headlines and raised the consciousness of the masses did I even know racism existed. 

 

I worked in a heavily Indian area for many years during college and developed friendships with many in that area.  I asked them out of curiosity if they all had "Indian names".  Of course they all had Americanized names like John Cloud, etc.  I'm sure the Indian sounding names were all made up, but I pressed on with, what would my name be in "Indian".  They made up some odd name and when I asked what that meant translated, they said Ugly White Man.  That was the end of all my questions.  :laugh:

 

Good times, good memories.


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Stosh

 

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#107 krypton_son

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Posted 31 January 2017 - 12:10 PM

I grew up in an area of heavily Indian influence.  The attitude you indicate here is what I normally get from those I associate with.  For a long time I was confused as to where the "racist" problem was coming from.  It wasn't until I began to see the pattern of a few that grabbed the headlines and raised the consciousness of the masses did I even know racism existed. 

 

I worked in a heavily Indian area for many years during college and developed friendships with many in that area.  I asked them out of curiosity if they all had "Indian names".  Of course they all had Americanized names like John Cloud, etc.  I'm sure the Indian sounding names were all made up, but I pressed on with, what would my name be in "Indian".  They made up some odd name and when I asked what that meant translated, they said Ugly White Man.  That was the end of all my questions.  :laugh:

 

Good times, good memories.

 

Lol, I think that's the attitude of most of us.  We're proud of our heritage but at the same time have learned not to take it too seriously.  Besides, what a lot of people consider to be racist, a lot of others consider playful.  When I look at a pack of Red Man chewing tobacco, I don't see racism, I see a really cool logo that harkens back to my ancestors.  It's funny how the voices of the few are heard so loud in this country and the voices of the masses are quieted to the point of muteness.


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#108 Stosh

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Posted 31 January 2017 - 12:27 PM

My background is Norwegian and I grew up with all the Norski jokes focused on the dim-witted Ole, Sven and Lars.  Of course there was the traditional peasant Lena that kept things exciting.  And yet when all the dust settled, I thought those jokes were extremely funny!

 

My favorite: In light of all the racial slurs and making fun of ethnic groups the politically correct manner in which these jokes are to be conveyed would be to put them into an ethnic group that doesn't exist anymore.  So with that being said.  "Two Philistines walked into a bar one day,  Sven and Ole..... "  :)


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Stosh

 

There's a reason why I don't always answer the phone, doorbell or comments on forums.  :)


#109 krypton_son

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Posted 31 January 2017 - 12:38 PM

My background is Norwegian and I grew up with all the Norski jokes focused on the dim-witted Ole, Sven and Lars.  Of course there was the traditional peasant Lena that kept things exciting.  And yet when all the dust settled, I thought those jokes were extremely funny!

 

My favorite: In light of all the racial slurs and making fun of ethnic groups the politically correct manner in which these jokes are to be conveyed would be to put them into an ethnic group that doesn't exist anymore.  So with that being said.  "Two Philistines walked into a bar one day,  Sven and Ole..... "  :)

 

 

I'll be the first to admit.  I think Indian jokes are funny. 


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#110 EmberMike

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 02:46 PM

There's plenty in OA that for sure doesn't jive with some current views on appropriation. It depends on who you ask whether something is offensive. 

 

I don't think cultural appropriation is a blanket negative, as some folks believe. We're the melting pot of a country that we are because we've appropriated traditions from various cultures around the globe. 

 

The problem with trying to be sensitive to appropriation is that to do it successfully, you'd pretty much have to remove OA from scouting entirely. Every element of it is technically "appropriation", the lore, the stories, the lessons, the ceremonies, the costumes, the objects, they're all "appropriated" from native american culture. And in removing the appropriation, you remove something that, although flawed, does still recognize a culture in a way that most of these kids wouldn't otherwise be exposed to at all. 

 

So it's a question of: Is a display of appropriated culture better or worse than no display of that culture at all? I'm not sure what the answer is. 

 

I think a good way for the OA to move towards a more respectful appropriation of native culture would be to tone it down on stuff that most of the boys don't understand the significance of. I made it as far as Brotherhood and I could never have explained most of what the costumes, face paint, and sacred objects meant. If OA is going to use cultural items, they could do a better job of explaining what they mean. 


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#111 EmberMike

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 02:57 PM

Regarding the original discussion, for AOL ceremonies I just don't think native objects are necessary or helpful. Native culture is critical to OA, it's impossible to have OA without it. 

 

But for AOL, I think there has to be a way to get that same kind of mysterious dramatic effect without digging into native american themes. I mean, that's why we do it, right? It just makes the ceremony cooler, the kids love it, it's what gives OA that added dramatic effect and secret-society feel. Can't we achieve that some other way for AOL? 

 

I'm not saying to do the flaming neckerchief bit either, but just thinking along those lines (and in a safer way). 

 

Unfortunately I don't have an answer for that that other way is. I just think it's do-able if we were to give it some thought and not just resort to native themes. An arrow isn't exclusively a native american device, there has to be another way to work it into a ceremony. 


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#112 Col. Flagg

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 03:00 PM

Other cultural appropriations:

  • St. Patrick's Day. Irish and green beer.
  • Oktoberfest. Everyone in Germany wears lederhosen.  :rolleyes:
  • Mexican Food Chains. As if Mexican food is even close to what you get at On the Border.
  • Chinese Food. See Mexican food entry.

@EmberMike I think you are right. If you borrow from a culture with reverence, you are celebrating it, not desecrating it. 

 

Heck, nearly everything in life is based on something that came before. Even those crying about negative appropriation should realize that often they thing they think is being exploited or illegally borrowed came from some where before that.


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#113 EmberMike

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 04:28 PM

Heck, nearly everything in life is based on something that came before. Even those crying about negative appropriation should realize that often they thing they think is being exploited or illegally borrowed came from some where before that.

 

 

Yep. A few years back I read something about someone complaining about the use of a tomahawk being native appropriation. Little did they know that the tomahawk design most people know was highly influenced by European techniques. Native americans also made them with stone heads until Europeans introduced them to metal blades. And of course long before that, axes in general date back to the stone age. 

 

But sure, it's "appropriation". Right.  ;) Caveman appropriation, I guess. 

 

Obviously there are ways to be disrespectful when appropriating cultural styles and customs. As long as things are done with respect, I don't see the harm in it. I think it's more harmful to avoid cultural references and ignore the ways of people that came before us. But some folks would rather raise their kids unaware that native americans even exist at all, out of fear of appropriating anything. 


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#114 NJCubScouter

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 05:25 PM

This term "cultural appropriation" is something I have not known about for very long, in fact I think I first heard it in this forum.  For those who actually use and it and "mean it", I don't think "appropriation" is meant in the neutral sense, I think it is uniformly meant in the "negative" sense, i.e. appropriation = stealing.  That being the case, I think that what is meant is DISrespectful use of cultural elements, not respectful use.  So drinking green beer on St. Patty's Day if you're Italian or Polish, or eating at Taco Bell if you're Jewish (or, I suppose, eating a bagel with lox if you aren't) is not "stealing" or "disrespecting" anything.  Some uses of Native American cultural elements, may be.  (I express no opinion on the OA, it has been eons since I participated.)


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#115 Back Pack

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 09:00 PM

This term "cultural appropriation" is something I have not known about for very long, in fact I think I first heard it in this forum.  For those who actually use and it and "mean it", I don't think "appropriation" is meant in the neutral sense, I think it is uniformly meant in the "negative" sense, i.e. appropriation = stealing.  That being the case, I think that what is meant is DISrespectful use of cultural elements, not respectful use.  So drinking green beer on St. Patty's Day if you're Italian or Polish, or eating at Taco Bell if you're Jewish (or, I suppose, eating a bagel with lox if you aren't) is not "stealing" or "disrespecting" anything.  Some uses of Native American cultural elements, may be.  (I express no opinion on the OA, it has been eons since I participated.)


You need to spend more time on college campuses. :)

You're disrespecting Mexicans if you call Taco Bell Mexican food. One local college was forced to end their concession contract with them because of such rants from those calling Taco Bell shameful for stealing Mexican heritage. Ironically the reporter covering the protest was of Mexican decent. Had the kids she interviewed had never been to Mexico nor could they identify what was non-Mexican about Taco Bell food.
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#116 Stosh

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 10:21 PM

Hmmm, let me see.

 

Friday night I had fish and I'm not Catholic

Saturday I had an Asian salad and I'm not Oriental

Sunday I had pizza and I'm not Italian

Monday I had goulash and I'm not Hungarian

Tuesday I had fajitas and I'm not Mexican

Tonight I had shish kabobs and I'm not African/Asian

 

I'm going to go to Hell in a basket.  I just can't see me eating hotdogs and hamburgers for the rest of my life..... Oh, wait  Hold the fries!


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Stosh

 

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#117 Col. Flagg

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 11:38 AM

This term "cultural appropriation" is something I have not known about for very long, in fact I think I first heard it in this forum.  For those who actually use and it and "mean it", I don't think "appropriation" is meant in the neutral sense, I think it is uniformly meant in the "negative" sense, i.e. appropriation = stealing. 

 

While I would agree that is what "cultural appropriation" should mean (furthering a negative image of x culture), that is often not the case.

 

Many times people using the term do it for shaming others for using cultural things from a culture of which they are not part...even if those using cultural item are doing so respectfully and correctly. Ironically, it also seems to never apply to western European "cultural appropriations". When's the last time you saw a riot or protest about stereotyping Irish as drunk gingers eating potatoes and fighting all the time? Or Germans as all Nazis or funny costume-wearing people who drink beer and eat sausage all the time.

 

We have a local OA ceremonial team which based their regalia on the local tribes of our area. They even met with members of that tribal group to interview them on what their ancestors wore, how they wore it and why. They even sourced their regalia for an Native American outfitter in the central part of the state, getting the leather, cloth and beads from this company and making sure it conformed to the standards of the local tribe. They even went as far as to learn the dances and songs of the tribe. 

 

What happened? First event (a Webelos crossover) some mom of one of the kids in the pack (we learned later she was from SF and a graduate of either Berkeley or Stanford) complained to the CM and SM how offended she was (as a white person) that the Scouts would "so grotesquely flaunt and denigrate Native Americans" by dressing up and performing as such.

 

What's that they say about "no good deed"?  :rolleyes:


Edited by Col. Flagg, 16 February 2017 - 11:39 AM.

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#118 JasonG172

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 11:56 AM

I love Indian folk lore probably more than most which draws to ceremonies around the native American culture, for he record (not that any of it matters) I have Sioux background. 


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#119 wdfa89

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 12:14 PM

"What happened? First event (a Webelos crossover) some mom of one of the kids in the pack (we learned later she was from SF and a graduate of either Berkeley or Stanford) complained to the CM and SM how offended she was (as a white person) that the Scouts would "so grotesquely flaunt and denigrate Native Americans" by dressing up and performing as such."

 

 

And hopefully, no one gave her an outsized voice and changed one thing which is what seems to happen.  People cower from those squeaky wheels instead of standing up for what they think and that emboldens further "protest" as it is seen as successful.  One should just say thanks for your opinion, we will consider it, maybe even have a discussion at an appropriate time and move on.  If she gets a majority of the troop to agree then so be it.  If not she either accepts or moves on to a troop which fits her sensibilities.  Too often, imo, what hhappens is immediate unconditional surrender in the face of the first loud complaint.


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#120 Col. Flagg

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 01:11 PM

I love Indian folk lore probably more than most which draws to ceremonies around the native American culture, for he record (not that any of it matters) I have Sioux background. 

 

Check out the Kwihadi Dancers if you are ever near Amarillo. I grew up around there. It's on the way to Philmont if you are coming from the east. Pretty cool.

 

And hopefully, no one gave her an outsized voice and changed one thing which is what seems to happen.  People cower from those squeaky wheels instead of standing up for what they think and that emboldens further "protest" as it is seen as successful.  One should just say thanks for your opinion, we will consider it, maybe even have a discussion at an appropriate time and move on.  If she gets a majority of the troop to agree then so be it.  If not she either accepts or moves on to a troop which fits her sensibilities.  Too often, imo, what hhappens is immediate unconditional surrender in the face of the first loud complaint.

 

The pack double-downed and invited them back for a pack meeting. :eek:  :D

 

The woman tried to take over the PC but failed miserably. She left. Good thing because her son was a snowflake ready to melt...and horribly behaved. Never scolded because "he will eventually settle down". Never did.


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