Indian Lore has always been popular with boys in Scouting. Even Cub Scouts have adventures to explore this topic. The purpose of Indian lore within the Boy Scouts is not to be like Native Americans, but to enjoy some of their crafts, games, ceremonies, and culture.
Indian lore has been apart of Scouting from the beginning. In 1902, one of BSA’s founders, Ernest Thompson Seton, created a group of young boys called the Woodcraft Indians. Their program was based on American Indian traditions and culture. Upon meeting this group, Baden Powell was strongly influenced and eventually adopted some of their ideas into the Scouting program, merging the Woodcraft Indians into the BSA. Ernest Thompson Seton served as the Chief Scout from 1910-1915.
One of the obvious uses of American Indian culture within the Boy Scouts is the Order of the Arrow (OA). The OA puts a strong emphasis on the use of Native American customs. For example, members of the Order of the Arrow will participate in traditional Indian dances and ceremonies. The purpose is to not make fun of these dances and ceremonies but to instill the strong trait of brotherhood.
Another example would be Cub Scouts. The Cub Scouting program is about 50/50 being based off The Jungle Book and Native American culture. The History of Cub Scouting states, “A strong influence from Kipling’s Jungle Book remains today. The terms “Law of the Pack,” “Akela,” “Wolf Cub,” “grand howl,” “den,” and “pack” all come from the Jungle Book. At the same time, the Gold and Silver Arrow Points, Webelos emblem, and Arrow of Light emblem are taken from our American Indian heritage.”
The Boy Scouts of America encourages complete understanding and full respect of the Native American culture. According to the Guide to Inductions, page 31, it states:
The use of face paint, body paint, and wigs by non-American Indians could be offensive to some groups of American Indian people. Where lodge activities related to ceremony or dance are offensive to local American Indians they must be discontinued by Order of the Arrow members. Appropriate local use is to be interpreted by each lodge based on its relationship with American Indian tribes in the council area. National Order of the Arrow conferences, conclaves and other events conducted beyond the individual lodge will not permit face paint, body paint, or wigs to be used in social or competition dancing or in ceremonies or ceremony team evaluations.
In other words, each lodge and Scouting unit should contact their local American Indian tribes to discuss what would be appropriate and/or offensive. It is highly recommended to build a relationship with your local tribe to truly respect the Native American culture.
The Indian Lore Merit Badge is a great way to get your Scouts to learn about Indian Lore. In this merit badge, Scouts will learn about traditional Native American regalia and games. They could research how specific Indian tribes would hunt, fish, or trap. Scouts could become knowledgable about Indian sign language, songs, Indian leaders, and more. The Indian Lore Merit Badges will take your Scouts on an adventure to discover some of America’s fascinating peoples.
As Scouts, it is your duty to honor the Native American culture. It is important for Scouting leaders (adult and youth) to instill the sense of respect when practicing some of the cultural dances, ceremonies, etc. Remember, the purpose of Indian Lore within the Boy Scouts isn’t to copy their practices but to appreciate them.
What are ways that you and your Scouts respect the Native American culture?