(06/15/2005)
A federal investigation has cleared West Virginia's 4-H program of allegations that it practiced discrimination.

The charges said 4-H had misused and misinterpreted American Indian customs at its summer camps.

The US Department of Agriculture's Office of Civil Rights found no violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The WVU Extension Service changed many of 4-H's longtime traditions following the complaint, which was filed by Roane County resident Wess Harris in 2001. Harris had a daughter in 4-H.

WVU Extension officials said they were concerned about losing five million dollars a year in USDA funding, if the complaint was sustained.

Debbie McDonald says the extension service took a hard look at the program and stopped using material that could not be authenticated.

"We honor the tribes that used to have hunting lands here in West Virginia and those tribes are the ones that our young people belong to with those tribe names. That's Mingo, Cherokee, Seneca, Delaware," says McDonald.

The issue was viewed by some 4-H members as making the changes to be politically correct.

4-H camps draw about 12,000 children to more than 90 state-and county-run facilities.


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