(03/26/2002)
Stunned reactions and mixed feelings abound as a result of the WVU Extension Service announcement that they are curtailing the use of Native American Indian customs and rituals at state 4-H summer camps. Even the LA Times have picked up on the Associated Press story.

Kate Burbank, WVU extension agent from Roane County was quoted in the article.

"The change is really going to be very difficult because campers and leaders think we do it out of respect. At no point do we think we are making fun," said Kate Burbank, who has been an extension agent for 32 years in Roane County.

See the full story LATimes

According to a press release by Larry Cote, director of the West Virginia University Extension Service, which is responsible for 4-H in West Virginia. "The use of Native American culture is part of a long-standing and deeply rooted tradition among our 4-H'ers. At the same time, we have listened to some very compelling testimony from Native Americans for whom this use of their culture is offensive and hurtful. We believe that now is the time to change."

Earlier this month, the WVU Extension Service invited a group of national 4-H leaders to review the overall West Virginia 4-H program for the purpose of strengthening it. In the team's preliminary oral report, it offered a number of recommendations, including the suggestion to change the practice of using Native American customs.

West Virginia's 4-H program involves more than 44,000 youth and 6,000 adult volunteers. The program is supported by funding from the United States Department of Agriculture.


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