By Bob Weaver|
Abolishing Native American "indian" rituals from the West Virginia 4-H program is receiving
national media attention. Most of the callers to West Virginia's Metro News "Talk line,"
have stated they are former 4-H members, and angry about the change.
One caller said it was "political correctness run amuck." The university generally adopts
politically correct positions, some well-supported and popular positions.
The 44,000 4-H members and volunteer leaders around West Virginia were mostly unaware
of the change until a news release was given the media last week.
The issue originated from a single complaint filed last year with the USDA by a West
Virginia resident who has children in 4-H, according to WVU Extension Service Director
Larry Cote. Cote said the complainant was concerned about behavior in "high council" and
the use of the greeting "how-how," which is mostly based on depiction in Hollywood
Native American groups did not originate the complaints, although they have now been
consulted extensively about the issue.
"We are not responding out of fear, we are trying to do what is right out of respect," said
Cote, although 4-H programs are largely funded through the USDA. Cote indicated the
withholding of federal funds could come into play.
Cote said a long-time 4-H leader said "What I understand about the spiritual issues
connected to Native Americans, I could never run the camp again, knowing this." The
agency said what 4-Her's do around their tribal fire is not modeled after anything the actual
tribes do or have ever done, although those with objections consider it some kind of
"Our program and the Native American customs we have used are well-intended and
well-meaning," said Cote. "But it is important we don't teach children practices that in any
way demean a race, perpetuate stereotypes or trivialize sacred customs."
Cote said the agency is seeking input from 4-H leaders, volunteers and members regarding
The Extension Service and possibly WVU, related to political correctness, instituted a
policy where young people must have written parental consent before they can be
photographed by the media, a position based on a federal law that did not allow children to
be photographed. The law was struck down by the Supreme Court, but WVU continues with
the policy. The policy disallows photos of children at events, sporting activities or camps
which are held in every community. Media pictures have become more controlled, or in
some cases exclusionary.
Possibly not connected to the controversy, Kanawha County commissioner Kent Carper, in
tightening the counties budget, called WVU Extension services a "green acres" program
that amounts to little more than gardening programs for county residents. Opponents of the
agency, which has a long history of service to farm families, have stated it has outlived its
Carper is opposed to spending $107,000 a year on the service, with most information now
available on the internet. The counties other commissioners said the Extension Service
provides some valuable health programs. The Kanawha County Board of Education
contributes $10,000 to the agency, which has a West Virginia budget.
Director Larry Cote's office at WVU Extension Services in Morgantown declined to provide
financial information regarding the agencies over-all budget. After explaining such
information should be readily available to the public, a receptionist stated "They will want
to know why you want that." A Freedom of Information Request has been made.
A few weeks ago a state-wide conference was held at WVU regarding the Freedom of
Information Act, with various officials presenting their views. The conference was held to
enlighten officials about public information responsibilities. WVU has often been charged
with violating the FOIA, including denials issued to the University's own daily newspaper.