(03/31/2002)
By Bob Weaver

Dr. Larry Cote, head of WVU's Extension Service and administrator over West Virginia's 4-H program, told The Hur Herald his department may have made a hasty decision with little consultation with those involved in the grass-roots of the organization.

Cote has told the media the decision is final.

Most of the 44,000 members and 6,000 adult leaders were unaware of administrative changes which caused the dropping of Native American rituals from the program, and few paid administrators linked to the program had knowledge of the concerns.

The WVU Extension Service is developing a feed-back system to create alternative approaches to teaching their members "core-values which have always been associated with 4-H." The long-time rituals were put together by several of 4-H's early founders and have been part of campfires and summer camps over an 80 year history.

The changes were initiated by a single complaint issued to the USDA. Cote was adamant the use of Native American customs by 4-H over an 80 year span was a desecration of spiritual rituals of Native Americans. No Native American group filed a complaint.

Cote said he submitted the rituals to a "national review team" which involved Native American input. He now states there was a second complaint.

Callers on several West Virginia talk-radio programs and numerous letters to state newspapers have been expressing outrage in the 4-H community, many stating the use of spiritual elements of Native American rituals have been an essential part of the 4-H program, and have not been disrespectful.

Cote and his co-workers have drawn the line, taking a politically correct stance on the issue, although he admits the issue is linked to concerns over loss of funding from the USDA.

The WVU Extension Service declined to provide budget information to The Hur Herald last week, an employee stating "They would want to know why you want the information." The Herald has filed a Freedom of Information request.

A seminar regarding the release of public information and the Freedom of Information Act was held at WVU a few weeks ago, to help WVU University and government officials understand the need for openness.

READ "Educated Fools, Ivory Tower Arrogance" under Opinion and Comment


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