A 4-H alumni group in West Virginia is reportedly taking legal action against WVU Extension Service Director Larry Cote and his agency. The agency recently declared native American imagery and rituals would be removed from the state's 4-H program, a tradition which is part of the organizations 80 year history.

The West Virginia 4-H All-Stars, a large group of volunteers and alumni, is seeking legal counsel and will attempt to get an injunction against the decision.

Cote and extension service administrators made the decision with little or no consultation with the states 44,000 4-H members and 6,000 volunteers.

Hundreds of current and former 4-H members and associates have become outraged over the decision, most claiming there is little to support a violation of Native American rights.

Cote says the program violates the spiritual traditions of Native Americans. His decision to drop the rituals was based on a single complaint from a Roane County resident. His decision may have been made in fear of losing $4.5 million in USDA funding, although USDA did not threaten to do so.

Debbie Bostic, a member of the West Virginia Native History Council, said 4-H is a valuable resource for West Virginia children. She expressed dismay over the Extension Service interviewing four Native Americans from elsewhere, when there are 3,000 Native Americans in West Virginia who would have helped with the problem.

Bostic said "I was offended by the implication the entire Native American community raised concerns with the practices."

Sheryl Hyden Sergent, a Roane County 4-H volunteer, said she is upset the Extension Service kept the complaints a secret for too long. "I think we have always used the traditions in a positive way," she said.

The WVU Extension Service declined to respond to public information requests by the Hur Herald regarding issues related to political correctness and general budget information about the agency. A worker at the agency said "They would want to know why you want the information," when faced with a Freedom of Information request.

They continue to be unresponsive, which is a violation of the FOIA law in West Virginia.

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