(04/09/2002)
By Bob Weaver

Charleston Attorney Jim Lees said WVU was making efforts with the USDA to resolve the issues and reverse the decision to remove Native American customs from West Virginia 4-H rituals.

More than 200 4-H children, leaders, parents and Native Americans from West Virginia hired Lees last week to bring a lawsuit against Dr. Larry Cote and the WVU Extension Service. Lees is holding the suit until Wednesday, waiting on responses, after he talked with WVU President David Hardesty.

The WVU Extension Service, according to Lees, did not follow state statues on open meetings and due process.

Lees said 4-H members, current and past, cannot understand what they have been doing that's offensive. Dr. Larry Cote, in a press release, told West Virginia residents 4-H rituals violated the spiritual traditions of Native Americans.

Angry parents expressed concerns about WVU Extension Service bureaucracy last Friday, particularly in relation to services provided to West Virginia children. Kent Carper, a member of the Kanawha County Commission said the agency had outlived its usefulness, although other commissioners said they had good healthy programs.

Many American Indians do not find the 4-H rituals being a problem. Cote and his staff did not consult with 4-H members or leaders before making the decision, which was mostly based on a single complaint from a Roane County 4-H parent.

The WVU Extension Service apparently reacted to what might have been a loss of $4.5 money for 4-H from the USDA.

4-H members, leaders and alumni have generally expressed outrage toward the WVU Extension Service decision, which Cote has said is not reversable.

Numerous residents who have called talk-radio and written to state newspapers, including The Hur Herald, have stated it is political correctness run amock.

WVU did provide budget information regarding the extension service and 4-H budget after a Freedom of Information request.


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