(12/17/2002)
Most American Indian traditions used by West Virginia 4-H clubs are respectful and beloved, but a few that are stereotypical and potentially offensive will be abandoned in 2003, according to a press release from WVU Extension Service.

The use of tribal names — Mingo, Cherokee, Delaware or Seneca — will continue, a review committee announced yesterday.

Face-painting, feather headdresses, "stereotypical motions and dances," and chanting a tribal cheer of "Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!" will not be allowed.

"I believe we have achieved what the thousands of passionate and dedicated West Virginia 4-H'ers asked for: Keep as many of our West Virginia 4-H traditions as possible, and halt anything that might be stereotypical or offensive," said Extension Service Director Larry Cote.

Cote and WVU President David Hardesty ordered the review in April after a Roane County parent complained about some 4-H practices to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office, indicating a violation of civil rights.

Dr. Cote and the Extension Service ordered all "Indian" traditions be eliminated from summer camps last March, after which parents and 4-H'ers around the state protested the move and threatened to bring lawsuits.

Extension employees Dave Snively and Sue Jones led a 40-person advisory committee, spending six months working on the report, which has been sent to the USDA.

"The tribal system of organizing camps is important to the continued success of the program," the report says.

Totem poles at the state camp in Jackson's Mill, erected in the 1920s, also "have historical and artistic significance," and a High Council ceremony is largely educational, the report said.

Children designated as chiefs of their respective tribes will still be allowed to wear felt headbands, and spirit sticks for competitive victories will still be awarded, minus feathers or other decorations.

Campers also may continue using emblems, colors, songs and "most cheers".

The review committee recommends developing a standard 4-H camping guide that describes appropriate American Indian themes and award systems.

Editor's Note: A copy of the report is being obtained by The Hur Herald.


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