|A report on the use of Native American themes at West Virginia 4-H camps recommends continuing the system of organizing
campers into one of four tribes and continuing the use of tribal names that have been in place for 80 years.|
The report also
recommends discontinuing practices, such as the wearing of feather headdresses, which could be perceived as stereotypical,
according to a press release.
The 17-page report, based on a six-month review of the 4-H camping program, was released December 16th by the West
Virginia University Extension Service.
The agency's decision earlier this year to eliminate "Indian traditions" brought an outcry from hundreds of people in West
Virginia connected with 4-H, particularly since leaders and members had not been consulted.
Richard Allen, a policy analyst for the Cherokee Nation
and a leading voice on the nationwide American
Indian mascot controversy, has criticized the agency's
determination to use American Indian-based themes in 4-H
camps in West Virginia.
"They may have exacerbated their own problem.
It's a little bit bold. They're
saying they'll drop the most blatant things and keep
the ones they want," said Allen.
The 4-H program, operated by West Virginia
University's Extension Service, has been under
investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
since March, when a Roane County parent
filed a complaint with the department's Civil Rights
Wes Harris, a Roane County farmer and sociologist,
accused the 4-H program of misusing and
misinterpreting American Indian images and trivializing sacred customs.
Harris remains unhappy about the report, and believes 4-H use of "Indian-like" traditions is a civil rights
The USDA provides about $4.5 million in funding annually to the 4-H
program and millions more to WVU, said the civil rights investigation
USDA investigators attended state and county camps this summer to observe
practices and have interviewed 4-H campers, counselors and Native Americans,
4-H leaders simultaneously conducted an eight-month review of their own program,
concluding that the traditions began "to foster a greater understanding of the
Native American culture.
"These traditions, which have been passed from one generation of campers to
another, have become very important to the program's participants and to the
continued success of the program," the report states.
The full report can be found on the WVU Extension Service website, WVU Extension Service
the report will be used in planning for the 2003 West Virginia 4-H camping season.