SCOUTS AND INDIANS
The Boy Scouts of America is an offshoot of the British Boy Scout Association, founded in 1908 by Lord Robert S. S. Baden-Powell (1857-1941). First Baron of Gilwell, and British general. Known as "the Hero of Mafeking,"
Baden-Opwell became famous for his participation in the Boer War, where
he first witnessed African military scouts engaged in outdoor skills.
Upon returning to England, he founded Scouting, soon to become the
largest international youth organization.
significant was the woodcraft League of America, established in 1902 by
Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946), a Canadian naturalist, author, and
illustrator. Seton (who had changed his name from Earnest Seton Thompson
in 1901) was married twice, his second wife being Julia M. Buttree, who
wrote The Rhythm of the Red Man (1930), one of the earliest books on
American Indian music and dance to be adopted by the Scouts.
after the BSA's founding, the Indian Lore merit badge was created and
proved to be one of Scouting's most sought-after awards. The
establishment of this merit badge was perhaps the first straightforward
attempt in the United States to teach young boys about the native
history of their own regions, as well as something about native material
culture, songs and dances, and languages.
the first official Handbook for Boys, second in popularity in the United
States only to the Bible, contained a section called "American Indian
Craft," which instructed readers on how to make a tipi, moccasins,
tom-toms, and bows and arrows.
In 1920, he organized the American Indian activities at the first World Scout Jamboree in England. These were considered one of the most dramatic elements in the program and were included each year thereafter. He also organized the Indian program at the first American Boy Scout Jamboree.
later built two Indian museums: one at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, which
was destroyed during the occupation of 1973; and a second at Medora,
North Dakota, a community he was identified with until he died.
The "Arrow," comprising older Boy Scouts who are elected to this national camping fraternity by their nonmember colors, continues to focus on Indian themes at biennial conferences, where local lodges compete against each other during an Indian pageant.
Initiation into the Arrows is secret and is usually done at summer camp,
where boys physically trapped out by an Indian runner are required to
stay in the woods alone as part of their initiation.
The most sophisticated book on Indian crafts, The Book of Indian Crafts and Indian lore (1928), was written by a Scout executive, Julian H. Salomon. Walter "Whittlin'" Ben Hunt wrote Indiancraft (1942) as well as numerous articles in Boys' Life, the official Scout magazine, a position he shared with other prominent authors such as the ethnologist George Bird Grinnell and the Dakota physician Charles A. Eastman (Ohiyesa) Bernard S. Morison, whose Camp Fairchild because the center of Indian activities for Wisconsin Scouts, wrote the influential Dancers and Scouts of the American Indian (1944) and The Book of Indian Crafts and Costumes (1946).
forty years during the early twentieth century another Scouter, Carl
Parlasca, directed an Indian pageant, based on Longfellow's poem "The
Song of Hiawatha," at Elgin, Illinois.
of new publications appeared, beginning with The American Indian
Hobbyist (1954), established by Norman Feder; American Indian Tradition
(1960), under the editorship of Richard R. McAllister, followed, as did
Powwow Trails (1964), founded by William K. and Marla N. Powers;
American Indian Crafts and Culture (1967), edited by Thomas H. Stewart;
and finally, Whispering Wind (1967), edited by Jack Heriard and still in
circulation. ALl were founded by former Scouts.
During this same decade, the Boy Scouts of America also placed some emphasis on employing American Indian para-professionals to Scouting on Indian reservations and communities.
A national council on Scouting continues to promote Scouting for Indians.
these prominent American Indian leaders serving on the National
Committee on Scouting for American Indians in the past have been the
Honorable Brantley Blue (Lumbee), commissioner of the Indian Claims
Commission; Louis Bruce (Lakota-Mohawk), the first American Indian to
serve as Commissioner of Indian Affairs; and the Honorable Ben Reifel
(Lakota), the first American Indian to serve as a U.S. congressman.
Below are Links to Native American History Pages