By Elvyn Jones
From the feathered roach that topped his head to the leather fringed moccasins on his feet, Robinson was a moving tribute in color, feathers and beadwork to the Native American warriors of the Great Plains.
But the 20-year-old Basehor man doesn’t consider himself a Native American. Robinson said he had a smattering of Native American blood in his family tree, as do many Americans whose ancestry stretches back through multiple generations. His seven-year interest in Indian dance and culture stemmed from his Boy Scout days and his association with the Mike Henre family of Tonganoxie.
Henre is president of the Indian Council of Many Nations, which sponsored the weekend powwow, and scoutmaster with Tonganoxie Boy Scout Troop 357. Scouting and interest in Native American culture are natural partners with Scouting’s Order of the Arrow national honor society and the regional Mic O Say honor society, he said.
Henre said his son Chester (who rarely dances now because of an injury) taught Robinson the intricacies of the traditional dance performed at powwows.
His regalia wasn’t inspired by any one tribe but instead reflected his personal preference of styles from different tribes, Robinson said.
The effect is to dilute genuine Indian cultures. If anyone can dress up and act like an Indian, there's nothing unique or special about being Indian. It becomes like a role or occupation, like a Halloween costume: something anyone can put on and take off at will.
And since people like Robinson greatly outnumber real Indians, they begin to define what an Indian is to the public. So we get everyone from white supremacists and tax dodgers to Johnny Depp and Miley Cyrus claiming they're Indians. Meanwhile, real Indians are marginalized or ignored. They're called savage, heathen, or extinct because no one ever sees them.
For more on Boy Scouts and Indians, see Boy Scout "Indian Dance Teams" and Who Are the Kossa Indian Dancers?
Below: "Kyle Robinson of Basehor displays his footwork during the intertribal dance Sunday at the Indian Council of Many Nation’s powwow at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds." (Elvyn Jones)