August 31, 2011

Boy Scout dances at powwows

Native American dance interest grew from Tonganoxie Boy Scout experience

By Elvyn JonesKyle Robinson was one of the more elaborately dressed dancers circling the tent during Sunday’s intertribal dance at the Indian Council of Many Nation’s summer powwow.

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.
And:Robinson said his dance regalia was that of a powwow’s traditional dance, which represents a warrior scouting before battle. Other styles include gourd dancers and the more elaborate and athletic fancy dancers.

His regalia wasn’t inspired by any one tribe but instead reflected his personal preference of styles from different tribes, Robinson said.
Comment:  This is another example of the slippery slope from Indians to wannabes. Robinson learned about Natives from the often-stereotypical Order of the Arrow and Tribe of Mic-O-Say. He made his own regalia and, for all we know, his own dances. He performs in an intertribal powwow where, I'm guessing, anyone can participate.

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)


Anonymous said...

So, would it have mattered if the young man had rattled off what his background was and he was 1/8th, or 1/32nd, or 1/256th Native American? But he just hadn't been raised in the culture and didn't want to spend 5 or 10 minutes explaining to the reported just exactly how he was whatever portion of whatever tribe(s)? Would it have mattered if he was asked by the group putting on the Pow Wow to dance... and that the Head Man Dancer (from a noted Native American family involved in Pow Wow's around much of the Midwest) commented to the young man that he danced well?

Yes, I was there. I know the people involved, Native and non. You don't, and I find your prejudice, your stereotyping appalling.

Maybe activity in the Boy Scouts aroused an interest in HIS native heritage? You presume if it is Boy Scouts, it is bad, corrupt, demeaning to the whole Native American community.

Look at your own tendency to pre-judge; your own stereotyping; before you accuse others.


Anonymous said...

btw, reading your bio, it looks like you are just another "Indian wannabe" like you are accusing others of being.