December 06, 2009

Indian origin of the Cub Scouts

History of the Boy Scouts of AmericaThe BSA obtained the rights to Baden-Powell's The Wolf Cub Handbook in 1916 and used it in unofficial Wolf Cub programs starting in 1918. This led to an issue with Beard who felt that the use of the British book was nearly disloyal to the US. West encouraged the formation of the Boy Rangers of America, a separate organization for boys eight through twelve based on an American Indian theme. The Boy Rangers used the Scout Law and Chief Guide Emerson Brooks was a Boy Scout commissioner in Montclair, New Jersey. The BSA finally began some experimental Cubbing units in 1928 and in 1930 the BSA began registering the first Cubbing packs, and the Boy Rangers were absorbed.

The British Cubbing program used elements of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book series, with the Cubmaster taking the role of Akela and the assistant Cubmaster the role of Baloo. The American program also syncretized American Indian elements, with all Cub Scouts belonging to the Webelos tribe, symbolized by the Arrow of Light and led by Akela. Webelos was also an acronym meaning Wolf, Bear, Lion, Scout. The initial rank structure was Wolf, Bear and Lion, with ages of 9, 10 and 11. Dens of six to eight Cubs were entirely led by a Boy Scout holding the position of den chief.
Comment:  What Baden-Powell and company were thinking is easier to see in the Cub Scouts than in the Boy Scouts.

In the British version, we have Akela the wolf, Baloo the bear, and a bunch of little Mowglis--i.e., "cub" boys raised by wolves. In the American version, we have wolves, bears, lions--mountain lions, I presume--and scouts.

In both cases, the Cub Scouts, representing "wild" or "natural" indigenous people, mix with wolves, bears, and other animals. In other words, when you're practicing your woodcraft like a pseudo-Indian scout, you're akin to a predatory animal.

For more on the subject, see Indian Origin of the Boy Scouts and Indian Origin of the Camp Fire Girls.

Below:  "Wolves and tigers and bears, oh my!" Three "Cub Scout characters."

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