By Tara Houska
The Boy Scouts are a prime ongoing example of this phenomenon, but perhaps reevaluation will lead to change. In mid-December, the “Koshare Dancers,” a so-called interpretive dance group from Boy Scout Troop 232, located in La Junta, Colorado, cancelled their Winter Dances at the request of the Hopi Nation Cultural Preservation Office. Whether this is permanent remains to be seen.
Since the 1930s, the Koshare Dancers of Boy Scout Troup 232 have been performing their version of Hopi, Lakota, Kiowa, Ojibwe, Blackfoot, Diné and Comanche religious ceremonies. Originally begun by James “Buck” Burshears as the “Boy Scout Indian Club,” mimicking Native American cultures became a core theme of Troup 232.
New members are called “Papooses,” and work toward the rank of “Koshare Brave,” which requires that troops learn five Koshare dances and create their version of traditional regalia. “Clan Chief” follows, upon reaching the rank of Eagle Scout.
They look like goddamn idiots.
The lack of self awareness is staggering. The emperor wears racist clothing.
But I'm pretty sure the two "Koshare clowns" in stripes don't go with the other dancers. And all the dancers are divorced from their spiritual and symbolic meanings.
For instance, the koshares don't dance to entertain people. Rather, their purpose is this:
Anthropologists, most notably Adolf Bandelier in his 1890 book, The Delight Makers, and Elsie Clews Parsons in her Pueblo Indian Religion, have extensively studied the meaning of the Pueblo Clowns and clown society in general. Bandelier notes that the Tsuku were somewhat feared by the Hopi as the source of public criticism and censure of non-Hopi like behavior. Their function can help defuse community tensions by providing their own humorous interpretation of the tribe's popular culture, by re-enforcing taboo, and by communicating traditions.
For more on the subject, see Hopis Protest Koshare Dancers and Boy Scout "Indian Dance Teams."