Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Paying it forward

I was taught at an early age, even though the terms didn’t come along until later, “pay it forward if you can’t pay it back.”  I’ve been trying to do this all my life.  It’s not always as easy as it sounds though.  Sometimes the road is rough, filled with obstacles to overcome.  But, for the most part is has been truly rewarding. 

Last night, at our Council’s annual Winter Camp, I helped put on a Native American style powwow.  This one was as much “edutainment” as it was a traditional powwow – we want the audience to come away from the event better informed and more aware of other cultures when they leave for the night.  For many years in the past I have danced in the Grand Entry at this event.  This year, however, I opted to be the MC and not dance.  This allowed me enough time to ensure the greatest number of dancers were dressed and ready to dance, as well.  And it afforded me one less stressor during the dance.

There are a lot of people who attend our Winter Camp, usually around 1500 people.  Despite the 7.5 inches of rain we received which immediately preceded the temperature dropping to the freezing point, people left their campsites to come be in the heated dining hall and learn what they could about these Native American traditions.  And to stay warm.  But, mostly to learn about Native traditions. 

We had a Grand Entry wherein the US flag and the state flag were escorted by a group of veterans who helped out.  We had many, but not all of the military branches represented.  And I really appreciated the willingness of all those folks who helped out, especially since they felt honored by being asked to help.  I just wish there was more I could have done for them or said to them to indicate how much I appreciated them escorting our flags in to the arena. 

But, the important part was that the boys I am helping teach were able to dance, get some more valuable time in their outfits, practicing the new skills they are learning, and fellowship with other like-minded individuals.  We had Southern Straight dancers, Northern Traditional dancers, Chicken dancers, and Grass dancers represented from the men, and from the beautiful ladies in attendance, we had both northern and southern cloth styles represented.  And all of them danced well and beautifully.  And we were able to exhibition each of those styles for the guests in attendance.

Then another man took the mic from me.

I gave him that time, since he is the adult in charge of the Winter Camp program in its entirety anyway.  I am also training him to take my role as the Dance Team Advisor – so I can focus on teaching dance while he handles the running of the program.  He doesn’t really need my instruction, actually.  He was a senior enlisted man in the Marines.  He has run his own business.  He’s been a Scoutmaster – anyone who has will tell you that is a feat in and of itself.  He is very organized.  When you want something done, he is one of the guys who can help you get it done.  Period. 

So, when he asked for a couple of minutes to say a few words during the dance, I didn’t think anything of it.  Then he asked me to step onto the arena floor from my perch on the dais at the microphone.  And he asked the Head Singer, another very good friend of mine, to step up as well.  And he had a couple of items in his hand.  He said some nice, encouraging words.  He told the audience he valued what the two of us had done for our lodge’s programs, by constantly being willing to help where needed, teach, and handle all the little details we handle on an ongoing basis – and there are many.

Then he presented each of us a Swagger Stick.  Many of you readers won’t know what that is.  But, in days of yore, leaders obtained or were issued these sticks like a badge of office.  In medieval ages, Marshals of armies were issued rods or batons of office denoting their rank or title.  Depending on the service the individual was in, this could take the form of a short cane or a riding crop.  In some services, it was more like a shillelagh. 

The ones he presented are made from an oak tree from his home.  He had them turned by another friend, a former lodge advisor.  It was then stained with 4 coats of stain, lacquered with 10 layers of protectant, and had several coats of wax over that to bring it to high-gloss shine.  He obtained a .50 caliber round for the butt end from another friend who sings with us at the drum.  For the head of the stick, he used an armor-piercing M-1 Garand round that he chambered in the rifle and ejected without firing.  He had yet another friend make bags to keep the swagger sticks in as well, to protect them.  He told the audience this was something he wanted to give to people he respected and appreciated highly.

And for a few minutes I was speechless.  I wasn’t a high-ranking Marine.  I didn’t serve overseas, I never saw combat, or any special duty like Recruiting.  I was ‘just a guy’ in an artillery unit, who was trained to be a forward observer.  I just did my job like so many others.  But, to be awarded a symbol of leadership, based solely on respect for the job I do in teaching and coaching young people, is, well, daunting to me.  I guess I’m not a boastful person, I try to be humble.  But, it is still nice to be recognized for what a person does.  And I couldn’t talk for a bit.

It took me a minute.  Or three.  My wife said I ‘did that thing with my mouth’ I apparently do, when trying to not be emotional.  Then it hit me.  These folks in the audience needed to know the reason behind the award.  So, I laid it out for them.

I told them about my grandfathers, blood-family and adopted, I told them they taught me to pay forward what I could not pay back.  And since they taught me so well, I can only hope to emulate them in what I am doing.  I let the audience know that we love what we do.  We love singing, dancing, seeing the light of accomplishment shining in the eyes of a young man who realizes he’s having a great time, despite the temperature, weather, or amount of work he’s actually doing.  To be issued a swagger stick in recognition of a job well done, while doing something I love to do, is just a bonus.  It’s the icing on the cake, the whipped cream on warm apple pie, the bow on the present Christmas morning.  It’s… well, it’s nice.
And I get to share my upbringing, my teachings, my stories with people who want to listen and learn.  And I am left speechless by the love of friends and family. 

In honor of how they feel about what I do, I will continue to pay forward the teachings I was given by my elders when I was a small person.  And hopefully, someday, my legacy will be the same as theirs.  Some grown man, who will have been a young man when I taught him, will continue to teach young people what he learned from me.  He will continue to educate himself and immerse himself in a culture that maybe he wasn’t born to, so that he will better understand how that culture and his interact and grow together.  And, unlike Robert Frost’s poem about two roads diverging, maybe this man will be able to walk two parallel roads, one red and one white, and be a bridge between people. 

And pay it forward.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

For Better or Worse

Back in 2005, the comic strip, "For Better or Worse" detailed the life of a young teacher who moved to a fictional Ojibwa town to teach young Native kids.  This was a long series, and may be an off-and-on bit still.  But, this was interesting to note because of the critical acclaim these strips garnered.  

Not only did this artist continue the normal humor of the strip about life, family, etc., but also included historical relevance, current events, modern culture, language issues, tribal issues, and most especially Native humor.  One particular series has the teacher character visiting a local powwow.  Normally, most artists would miss the mark when trying to convey the significance of an event like this.  But, the artist captured not only a white-person's 'outsider' perspective, but also the Native perspective very well.

At the time I tried to capture all the strips relevant to this powwow, as I felt this would be important one day.  Maybe as a tool to teach.  Maybe as a reference subject.  But, I wanted to share them now, so others could enjoy them, and maybe learn from them.

These can also be found at: http://catalog.fborfw.com/indexkeywords2.php?s=31&q=mtigwaki

This seems to be a constant theme at many dances and places of worship...

Giveaways are important.  Not just because recognizing someone's importance to you with a gift is nice, but also as a token reminder of a time when the leadership of many tribes gave away many of their belongings to ensure the tribe was safe, healthy, and secure.

Crop circles are made by Grass Dancers!

This implies Eagle feathers fall on the ground often, which isn't the case.  But, when it does happen, the entire event comes to a complete stop while the need is attended to.

So. Very. Much. Cool. Stuff!

It is always important to introduce yourself before asking for a photograph with the dancer.  There are individuals who will not want their photo taken, but most will be happy to oblige. And questions about their outfits will be answered - the outfits are all personal and have a story.

Note: sometimes 'the call' is a little difficult to answer when wearing these outfits!

This doesn't happen at all dances.   But, if invited to participate, please do!  

My mother often says something she heard from her parents, and I say it often myself: "You learn something new every day".

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Suggestions on Authenticity

Suggestions on Authenticity

 “Dr. E. Urner Goodman, founder of the OA, reports that along these lines we should remember the respect and importance accorded to the American Indian culture by our founders.  They believed that the Indians showed us a way of life that represented the highest ideals of the Boy Scouts America.  In turn, we should concern ourselves with continuing and heightening this interest and respect.
One of the most enjoyable elements of the OA program is Indian lore.  The phrase “Indian lore”, however, has come to represent a rather narrow approach taken too many times toward Indian culture by Scout groups.  We in the OA have also been guilty of this.  We should look toward the Indians as a civilization made of many varied cultures and representing the way of life we hope to emulate.
For instance, the dance team chief seeks a new type of dance and means of costuming from a particular tribe to widen the lodge team’s repertory.  In doing so, he must make every effort to conduct a full investigation of the tribe, the dance, the costuming and its significance, etc.  He should seek to discover if the particular dance is an acceptable performance for non-Indians to use.  He should also be extremely careful to seek authenticity before conducting it.  Above all, he should use the process of research and information to acquaint his lodge members interested in learning what the Indians, as a people, were trying to say.
The Order of the Arrow serves many purposes.  Highest among these is developing character and understanding.  We have a great opportunity to do this through study of Indian people and cultures.  In this sense, by learning to better understand each Indian tribe, we can ultimately learn to better understand ourselves.”
- Order of the Arrow National Bulletin, First Issue 1973

“The American Indian has been many things to many people.  To us, the Order of the Arrow, he is the symbol of nobility and freedom.  This was true before the westward advance of the white Europeans. After this, however, he was all but exterminated from the continent and crowded onto government reservations.
Because the Order of the Arrow has borrowed the culture and crafts from the American Indian, we – as an Order – must maintain the highest standards of authenticity.”
-  Dr. E. Urner Goodman, Order of the Arrow National Bulletin, Third Issue 1974

I have heard many arguments in the past as to the ‘why’ of Boy Scouting’s use of Native American culture and imagery.  I don’t want to debate that at the moment.  But, suffice it to say, at the turn of the 20th century, there were many organizations being created to help children get outside, back to nature.  And the imagery of the Native American in his finery while in the outdoors held a somewhat-romantic appeal (there is a great book by Philip J. Deloria titled Playing Indian, that details much of that time period and the various organizations and their choices for using Native American-style imagery and outfits).  The appeal of the outdoors is what scouting is all about – a young man I knew once said, “4/5ths of Scouting is ‘outing’”.  But, the Order of the Arrow, founded shortly after the BSA, began from its earliest roots on the stories of the Lenni Lenape.  So it pulled imagery from that history – some of which was idealized and immortalized by James Fenimore Cooper.  This helped encourage young people to get outdoors again and helped them focus on specific skills – campcraft, tracking, and so much more - by using the image of the Native American as the exemplar. 

Political opinions aside, the problem we face as Scouts and Scouters is authenticity.  For the OA’s ceremonies, which are more like plays or reenactments than Native American Ceremonies (notice the capitalization), the National Order of the Arrow Committee suggests that each Lodge emulate a local tribe and a time period for the outfits they use in the various ceremonies of the Lodge. 

This presents some difficulty, obviously.  Comanche outfits are entirely different than Haida, Seminole, Huron, Ojibwe, or Hopi, just to name a few.  And vice versa.  So, a Lodge in Wyoming could emulate a few different tribes like Cheyenne, many of the Lakota tribes or bands, Shoshoni, Crow, or others.  And they would have easier access to persons from those tribes for reference material, etc., than say someone from South Carolina or New York.  But, this is not a requirement.  Because of the lack of requirement, and the inability to find local resources, often lodges resort to what many people call a ‘Pan-Indian’ or ‘Hollywood’ style of outfit.   

And this is where the trouble really begins.  In the above photo, there is nothing truly offensive about the outfits.  But, there is nothing that identifies the outfits with any particular tribe, either.  It’s really more a vague impression of ‘Indian-ness’.  And the fact that each person is wearing a nearly identical version of the other outfits is out of character for an individual.  This pan–Indian look is more common in representing Native American style dress than you can imagine, actually.  In fact, it is prevalent among Scouts and Scouters, unfortunately – my Lodge included.  But, the above photo looks nothing like this one of a Sioux Delegation from 1870:

A lack of specifications begets a lack of research.  Lack of research begets lack of knowledge or understanding.  Lack of knowledge begets indifference.  And Indifference begets insensitivity.  And then we offend people.  Not all Boy Scouts are guilty of this insensitivity or of offending someone.  I know most would be offended at themselves for offending someone else.  But, the case often is a matter of “they didn’t know what they didn’t know”.  But, through lack of education or knowledge, some have made mistakes, and some have unfortunately caused heinous errors of judgement.

Now, I am not going to speak to the random Cub Scout Leader who finds an idea on the internet and runs with it, but tries to do something memorable and misses the mark on accuracy.  I’m not going to speak to the various individual Troop or Crew programs out there which teach a tradition nearly 50 years old, either.  Nor am I going to speak to the Summer Camp programs with their own ‘tribe’ who may have a great program for getting kids to staff Summer Camp, but miss the mark on what is ‘Native American’.  What I am going to speak to is how the Order of the Arrow can improve its accuracy across the board.  The OA may not be able to affect a change on the local Council or Unit level, but they can be an example of how to do things the correct way, at the very least.  And they can certainly be a resource for those local units who may have questions from time to time.

Please understand, although there can be some crossover of usage of individual pieces between dance outfits and ceremonies outfits, Dance Outfits are not appropriate for ceremonies for several reasons.  First, bells make noise, and therefore cause distraction during what is intended to be a solemn occasion.  Second, bustles block line of sight to important figures.  Third, modern dance outfits are not historically accurate to a specific time period, except the here and now.  Finally, modern dance outfits are very often not specific to one tribe. 

Authenticity requires research and validation.  Research, by itself is good.  But, you might find that a Yupik warrior once wore an otter skin turban in a photo.  But without validation, you would have no idea why that Yupik person would be wearing that headdress.  But, when you research more than photos, you might find that the photographer wanted the Yupik man to ‘look more Indian’ and put the southern plains style headgear on the Alaskan Native’s head just for the phone.  You might even find that this same headdress appears in photos with Shoshoni, Pawnee, Seminole, and other individuals. 

Validation requires further research, too.  So, let’s say I am going to choose the Comanche tribe from the 1890s for my Lodge’s ceremonies team.  I will very likely find a number of photos of Quanah Parker.  You may even find a great quantity of other Comanche individuals from that time period.  But, in almost all of those old photos, the outfits the men are wearing look like dark-colored longhandle underwear, for lack of a better term. 

Just because the photo seems to indicate we could dress up some boys in some dark blue longjohns, doesn’t mean we are ready yet.  If we research further, with terms like “Comanche leggings”, for example, we will likely find photos of leather leggings that have a green or yellow dye on them – specifically light colors.  Further investigation might reveal that the photography technology at the time could not always distinguish colors well, and made most colors appear dark or washed-out.  In fact, there are scientists and curators who have spent lifetimes proving that the dark grey next to the other dark grey in the beadwork worn by ‘notable person A’ in this ‘photo dated G’ is in fact yellow next to pink, or something similar.

This is but one example of why research and validation are paramount in creating authentic outfits.  There are literally hundreds of books on Native American outfits, culture, and historical photos.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of public libraries, college libraries, or online resources that could be utilized.  Most of those online resources have people willing to discuss meanings and techniques behind the photos and stories you can find.  Which is a far cry better than when I was a boy trying to find any data whatsoever.  I was lucky if a library had a book 50 years out of print that had speculation at best as to why ‘tribe x wore item y’. 

http://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/webteam/documents/document/idc1-029026.pdf contains a list of the 560+ Federally recognized Tribes in the United States.  This does not include State Recognized tribes, nor does it include tribes recognized in Canada, Mexico, or other South American countries.  But, each of these tribes has their own histories, stories, traditions, culture, languages, etc.  Each of them will approach everything from a different aspect.  It behooves us, as Scouts, to live by the Scout Law and be Friendly, Courteous, and Reverent when approaching outfits for use in our events.  And to do so, we must evaluate our goals, we must re-evaluate our outfits, and we must absolutely ask ourselves questions like, ‘why is this found in that photo’, ‘would there be a reason for that tribe to have worn that item’, ‘is it possible this item wasn’t traditional to that tribe, but maybe a war-trophy’, ‘could that color be different than what I assume it is because of the black and white nature of the photo’, and ‘is there another source with a color photo of that item I could find’, among others.

Our Order’s founder more than stipulated that authenticity in our outfits is important, he outright said we should conduct a full investigation.  He said we should learn more about the Native American tribes we wish to emulate and this would help us better understand ourselves.  How about researching the history of a tribe from your local area to discover the town you have grown up in is named after one particular Native individual or group who had a major impact on the local area.  Then you might discover why that person, or persons, was significant.  This might lead you to learn more about how he or they might have dressed, and therefore drive deeper understanding of how your locale came to be.  Then you might more accurately be able to portray those tribal traditions in your outfits. 

But, it starts with you.  You must be willing to put some time into the research.  Ask questions of librarians.  Ask questions of local historians.  Visit a local college and discover what you can.  Visit museums and take notes.  Travel to a local modern powwow to see how the folks in your area participate in their culture today.  Introduce yourself to folks there and ask if they would be willing to offer any insight on their tribe’s history.  You will be surprised what you might find out.  And you may make a friend.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Historical Information

Prior to my birth, my father was a Boy Scout Leader.  He had been a Boy Scout growing up, in the various towns and cities he grew up in.  He was the son of a military man, and as such, moved from city to city, duty station to duty station.  So, the one constant for my father was Scouting.  

My grandfather was born and raised in Southern Alabama.  He joined one of the first Scout Troops in Alabama in the 1920s, which his father - my great-grandfather - started.  He earned his Eagle award around the time he joined the Service for duty in World War II, where he served in the Pacific as a Pharmacist's mate and Corpsman to Marines in places like Iwo Jima.

When my grandfather returned from the War, injured, he met my grandmother.  My grandmother later discovered she was going to be the Troop Mom for a brand new Scout Troop that would later host my father and uncle.

In the mid-1960s, the family moved to what would become my hometown many years later.  Here, both my father and uncle would be active in Scouting.  It is here that my grandfather met two other gentlemen, one a Kiowa who had been an Army Medic in Europe during WWII, and his best friend, a Comanche gentleman.  Both of these men were active in Boy Scouts as well - teaching young men about Native culture, music, dance, and philosophy. 

This is the setting to which I was born.  

My father, upon returning from the Navy, felt compelled to give back to Scouting.  He became an Assistant Scout Master for a troop.  And the race was on!  I was then only a toddler.  But, my grandfather had moved to East Texas and became Scoutmaster of a troop there as well.  So, now there are three generations of Scoutmaster in my family before me, and me barely able to walk.  

Flash forward a few years, while I am a young boy.  I have become involved in Cub Scouts, my father was the Cub Scout Leader, and my mother was a Den Leader.  I was involved in all kinds of activities - baseball, bicycling, magic shows, animal care, and so much more. 

And then this gentleman my father seemed to know pretty well, showed up at our Blue & Gold Banquet - an annual event where the Cub Scouts celebrated their accomplishments for the year.  This man laid out furs, bells, beads, and numerous items on several tables for display.  He then commenced to telling some of the strangest stories I had ever heard of: 'How Coyote's tail became long', 'why moccasins have two tabs on the heel', 'why we wear bells when we dance', and more.  

He had this one stuffed fox that he seemed convinced - or at least was trying to convince us - was alive.  And it moved like it was alive - it even jumped at us from the crook of his arm! - but as soon as he finished his story it went back to its stationary 'life'!  This guy was a master story-teller. He had us all captured with his tales.  And my father knew him from way-back.  Which I thought was totally the coolest ever.  In a day where Star Wars was the game kids played on the playground, I wanted to be like this Kiowa man - telling stories, dancing, and singing.  Oh, I played with the Star Wars toys too, and I became Luke Skywalker on the playground as well.  But, this Kiowa story-teller had captured a different part of my imagination.

Now, my grandfather, as a younger man, had danced with Native Americans, and had learned quite a bit from them.  His knowledge allowed him to dance in Snake Dances - wherein he held a Coral Snake in each hand, and even one in his mouth while dancing.  I've seen it with my own eyes, and I can tell you, even being near one of these deadly snakes is frightening, let alone holding one in an ungloved hand or in one's mouth!  But, there he was dancing to the beat of the drum to a song I found incomprehensible at the time with three of these snakes on or about his person.  

And he also knew this Kiowa story-teller, George. In fact, they were old friends - brothers, even - since they returned from the War and became fast friends.  They had similar stories - both medical personnel for soldiers, both Scoutmasters, both dancers.  By the time I was 10, my grandfather and the Kiowa story-teller, a descendant of the Kiowa Chief, Satank, had become so close, people called both of them my grandfather interchangeably, which in 'the Indian way' they were.  

When I was 10, George put me in my first dance outfit, gave me some instruction, and sent me onto the dance floor.  To be fair, it was a demonstration for other Cub Scouts, not a full Native Powwow.  But, it was the first step into the arena.  By the time I was in High School, I had incorporated outfit pieces from my grandfather, the outfit George gave me, and some I made into my own outfit, and was dancing at monthly powwows in my town and across North Texas.

By today's standards, I might be a bit embarassed of that original outfit.  But, it was mine, pieces given me by people I loved and respected, and other pieces I made myself.

In the early 1980s a couple of things happened: a) I was introduced to a Comanche gentleman who helped guide me in better outfit construction techniques and styles, b) another Comanche family took a liking to my family for an as-yet-unexplained reason, and c) George passed away.  

Bob, the Comanche gent, also helped a lot of other Scouts - he had his own craft store he ran out of his house - Tipi American.  So, he had access to craft materials that we could not gather anywhere else.  He also had resources I had been unaware existed prior to meeting him - other dancers, other Native people who could give advice, books the local library didn't have, and so much more.  Between his house and George's I had spent countless hours learning, crafting, and absorbing like a sponge anything I could from them.

After George passed, I still saw Bob quite often, especially when he came out to Scouting events, as a member of the Order of the Arrow.  I helped promote his store and teach what I knew and he kept teaching me what he knew.  At that point, he wasn't dancing much, but he was still going to local dances and selling craft items.

Then, at a local powwow in a National Guard Armory, my mother began talking with a Comanche lady.  It turned out they worked in the same office, and didn't realize we had been attending many of the same events together.  The two have been good friends since.  Fern's husband at the time was a Head Singer, so she often sat with the drum.  But, she would come over to give hugs and say hello.  It was this love that kept me in the circle after George passed.  Even though Bob helped teach me, Aunt Fern really inspired me to keep dancing.  In fact, her son, and my younger brother often goofed off during dances while I danced and the families watched or participated.

Then I graduated High School, and left Scouting behind - I was an adult in Scouting's rules, but not yet ready to be an Adult Leader like three generations before me.  I joined the Marines instead.  And didn't look back at Scouts for many years to come.

However, I continue dancing.  At least until 1997, when my oldest daughter was born.  I didn't really think about it at the time, but I left the circle then.  She has a heart condition that is life-threatening.  You can't tell just by looking at her, but she only has half a heart - not an exaggeration.  Because of this condition, focus was put on her, and all extraneous things became less important.  I had left the circle.

In 2001, my heart-baby was now 4 and we had a newborn with no health concerns.  But, I hadn't thought about dancing in four years.  Then one day, quite out of the blue, my mother asked me if I was planning on going to a local powwow.  And I began to make excuses.  First, I didn't want to.  Then, my outfit was shoddy.  Then, I said I couldn't remember the music.  

One excuse after another until I realized what I was doing.  So, I gathered my outfit, and took my family to the dance.  My wife had no idea what she was in for.  She's Irish, Scottish, Austrian, and a whole lot of Cajun added in for spice.  She was so nervous, and truthfully, so was I.  But, my parents insisted we go.  So we did.  And we had a great time.

Much of that outfit was my pieces of my original outfit.  It was, as we say, still growing.  But, I was an adult, now, and outfit styles were changing.  Those fads left my outfit in the dust.  So, it was time to modernize.

But, that dance made me realize I was missing something else.  It took me a couple of weeks to realize what it was - Scouting.  Apparently, I was ready to take on the mantle of Scout Leader, like three generations before me had done.  So, I did some web-searching.  Websites weren't great in that day, but I found one for my old chapter of my old lodge in the Order of the Arrow and reached out.  Not only did they like the fact that I wanted to come back, but they put me to work immediately.  I contacted my grandparents, and let them know - and let me tell you, my grandfather was so happy.  He asked me to come out to his place, and of course, bring the babies, where he handed me a couple of boxes of his old Scout stuff - patches, sashes, photos, neckerchiefs, craft items he'd made over the years - and a few more dance outfit pieces.

I was immediately put to use in the Chapter as the Dance Team Advisor, and the next year I was promoted to the Lodge Dance Team Advisor.  Teaching boys Native American dance and singing, educating on authenticity and craft skills.  And all the while making dance outfits for my kids, for the boys in the OA, and others.  

But, in the intervening years, Bob, that old Comanche man - one of my two 'adopted grandfathers'  - had passed away.  The Lodge made an award in his name - which is exceedingly cool.  And a couple years after I returned to Scouting, my blood-Grandfather also passed away.  I took his ashes to Camp Pioneer in Arkansas to spread there.  While I was there, the Old Timers took me to this museum they had established.  In the museum, they had some items on display they wanted me to have - all of which belonged to my grandfather.  Several of the items I did not recognize at all - had never seen them in his hands for that matter.  But, one item stood out like a beacon to me.  He had worn it when he danced with those Coral snakes so many years before, and they would not let me leave without it.  I was the only person who had any knowledge for which this fingerwoven sash was intended.

I told my 'Aunt Fern' about this a time later.  She said she was happy that my grandfather was able to leave me something so significant.  Then she invited me to a Wardance in Oklahoma.  I explained to her that I didn't have clothes for a wardance, and she just smiled.  I had been taught that when an elder invites you, you do everything in your power to go - no matter what.  So, I set about making Southern Traditional clothes based around this fingerwoven sash my grandfather had once worn.  And went to the dance.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  

I've met some interesting folks since then - all of whom have given me good advice, some have become mentors, and others friends.  I'm proud of what I have done and continue to do.  And I so very much love teaching what I know - carrying on a tradition given to me by three preceding generations of Scout Leaders in my family, and by two specific Native American men, who became grandfathers to me in their own way.  All of my daughters dance, my parents, and my wife as well.  And, they love it as much as I do, respecting all the traditions we have been taught by friends and family.  

I spend a lot of time singing and dancing, teaching young men like I was taught, and passing on some of those 'why' stories I learned as a young man.  I'm not near as good a story-teller as George.  But, I try.  And I remember.

Bear with me

Recently, I was asked some specific questions about how I became involved in the Native American Community, something I have been doing since I was ten years old.  If you know me, or have ever seen me, I do not look stereotypically Native American.  I have blond hair and blue eyes.  In fact, I am more closely descended from Irish and Scottish ancestry, than anything else.  But, the suggestion was to provide a place where I could put down my thoughts as they relate to how I was taught, and how I teach others.  This could be a repository I could share with others on why we do what we do, etc.  
This will not be easy.  The original intention of this site was to be a gathering place for info about the Boy Scouts' program of the Order of the Arrow.  But, I see now that this should be a blog about the things I have learned in my life as they relate to my activities in Scouting and in the Native Community.  It is my intention to give insight to my role in Scouts and the knowledge I have gained and continue to share with others.

Bear with me while I get my thoughts in order to begin this next step...