Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Maybe a Blog?


We have quite a "Blog" going here! Maybe that format could be used by the to share your stories and elicit additional comments as I have again provided below.

The requirement today regarding the twelfth point of the Scout Law is the same as 100 years ago as interpreted by lawyers hired by the BSA National Council - it is the "Declaration of Religious Principle" and reads as follows:

"The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God and, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life. Only persons willing to subscribe to these precepts from the Declaration of Religious Principle and to the Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America shall be entitled to certificates of leadership."

Only you can decide where you are in your relationship to God but BSA as I interpret it has never specified the nature of that belief. The only jam people put themselves in is when they absolutely deny the existence of God or cannot in good faith agree to the statement above. For youth the wording is the same but parents must sign if they are not yet 18 years of age.

Your life story and anecdotes strike me as very Reverent and in my experience Scouting and Scouters are very accepting of each person's exemplification of their relationship to God. I personally cannot tell you very accurately what beliefs are and church, temple, mosque etc. affiliations are. I know I have helped lead Jewish services at Camp and worked intensively with kosher Troops at the 93 National Jamboree. Monmouth Council's Forestburg Scout Reservation (Forestburgh, NY in Catskills) this summer has actually taken over the traditional Jewish Scouting program from Ten Mile River (Greater New York Councils) of which I am very proud. Not too bad for a Congregational/Presbyterian/Methodist Scouter!

In regard to Native American influence there is a significant history in New Jersey and with Scouting. High points go like this:

1) Two Philadelphia Council Scout Professionals charged with running Treasure Island Scout Camp in the Delaware River in 1915 created a Native American (Lenape or Delaware Indian) themed Camp Promotion society called the Order of the Arrow. Monmouth Council had a "Lodge of the Order of the Arrow" prior to World War II but it was forgotten by the time you went to Philmont in 1947.

2) In 1949 Robert Schwab, the "young man" to whom Charlie Spitz referred and a friend took the ceremonies from Cowaw Lodge 9 where several Councils shared summer camp facilities.

3) In 1950 Robert and others founded Na Tsi Hi Lodge 71 which still operates. For many years we forgot where the name came from but knew it meant "In the Pines". Just before his death, our Museum Curator, David Wolverton, found out from some native Lenape and Cherokee speakers that the words were not Lenape but in fact Cherokee. I attended a reunion a couple years ago of the Sand Hill People who are local Monmouth County families of joint Lenape and Cherokee descent.

4) Some Lenape (Delaware) families never left New Jersey and can trace lineage to 1752 in NJ.

5) The Powhatan tribe has a non-treaty reservation in Burlington County and stages twice annually wonderful craft and Pow Wow events.

6) Na Tsi Hi Lodge and the six other OA Lodges in have Dance Teams and Ceremonial teams that utilize Lenape lore in presenting the three levels of "honors" to Scouts (who are elected by OA members and non-members alike in their troops) and present traditional Native American dances. 250 OA members from NJ and PA are traveling to Puerto Rico to participate in what is called a Section Conclave hosted by the BSA in Puerto Rico who do their ceremonies in Spanish and use Taino Indian culture (61% of Puerto Rico bloodline is Taino today) in August 2008.

7) Practitioners of Native American persuasion performed a special Medicine Wheel ceremony for many of David Wolverton's friends gathered in Pennsylvania for the 2007 OA Conclave a few weeks have David's passing. Very moving and tangible connection with the earth and David's spirit (see Shoshone Benny LeBeau's massive Medicine Wheel project of 5/8/2004 at ).

8) David's cousin also performed a special Native American dance taught her by tribal elders. The bond between her, David, the elders, the earth and those of us participating and observing was palpable.

9) My years of assisting young men dancing Native American dances in our home made "regalia" (Indian inspired fashions), mostly as a drummer, made me feel the "heartbeat" of the Nation as we described it to the Cub Packs for whom we danced, attempting to evoke the spirit of our Native American brothers. I have heard Native American's joke at Pow Wows "Not bad for hairy legged kids from Texas..."

10) BSA policy is that only non-religious representations be made by Scouts unless under the direct approval of a local Native American authority. This minimizes but not eliminates the chances of offending or intruding into one of the 216 recognized tribes in the United States. Just navigating the mess my ancestors made of their world is quite educational.

All of these things as Bill Pearce noted are what bond Scouts in particular and we believe eventually all people together for good. I look forward to this extended dialog.

Yours in Scouting,

David Crow

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