EDs: Also moving nationally
By VICKI SMITH By The Associated Press
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - Youngsters in West Virginia's 4-H clubs will abandon some American Indian traditions that a panel deemed stereotypical, officials said Monday. Other rituals, deemed respectful to the Indian heritage, will continue.
Children attending the state's 4-H summer camp take pride in joining one of four tribes - Mingo, Cherokee, Delaware or Seneca - and that practice should continue, the review committee announced.
But face-painting, feather headdresses, "stereotypical motions and dances," and chanting a tribal cheer of "Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!" should stop next year, it said.
West Virginia University Extension Service Director Larry Cote said the reforms "achieved what the thousands of passionate and dedicated West Virginia 4-H'ers asked for: Keep as many of our West Virginia 4-H traditions as possible, and halt anything that might be stereotypical or offensive."
The Extension Service sponsors 4-H in West Virginia. Cote and the university's president, David Hardesty, ordered the review in April after one parent complained about some practices to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Civil Rights.
Officials decided in March to drop many of the traditions, but later reversed that pending studies. The 40-member advisory committee spent six months working on the issue.
Funding for 4-H comes from the USDA, the Extension Service, and some county and school boards. If the state's program were violating federal civil rights laws, the Extension Service would lose at least $4.5 million a year. WVU also could lose research funds.
This year, more than 11,000 children attended state and county 4-H camps in West Virginia, following some of the themes introduced in 1925. The tribal theme, organizers said, teaches children about unity and competition.
"The tribal system of organizing camps is important to the continued success of the program," the committee report said.
Several other state programs have similar American Indian themes, including Maryland, Virginia, Ohio and Delaware.
The 4-H program was founded to educate children in home economics and agriculture; currently, more than half of the participants are from cities and suburbs. Youngsters pledge their head, heart, hands and health - hence, 4-H - to such goals as loyalty, clearer thinking and community service.