Another response to YMCA-Indian Guides:
I received the following message 6/1/06. It was titled "Thanks For Your Help":
My local Y is forcing the Indian Guides to morph into 'Adventure Guides'. Your Indian Guides webpage surely has helped in destroying one of the greatest memories of my childhood, by preventing me from passing it along to my sons.
You are pretentious and self-righteous, and have no business 'defending' people from one of the greatest family-bonding organizations in America. By tearing it down, you are doing far more damage than you are doing good.
I am not the least bit racist, nor do I have a single grudge or misconception about any Native American. Stereotyped or not, Indian Guides actually gave me a generally good feeling toward their culture. You clearly never got that experience, and I guess thousands of kids now will never get that chance.
Take down your webpage:
It may not get the Y to reverse itself, but it's obviously none of your business.
Someone ordering me to do something and expecting me to obey...hmm, what a concept. Apparently Kern doesn't know how I operate. Anyway, here's how I responded the next day:
>> Thanks For Your Help <<
>> Your Indian Guides webpage surely has helped in destroying one of the greatest memories of my childhood, by preventing me from passing it along to my sons. <<
Spare me. You can pass along your memories even if the program ceases to exist, which it's not going to do. That's what stories, scrapbooks, photos, and videos are for.
>> You are pretentious and self-righteous <<
Uh-huh. Name-calling usually means you can't touch the meat of my argument. Which appears to be true in this case.
>> and have no business 'defending' people from one of the greatest family-bonding organizations in America. <<
Who are you to tell me my business? My business is what I say it is. Only *I* define it, thank you very much.
>> By tearing it down, you are doing far more damage than you are doing good. <<
This is an unsubstantiated opinion, not a fact-based argument. When you can prove your case, feel free to do so. I'll wait.
Let's ask some Indians if they agree with you. No, wait...I already know. They don't. See The Web Fans Speak for a sampling of opinions on whether I should defend Indians or not.
>> I am not the least bit racist, nor do I have a single grudge or misconception about any Native American. <<
Never said you did. But the leaders of the Guides must have misconceptions about Indians, judging by their misguided efforts to preserve the stereotypes. Mis-guided...get it?
>> Stereotyped or not, Indian Guides actually gave me a generally good feeling toward their culture. <<
"Stereotyped or not"...well, which is it? Pick one and then we'll discuss it.
Lots of stereotypes cause good feelings. For example, people used to think slaves were happy-go-lucky. They enjoyed seeing actors mimic them in minstrel shows.
Or take the notion of blondes as bimbos. Men feel great about this stereotype. They love the feeling of superiority it gives them over women. But it's still stereotypical.
Generating good feelings and being stereotypical are two separate issues. If you read my reviews, you'll see I've enjoyed many Native-themed products that were stereotypical—for instance, Pocahontas. I enjoyed them and then I pointed out how they were stereotypical and could've been even better.
>> You clearly never got that experience, and I guess thousands of kids now will never get that chance. <<
I guess you're just guessing about that.
Ever hear of Woodcraft Rangers? Changing the theme from Indian Guides to Adventure Guides wouldn't rob kids of the experience. It would simply change the experience, and arguably for the better. The superficial and misleading conventions would go and the Scout-like lessons would remain.
FYI, I was briefly a member of the Guides as a child. I believe my "tribe" was "Chumash" and my brother's was "Kickapoo." As I vaguely recall, the experience filled me with Native stereotypes and didn't teach me anything of value about Indians.
>> Take down your webpage:
No. Make me.
>> It may not get the Y to reverse itself, but it's obviously none of your business. <<
First you said it "surely has helped in destroying" the Indian Guides. Now you're saying it may not have helped destroy the Indian Guides. Again, which is it?
If my page doesn't cause the Y to reverse itself, then what's the problem? If nothing changes, who's been hurt? Didn't they teach you that "stick and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you?"
Why don't you wait until the Y denounces me and my work before you waste my time with your contradictory speculation? As it stands now, this speculation is worthless.
And again, I'll determine what my business is. Not you, the Y, or anyone else. If you don't like it, lump it.
None of my business?
I asked some correspondents what they thought of Kern's message. Specifically, about his claim that I had no business defending Indians. Their replies:
I think that you should do what your heart tells you to do. If you've done that — the rest is other people doing the same.
But just because someone 'blames' you for their feelings doesn't mean you are at 'fault' — it just means that they have the capacity to blame others.
Keep your chin up!
Wanda Jean Lord
President & Founder
I think BRAVO for you!!!! If this guy thinks he couldn't have had the same kinds of good memories with the Adventure Guides, then his relationship with his son was built as falsely as his connection to the Indian Guides.
And you can pass it on. :-)
If your site played the main role in ending this program, take pride, and good going. Truthful teachings in these programs tend to be the exception, not the rule.
If Kern found having stereotypes pounded into his head to be "one of the greatest memories of his childhood", that's pretty appalling.
The only people that have no business defending NDNs are the ones who insist they know better than NDNs do what's needed.
Add this to countless examples of involuntary honoring.
It's an odd view of honor.
Dear Mr Kern,
I would like to suggest some alternates you might feel more comfortable passing along to your sons.
"Indian" is not a job description, it is a racial designation. As such it does not mean "a" culture, but many different cultures. There are over 566 federally recognized tribes in the US alone. Each has a culture and history unique to the families of that tribe. Sure, they interrelate to varying degrees, share some traditions, language and territorial migrations, yet, each is different as well from the next.
The Indian Guide program sounds romantic, but what if we were to change the racial designation and make it African Guides, or Oriental Guides? each of your memories translated into fun and games in the context of a different race takes on an entirely different complexion, doesn't it? (no pun intended). The thoughts of putting on black grease paint, grass skirts and stomping naked around a fire in the romanticized equally stereotyped African "tribal" rituals just doesn't feel the same. does it?
The American culture(s) has for such a long time romanticized Indian stereotypes that it has become comfortable to do so.
My suggestion is to utilize an equally romanticized job, rather than race as the theme for the guides. why not "be" cowboys? Learn about the wildlife, cows and herding? campfires and skills needed to successfully navigate the western wilderness that existed in the 1800s? Draw from your own cultural experiences. Or, what about the equally romanticized Indiana Jones? be explorers. This way the possibilities of discovering the world lay at your feet...and that of your sons.
Stay out of racial stereotyping and you have a tradition that can be passed along with honor. Pretending to be of another race in order to bond, actually denigrates your own as being bankrupt of anything worthwhile to "be".
Think about it...and do some exploring of your own. You will all be the better for it.
Managing Editor, Native News Online
[What do you think of Kern's message?] Not much.
I was in Indian Guides as a kid and thought the whole American Indian motif was kind of hokey (we were the Yuma tribe), although the wood burning was cool. If anything it didn't give me a "generally good" feeling as much as it just made Indians kind of boring.
The important thing is the outdoor experience and father/son bonding through "Adventure Guides" is still more or less intact. This guy is overreacting.
Seriously: did anyone else acknowledge that your website helped change the name?
I don't understand why they always need to use the American Indian for this stuff. Obviously it's a holdover from the 40's or such. Why can't they use vikings or trojans or something? If they did this stuff with "little Zulus" would people be ok with it.
I'm with you — might as well teach them young.
They can take the program and alter it slightly, using differant symbolism but sending the same core values and lessons I think.
As an American Indian mother, activist, author and lecturer, I am writing in reply to your post to Mr. Rob Schmidt.
I am glad your early memories of Indians were pleasant to you. You were young, unaware of true history, and certainly not at fault in what was being done/taught.
If the Y program is the only way you have to show your sons family bonding, I feel badly for you all. I also find it ironic, the very culture who decreed us unworthy, of no value, savages, heathens, with little to nothing to offer other than the land we lived on—use some of our supposed customs and ways to teach non Indians "family bonding" and "how to live well, be Honorable,"
I was an active part in giving deposition, writing my opinions—about the Y programs, in particular the "Princess" program, with it's naming, etc.
Naming, honoring, various other activities the Y and the Scouts have used for their own purposes, are part of a culture that was, should remain, uniquely our own. Much of it is sacred, very tied to our belief in our Creator, the respect and honoring of this all knowing all seeing, personage.
I would no more think of entering your church, taking what you do, or coming into your home—stealing what might well be your family's tradition.
Bet anything you don't copy the Catholic church—or Jews at Synagogue—now, there is a group who are family oriented.
Of course, I have no need to become a "culture vulture"—I'm quite happy with what my Creator, my ancestors, handed me—good, bad, indifferent.
As to none of this being any of Mr., Schmidt's "business"_
—you can take it to the bank, it is. He is a staunch advocate of all Indian country—rights, history, myths, problems and success's. He is articulate, accurate, no axe to grind, no agenda that is hidden. He is known to be above average in intelligence—with the courage to stand his ground, do the very best he can—much of it without any kind of remuneration. He is also smart enough to get advice from all over Indian Country—opinions other than his own.
Your letter is rude, it IS racist, and you don't know diddly about Indians, how we think, feel or what we want done.
If you knew even a little beyond the Hollywood myth, whatever you learned at the programs so dear to your heart—had you made friends with a few Indians over the years—listened respectfully—you would have known, copying us/pretending to be us—is insulting.
Your precious memories—the enjoyment you got from playing us—what have you done over the years to pay back—"pay forward"—show thanks and respect?
Your anger at losing something that was stolen property to begin with is mind boggling. What does this teach your sons?
Eastern Delaware/Minisink Band
Rob — I know you didn't ask me, but here's my two cents.
Are the "Indian Guides" in fact, Indian? (Feather or dot?) Are the kids they are guiding Indian? If not, then how are they "Indian" guides? I think "Adventure Guide" is more truthful and correct, regardless of the racist implication.
Can't say I'm surprised at the visceral reaction. This dude is beyond being a tad over-sensitive, he's an outright poster child for why what you're doing is so valuable. You definitely struck a nerve with this neanderthal. I mean, my son was an "Indian Guide" back in the mid-90's, and even then I was discomfited by the headdress the "chief" wore and some of the mascot-quality to it all. Instead, the program could continue to honor Indian tradition by inviting REAL Natives to talk to the kids about their culture. And yeah, the name, "Indian Guides" should have been retired years ago...
Thanks for sending it along...
The harm of Native stereotyping: facts and evidence
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