Monday, September 21, 2015

Just the facts, ma’am - just the facts

Dragnet , the TV show, was on the air from 1951-1959, and again from 1967-1970. For virtually all of those shows, Jack Webb played the role of Sergeant Joe Friday, and his most famous line is the one shown above.

Jack Webb came to mind the other day, for an entirely unrelated reason, one that is strongly related to “political correctness”.

When we lived in Wisconsin, I (and both of my children) participated in the Indian Guides program that was sponsored by the YMCA. The advantage of the Indian Guides program over the Scouts is that you couldn’t simply drop off your kids and have a Scoutmaster guide them - you actually had to PARTICIPATE in their activities. The activities usually consisted of weekly craft events at the home of one of the dads. Twice a year, we also participated in an weekend camp out at a YMCA camp. In Wisconsin, the damp of choice was Phantom Lake, the oldest YMCA camp in the country, and its roots go all the way back to 1896.

To fully appreciate this place, though, you need to believe in ghosts,and it would also help to go camping at a Wisconsin YMCA camp on the night of September 2.

Eventually, I became the Federation chief, and had the honor of wearing the full Native American headdress (made of Eagle feathers). I adopted the name of “Chief “Horse feathers” because I suspected that most people wouldn’t known the urban dictionary meaning of the term. My son decided to call himself “pony feathers”.

Apart from the fact that we had a lot of fun on our camp outs, we all grew to truly appreciate the culture of the Native Americans who preceded us.

The Indian Guides program (which later expanded to include the Indian Princess program) was started in 1920’s by a St. Louis YMCA director, and Ojibwe tribe member named Joe Friday (I’m not making this up.)

His views of the Indian Guide program are as follow:

"The Indian father raises his son. He teaches his son to hunt, to track, to fish, to walk softly and silently in the forest, to know the meaning and purpose of life and all that he must know, while the white man allows the mother to raise his son."

Over time, of course, the Indian Guides program became somewhat “politically correct” , and the national YMCA advocated a name change as early as 2002, when they suggested Adventure Guides as a safe alternative. However, the national organization did not REQUIRE local affiliates to change their local names, so Indian Guile programs continued to flourish.

In recent months, an Ojibwe Indian named Andrea Barnwell moved to Lagrange, Illinois with her family.

When Barnwell learned that her local YMCA had an Indian Guides program, she fired off a letter to national YMCA officials. In part, this is what she said:

"I have looked up the information on the Indian Princesses and I find it to be extremely racist and offensive," she wrote in an email to YMCA officials. "The participants dress in Native American regalia, call themselves names based on real tribes, and drum and (chant) in a style they deem to be Native American.

In response, the national YMCA decided that local programs would have to change their names, and drop their decades-old programs, or leave the auspices of the YMCA.

I fully acknowledge that Native Americans have long been mistreated in this country, as evidenced by the fact that they weren’t even recognized as citizens until 1924, and weren’t allowed to vote (in some jurisdictions)until 1970.

However, in this instance, my opinion is that the national YMCA should have “grown a pair” and told anyone who was interested that they weren’t going to change the name.

If you don’t like my opinion, then you can stop calling me “kemosabi”,

P.S. In case you’re wondering, the REAL Lone Ranger was a black man who lived with Native American Indians, and the Spanish meaning of “Tonto” is “ stupid”

Put THAT in you pipe and smoke it!

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