WASHINGTON - This year, the Boy Scouts of America's honor society, the Order of the Arrow, instituted a new policy: Scouts will no longer be allowed to dress up as “Indians” and incorporate Native American motifs into two of the order's more important ceremonies.
But in spite of complaints from tribes across the country, Scouts continue to dress in “Redface,” a term some use to describe the wearing of feathers and warpaint by non-Native Americans. In 1902, a Connecticut naturalist named Ernest Thompson Seton established an outdoor youth club called the “League of Woodcraft Indians,” seen as part of a greater back-to-nature movement in America in reaction to industrialization.
As Seton put it in his Woodcraft guidebook, “those live longest who live nearest to the ground, that is, who live the simple life of primitive times, divested, however, of the evils that ignorance in those times begot.” "A tepee, Wyndygoul -- Camp Flying Eagles," on the estate Ernest Thompson Seton, ca. 1908.
He organized the league into bands and councils made up of chiefs, “braves” and medicine men. Members took “Indian” names — "Speardeep” or “Manytongues,” for example. They wore face paint and feathers and camped in tipis. Seton combined cultural elements from a variety of tribal traditions into one generic stereotype of “Indian” as a noble nature lover.
Seton later helped found Boy Scouts of America (BSA), largely patterned after Woodcraft. Out of BSA rose the Order of the Arrow fraternal society, created to honor exemplary scouts.
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