This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Now that the LDS Church has decided to stick with the Boy Scouts of America, Utah mother Jo Overton would like Mormons to consider another issue: the Scouts' appropriation of Native American symbols and rituals.
"Feathers, colors, headdresses, regalia, drums, Native dance, names, body painting, and eagles are all sacred to most of Native America," Overton, a member of the Sicangu Lakota tribe, writes on the Femwoc (Feminist Mormon Women of Color) blog. "They are a direct connection to our history and our culture of today. The fact they even exist today is a testament to the courage and fortitude of our people in the face of cultural annihilation. The price paid by my ancestors and my family, for me to continue to participate, was and is with their blood and lives."
While acknowledging that she doesn't speak for all Native Americans, Overton believes the Scouts' cultural appropriation "is wrong."
And here's what the Mormon convert of 36 years wants like-minded participants to do about it:
"Have a conversation with your children and family about why this is problematic," Overton advises. "Ask them their opinions and get their suggestions about what you could do as an individual, family, troop and ward. And then do it."
Beyond that, those concerned should "refuse to go along with it. Encourage your child to not go along with it. Learn to speak up and then help your child speak up. Say it in Scout trainings, in your ward meetings," she says. "Pull your child out of the activity. Set up an alternative activity and award. ... Speak out, write letters, do what you feel you should."
Most important, is to "talk to your children and grandchildren," Overton argues. "The change is within them, and when their hearts and minds change, the program will change to reflect this."
Kalani Tonga, another Femwoc writer, agrees.
Using Native American imagery for the Scouts' "Arrow of Light" ceremony, Tonga writes, "would be like a group of people wanting to honor Mormons by dressing up in temple clothing and garments."
No matter how well intentioned the action, she says, "it's still not appropriate."
Peggy Fletcher Stack