This is our definition of misappropriation of American Indian lore: (1) any false claim to a special association with the culture, as well as (2) anything religious. In addition, anything objectionable from some other religious perspective is inappropriate, even if not a misappropriation of American Indian culture.
The conjecture that these beliefs are no longer in practice is not a defense. We should respect past religious beliefs, not just those that are held by those we know. Furthermore, this conjecture is false. There are current believers.
We have identified only the following clear cases of misappropriation and religions objections in current ceremonies:
- Both legends are false claims of special association with the Delaware Tribe. And thus are misappropriation.
- The Brotherhood legend centers on a vision quest, which is an important characteristic of American Indian spiritual belief. It is an inappropriate use of American Indian spiritual ritual as egregious as the prayer pipe (mistakenly called peace pipe) rituals eliminated from OA tapouts about 50 years ago. Worse, it claims that our Order arose out of that invented vision quest.
- Meteu is a medicine man, which is to say a shaman. A spiritual American Indian leader. And thus is misappropriation. He is no more appropriate than someone in Christian clerical garb. True, a Medicine Man has a role in physical healing, as well as spiritual roles. In recent years, the physical healing role has been emphasized in the OA to deal with this objection. But without a doubt, the term “Medicine Man” implies to us, and Native Americans, a spiritual role as well. And declaring the roles separate is itself an affront to American Indian belief, which does not hold that the physical and spiritual are separate.
- Taking away the ceremonialist’s name to accept a mythical figure within is objectionable to some Christians. It reminds some of demonic possession. Incidentally, some of us believe that ideally ceremonialists will not be “acting”, but rather speaking from their hearts from the perspective of the Order’s Principle which they represent. Pretending to yourself to be the person you are “playing like an actor” is called “Method Acting”. And tends to encourage over-acting: the use of wide gestures and deep voices rather than sincerity.
We are not opposed to Indian lore in Scouting or the Order of the Arrow. By eliminating the above actual misappropriation, we hope that American Indian outfits, drumming, dancing, crafts, and study can continue to exist where lodges are actively involving American Indian experts in an ongoing process. We harm, not help, American Indians and their culture if we eliminate a significant group’s interest and involvement in that culture: the Order of the Arrow.