A report on the use of Native American themes at West Virginia 4-H camps recommends continuing the system of organizing campers into one of four tribes and continuing the use of tribal names that have been in place for 80 years. The report also recommends discontinuing practices, such as the wearing of feather headdresses, which could be perceived as stereotypical.

The 17-page report, based on a six-month review of the 4-H camping program, was released today (Dec. 16) by the West Virginia University Extension Service. The report also recommends:

  • ensuring that the present-day conditions of Native peoples are reflected in all Native American-based themes used in the 4-H camping program;

  • incorporating Native American teachers and resource persons into existing 4-H camping programs when appropriate;

  • continuing the High Council ceremony at state camps;

  • developing a statewide 4-H camping guide that addresses policies, Native American- based themes, ceremonies and award systems;

  • providing annual training for Extension faculty, staff and volunteers on 4-H camp policies and West Virginia camping traditions.

The full report can be found on the WVU Extension Service Web site,www.ext.wvu.edu/.Recommendations from the report will be used in planning for the 2003 West Virginia 4-H camping season.

“The report represents recommendations, analysis and comments from our 40-person statewide 4-H Camping Advisory Committee, as well as other individual opinions and expertise we sought during this extensive six-month review,”said Larry Cote, WVU associate provost and director of WVU Extension Service.

“I believe we achieved what the thousands of passionate and dedicated West Virginia 4-Hers asked for: keep as many of our West Virginia 4-H traditions as possible and halt anything that might be stereotypical or offensive,”Cote said.

In February 2002, U.S. Department of Agricultures (USDA) Office of Civil Rights accepted a complaint against the WVU Extension Service, alleging discrimination, misuse and misinterpretation of American Indian imagery and customs used as part of its 4-H camping program.

Although confident West Virginias 4-H program did not violate applicable laws, WVU Extension officials decided in March 2002 to discontinue all Native-American based themes from the 4-H camping program.

After an overwhelmingly negative response from West Virginians and increasingly unclear responses from USDA officers about the violation, WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. announced a revised approach to the issue. He explained on April 9 that”West Virginias strong 4-H program deserves a thoughtful, thorough review that includes many people, many opinions and many solutions.”

WVU Extension then formed a 4-H Camping Advisory Committee, headed by Extension faculty David Snively and Sue Jones, and composed of 4-H leaders, volunteers, alumni and members of the Native American community, to review camp practices and make recommendations for the 2003 camping season.

The report released today is based on that committees recommendations. The report has been sent to the USDA Office of Civil Rights.