Native American

The purpose of this information is to help professional Scouters gain valuable insight into the American Indian culture and introduce them to successful techniques for marketing and serving this vital population. We also want to provide Scouters with strategies to help recruit American Indian volunteers. The Boy Scouts of America must be positioned to provide Scouting in all communities and, specifically, those families that provide unprecedented opportunity. You may find that many community members don’t have a tradition or point of reference of the positive impact Scouting can have on their children’s lives and the community as a whole. Therefore, the fundamental and basic goals of the Scouting program must be highlighted.

American Indian Cultural Values

An important factor influencing relationships between Indians and non-Indians is the difference in cultural values. Often, one or both persons might be unaware of how deeply some of their values may differ. If not understood, these differences might prevent the development of good Scouting for American Indian youth.

At least some beginning understanding of Indian values will greatly improve relationships between Indian and non-Indian Scout leaders and between leaders in the American Indian community and those in the Boy Scout council.

It’s helpful to think of the diversity of cultures as neither good nor bad but simply as different. New cultural values can be learned or understood without people giving up their old values.

The issue is not simply the matter of learning Indian values to aid in the participation of American Indian youth in Scouting. Also important is the recognition that some Indian values might have great value for non-Indians.

How differing sets of values can be integrated might be one of our great challenges and also one of our great opportunities. It helps to realize that unity among people comes not so much from erasing our differences as it does from holding some common objectives and having a great respect for our differences.

Value Transition

Traditional American Indian values offer strength and a sense of one’s identity in the American Indian community. Interest in traditional Indian values has, in fact, intensified in recent decades. However, many American Indians live in a state of value transition.

Adaptation to some non-Indian values might be necessary to survive in the overall American society. For example, many people might make their living in a non-Indian environment, but they also need to retain their values. This could create a sense of great frustration for Indian people. Attempting to integrate two opposing sets of values can create enormous stress for both adults and youth.

In general, American Indians living on reservations and in other largely Indian communities are more likely to adhere to traditional values. Urban Indians, especially those who have never lived in an Indian community, are more likely to adhere to some mixture of Indian and non-Indian values.

Some American Indians are moving along a scale starting from a total absorption with their traditional values. This process might take many years or even several generations. Different people will be at different places along that scale.

Even many of those who have become a part of the American mainstream retain some ties to the cultural values and tastes of their Indian heritage. Scouters are wise to consider that persons can legitimately be bicultural. We should not expect people to give up their heritage to be a part of Scouting or to be an accepted part of the mainstream.

Value Indian and Non-Indian Values—Implications for Youth Leadership

The American Indian Education Unit of the California Department of Education has prepared a resource of interest to both Boy Scout local councils and American Indian leaders. It’s titled The American Indian: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow—A Handbook for Educators.

Of special interest is a valuable section that presents 27 specific American Indian values with possible implications for educators. Rather than present here a detailed list of possible implications for Scouting, each reader is asked to make such a list. Most of the educational considerations have parallels for Scouting, both in working with adults and in serving children and youth.


American Indian Scouting Association

The following items can be printed or ordered through the Supply Group or the Membership Impact Department, Membership Recruitment Team, at 972-580-2000.

American Indian Scouting association Brochure 11-149

American Indian Boy Scouting flier, No. 11-405

American Indian Cub Scouting flier, No. 11-407

American Indian Boy Scouting poster, No. 11-406

American Indian Cub Scouting poster, No. 11-408

American Indian Scouting poster, No. 11-412

American Indian Scouting flier, No. 11-413

American Indian Scouting Association brochure (523-007)