Bob Buckley: Reflect deeply on history and our treatment of others
The Black Lives Matter protests have led to a renewed focus on the plight of Native Americans. The Washington Redskins have been forced by popular opinion to abandon their name. Attention is also being directed to our Kansas City Chiefs, which in turn has led to a call for disbanding the Boy Scout Tribe of Mic-O-Say. Many American Indians believe the Boy Scout traditions of the fictional Tribe of Mic-O-Say are offensive to their heritage and want the Boy Scouts to abandon and disband it.
Thus, the debate concerning Mic-O-Say has begun. As a matter of full disclosure, I have Cherokee Indian heritage. For those of you who new my mother as a young woman (admittedly a very small club now, as she would be 96) you would clearly see our Indian heritage. I believe her grandmother was a Cherokee Indian. I also was inducted into the Tribe of Mic-o-Say as a young teenager in the 1960s. I come to this issue from both perspectives.
There are two aspects of American history that can only be viewed as tragic, immoral and embarrassing – slavery and the horrible mistreatment of American Indians. As a history major in college with an emphasis on American history, I did have a course in Black history. I don’t recall that we spent much time on the 100 years of desegregation and Jim Crow laws following emancipation.
However, there was no course in the history curriculum at UMKC on the plight of the American Indian. I had heard of the Trail of Tears, but until I visited Andrew Jackson’s plantation in Nashville a few years ago, I had no idea how despicable some of his policies and actions were toward the Indian nations during his tenure. I do think this should be a part of the curriculum of every high school social studies class.
I am a little surprised by the uproar over the Tribe of Mic-O-Say. I have never thought it was demeaning or prejudicial. Roe Bartle, former mayor of Kansas City and after whom the Boy Scout Camp is named, founded the tribe. He was the first chief, and it is well known that his status in Mic-O-Say was a factor in naming the football team Lamar Hunt brought to town.
My induction into the tribe was one of the defining times in my life. It was a two-step process. The first step is to become a “brave,” and the initiation process was very challenging for a young teenager. When I became a brave, I was not at camp with my normal troop because our family had been on a lengthy vacation. Typically, you pick a “blood brother” who is a member of your own troop and you go through the process together. I was assigned a brother, and I could not tell you his name today.
We were taken one evening to spend the night in the woods a long way from our troop, without any warning or preparation. We were instructed to build a campfire. We could not see or hear anyone else the entire evening. It was unnerving if not frightening, especially being forced to do so with a total stranger.
We were instructed to remain silent for 24 hours. We also fasted for a day, and we were required to spend the next day working in the hot sun to remove some brush and limbs from an area at the camp without sleep or food. That 24 hours was a very unpleasant time.
The next phase began the next year when we became warriors. We were instructed to go back to the area we had been the year before to spend the night and I had no idea where I had been the year before so I went with some friends from my troop to their area. We were instructed to give deep thought to our relationships with our family, our country and God as we would be subjected to an interview with a scout leader the next evening. I took that task very seriously, and it was frankly a very significant time in my life.
Therefore, for those who oppose Mic-O-Say, this whole experience was not about dressing like an Indian and dancing around some campfire. It was very significant in my life and in the lives of tens of thousands of other Boy Scouts who have gone through the process since it was founded in 1929. Many prominent men are members of the tribe, including two of the founders of Cerner, the CEO of J.E. Dunn and Ike Skelton. It would be sad to see the Tribe of Mic-O-Say disbanded. Perhaps, the solution is to educate future generations of Boy Scouts on the sad and tragic history of the American Indian.
Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.