As I mentioned the other day, my mother saved a few of my most precious items in a memory book. As I looked through the book again this past week, I was amazed at everything she’d saved. I found pictures, certificates, spelling tests and one fascinating piece of memorabilia: My Y-Indian Guide patch.
This one piece of nylon brought back so many painful memories. For those of you unfamiliar with the racial stereotyping and cultural hatred that occurred as I grew up, I will take a moment to fill you in on the scene in the ’70’s.
The country was at war trying to stop the Communists, rock music was giving a voice to the angst of the nation’s youth, drugs were everywhere, and Pollack jokes were all the rage. John Wayne was an American hero and the Lone Ranger was saving the west. Little boys played cowboys and Indians and the cowboys were always good and the Indians always wanted to kill someone.
Yes, this is the hotbed of unrest that bred this bad, bad boy. I’ll admit it. I was a Y-Indian. I’m not proud of it. But I must come clean to move on to Step 3 in my cultural sensitivity program.
The Y-Indian Guide brought together fathers and sons one night a week and forced them to do things together, like work leather and learn how to build fires that didn’t smoke. Like cub scouts, it provided a place for boys to learn from their older guides the xenophobic, homophobic patterns of generations before. Unlike scouts, it provided the opportunity to wear really cool headgear and was centered around movie-based Indian stereotypes. We wore face paint during the exciting ceremonies and chanted “woo-woo” as we beat drums. The program survives to this day but gets a little push back from Native Americans who feel that the paleface is mocking them.
Looking back, they may have a valid point. Now on to Step 3.