Political correctness is breaking the hearts of thousands of little girls -- and their daddies are having a hard time explaining why multicultural hypersensitivity is more important than their daughters' innocent fun.
Beginning this month, the YMCA's Indian Princesses organization will cease to exist. The group was inspired by Harold Keltner, a St. Louis YMCA director, who teamed up with a Canadian Ojibway Indian in 1926 to create a unique outdoors club for dads and children. Joe Friday, Keltner's good friend, fishing partner and hunting guide, spoke to YMCA members in Missouri about American Indian culture and the importance of the father's character-shaping role.
Invigorated by his discussions with Friday, Keltner created the "Y-Guides" programs incorporating Native American lore, traditions, ceremonies and regalia. Keltner organized the groups into "tribes" and "nations" led by "chiefs." The chiefs donned American Indian-style headdresses. Children learned Indian phrases. The Princesses program was added in the 1950s. Over the past 70 years, generations of Y-Guides dads have spearheaded historical research projects, camping trips and visits to Indian reservations. "The intention of the Y-Indian Guide programs has always been to honor American Indians," Arnie Collins, spokesman for the YMCA, recently noted.
More than a quarter-million fathers and children have strengthened their family bonds through these non-profit cultural programs. A few years ago, however, a tiny faction of militants from the radical American Indian Movement (AIM) targeted the YMCA's Indian Guides/Princesses as "racist." Only Indians should be allowed to dress as Indians and replicate Indian traditions, AIM argued. "What we were saying is, 'we understand where you're coming from, we understand that you want to honor the Indian, but you're not doing that,'" complained David Narcomey, North Florida director of AIM. "You're causing psychological damage to our children."
Peggy Larney of Dallas, a Choctaw Indian, protested the use of headdresses and feathers. "When other people that aren't Indian do it, they're not being authentic to it. It's just not right," she told the local press. Vernon Bellecourte, another AIM spokesman, called the Indian Guides program a "cheap Hollywood" version of American Indian culture. "They sit around in a circle with their chicken feathers, they have their little greetings and they call their groups various tribes," he griped. "It totally distorts our culture. They can only relate to this very superficial, stereotypical image of who they think we are."