Adam Hamilton seems like a nice enough fellow. As the founder of one of the largest United Methodist congregations in the country, Hamilton has been outspoken on social and racial justice issues in the past.
As senior pastor of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, he faced immense criticism for supporting same-sex marriage and welcoming members of the LGBTQ community into the megachurch. A church that’s also home to the Heart of America Council’s Boy Scout Troop 92, a group based in Johnson County.
But for whatever reason, Hamilton has found it difficult to take a stand against the Boy Scout’s Tribe of Mic-O-Say leadership program. And that is disappointing.
Hamilton can’t plead ignorance. He’s watched footage of a video filmed at the church in 2017 that shows members of an area Boys Scouts troop dancing and singing in full Native American regalia. His reluctance to publicly denounce the program is troubling to me.
Aspects of the program are sickening, a Cub Scout parent once said. She was correct. Mostly white kids dressed in Native American regalia and headdresses performing routines and other scouting activities do nothing to honor Native culture, as the Boy Scouts have long claimed.
The Church of the Resurrection and its 25,000-member congregation should pull its weight. Some have said Hamilton should either suspend or end Troop 92’s sponsorship until the Boys Scouts address the issue.
My hope is that Hamilton uses his considerable sway to put pressure on the Scouts to adapt or end Mic-O-Say, a long-standing regional camp tradition only found in councils in Kansas City and St. Joseph.
Hamilton has been careful not to call for an end to Mic-O-Say or pull the troop’s sponsorship, which would send a powerful message that a group of white children performing rituals in Native regalia is never OK.
“We don’t want to see that type of cultural appropriation here,” Hamilton said. “But that conversation should occur among Boy Scouts across the country and Native American leaders.”
Mic-O-Say does not pay respect
Richard Grounds is executive director of the Yuchi Language Project and a research professor at the University of Tulsa. He identifies as an indigenous person. Appropriation of Native American culture is a real problem that’s easy for white people such as Hamilton to dismiss, Grounds said.
“The core belief of this country is anything that is indigenous is ours for the taking,” he said. “That is how deep it goes and we are blind to that.”
That Boy Scout leaders have shied away from addressing the inappropriateness of a program many Native Americans consider degrading and racist is beyond ridiculous.
Brick Huffman, Heart of America’s Scout Executive and CEO, doesn’t seem interested in change. Less than one year after releasing a rather generic statement about respecting everyone’s heritage and culture, Huffman continued last week to hide behind carefully crafted talking points
“Each year we review and evolve our programs with input from the American Indian community,” Huffman said in a statement. “This past year we began reaching out to even more individuals from the American Indian community - partnerships that we continue to learn from and deeply value.”
To support the borrowing — some say stealing — and use of Native American culture for a bastardized version of traditional dances and ceremonies is concerning, advocates for indigenous people say. The Council’s use of Native American imagery and customs is despicable, they said.
Will Hamilton use his standing in the community to pressure the Boy Scouts’ Heart of America Council to abandon its insensitive and inappropriate tribe program? He certainly should. You don’t pay respect to Native culture draped in offensive costumes.