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How Many Stereotypes Can You Fit In One Program?: Y-Tribes, Y Indian Guides and the YMCA

Do you know about the YMCA's Y-Tribes? Well neither did I until this weekend when, I got a flier, passed out at an Ohio school, encouraging families to sign up. Apparently we are quite out of the loop. Y-Tribes started, in 1926 as the "Y-Indian Guides" in 1926 and in many places are still called that.

Ah where to start. The Y-Tribes include Guides (boys) and Princesses (ok I guess I don't have to tell you what sex they are). The program elements for boys are earth, wind, fire and water. So what's left for girls you ask? Why the "star, heart, moon and sun" of course.

Now it's not that I don't believe in things like "building communication, companionship, understanding and mutual respect" actually I that's a great idea. I just wonder how come the aim is for fathers and sons to be "pals forever" and for fathers and daughters to "share understanding". And wouldn't it be nice to have girls and boys to have some, oh I don't know, similar elements, with girls getting a chance to mess with "earth, wind, fire and water"?

The stereotypes, both positive and negative, of Native Americans, are, well words fail me. Luckily they didn't fail Blue Corn Comics which has a listing of some of the stereotypes in Y-Indian Guides and more importantly they have an excellent piece on The Harm of Native Stereotyping: Facts and Evidence.

Interestingly, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer , "in 1979, based on an agreement with the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, the Seattle Y developed guidelines for local chapters to eliminate inappropriate use of feathers and headbands, as well as stereotypical jargon attributed to Indians, such as "ugh," and "how."" And in 2003 the program was to become "Adventure Guides" with boys being "Adventure Guides" and girls "Explorers".

Since a search on "y-indian guide" got over 1200 hits including Big Eagle's Y-Indian Program Medallions I'm not sure how far out of Seattle the message got.


Thanks for linking to my site.

I don't think the move to eliminate the inappropriate use of Indian imagery is limited to Seattle or Washington state. I think it's nationwide.


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