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BOY SCOUTS AIM TO PRESERVE CULTURE OF AMERICAN INDIANS

American Indians aren't the only ones preserving their culture and traditions.

Boy Scouts associated with the Order of the Arrow in Davis County are holding powwows, special ceremonies and dances, and they are learning to work with leather and beads.Since 1915, Scout leaders have promoted American Indian ways of life, respect for the environment and community service. Today more than 200 Boy Scouts in Davis County and more than 3,000 statewide have joined the Order of the Arrow and work monthly to gain knowledge and understanding of the most common Indian traditions, said Gary Cole, Scout chapter adviser for Davis County.

"I've been involved in Order of the Arrow 12 years, and to watch young men develop leadership skills and talents has probably been the most rewarding outcome I've ever seen," Cole said. "To have them take over and run things delights me, and it even delights me when they struggle a little."

But getting an education isn't the only involvement for the Scouts; the program also stresses giving service freely. Each year troops have cleared camp sites, made outhouses and dug trenches to facilitate other groups. Last week more than 100 Scouts demonstrated their bead work and dancing skills at the Davis County Fair. The boys also camped out in tepees and volunteered their time to help make the fair successful, said Todd Larsen, chief for the Northern Utah area.

"Serving other people is a big thing for us," he said. "Order of the Arrow builds good leadership and communication skills, mostly everyday skills that you need to succeed."

One of the highlights for most boys is making costumes for competitions. Larsen spent more than three hours nearly everyday for three months sewing, designing and beading his moccasins, he said.

"I've made everything on my costume," he said, pointing to his all leather outfit. "It's taken me six years to make it."

Many Scouts search through books to learn the techniques for costume-making and dancing. Some learn the traditions from the older generation of Scouts, and others have been lucky enough to have American Indians share their history and heritage, he said.

From association with American Indian friends, Larsen has learned that there are some aspects of Indian culture that are sacred and can't be used by the Scouts. For example, special face paint during some ceremonies is forbidden, he said.

Members of the Order of the Arrow respect the Indian traditions and must prove their dedication before being elected into the program, Cole said.

Although Scouts must take Indian culture seriously, they have plenty of fun at the same time. Camp outs are a time for Scouts to participate in dance and ceremonial competitions, learn bead work and enjoy the entertainment of an American Indian drumming, singing and dancing group, Cole said.

Scouts also spend twice a month making regalia for their costumes and practicing dance steps. Competitions are held throughout the year against other lodges.