Use of the Native American Theme

Because Y-Father-Child Programs have drawn heavily on the culture and customs of Native American tribes, YMCA lay and staff program leaders must try to represent the Native Americans’ contributions to our nation’s life and history accurately and positively.  The following guiding principles are presented for consideration and implementation by local YMCA boards and father-child program leaders.

  • An American Indian is a human being.  Scripts, film, program pageants, and youth activities that portray American Indians and their life-style, culture, and customs should be carefully evaluated for appropriateness.Indian Drawing Bow
  • American Indian religion is sound.  Each tribe had its own beliefs, which evolved over many thousands of years.  These religious beliefs served American Indians both in times of plenty and in times of need; they were sacred and meaningful to each tribe, and must be treated with respect and reverence.
  • The languages of American Indians are graphic.  Each tribe spoke its own dialect and took great pride in oratory.  The language used was both poetic and expressive.  Words such as “how” and “ugh” were not part of the Indian vocabulary and should never be used.
  • Indian names should engender respect.  Names such as squaw, buck, and chief are often used as nicknames for Native Americans:  Native Americans find this degrading.  Indians should be addressed with respect, by their proper names.  When choosing a Y-Indian name for you and your child, please be respectful and choose appropriately.  See page 33 for a thorough list of sample names.

Throughout the history of this program, Native American fathers and their children have participated in this program.  However, there are some Native American tribes and groups that believe this program denigrates their culture and their people.  We maintain that we honor the Native American tribes.  The Native American theme gives us an opportunity to teach our children about indigenous peoples of the past and of the present rather than allowing our children to learn about such cultures through fictional movies and stories which may inaccurately portray Indians.