WVU will discontinue ‘offensive’ camp rituals

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia’s 4-H camps will continue as usual this summer, but some things – like Native American customs – won’t return with campers.

University President David C. Hardesty Jr. said the university is revising the issue of Native American customs in West Virginia’s 4-H summer camping program.

USDA threatened. WVU Extension officials have been operating under verbal directives from officials from the USDA to move swiftly to make changes to remove allegedly offensive Native American customs and rituals from the 4-H camping program.

“We acted swiftly to protect the 4-H program from severe financial threat, and we acted on what we thought were clear directives from the USDA,” said Larry Cote, associate provost and director of WVU Extension Service. Cote said he awaits clarification in writing from the USDA on their policy and position. The USDA owns the 4-H name and emblem and is the major funder of the statewide program through the extension service.

Hardesty said the extension service, with input from 4-H leaders, volunteers, alumni and members, will take the coming year to review 4-H camping programs and practices. From that review, recommendations will be developed for the 2003 camping season.

The university appointed two Extension employees to lead the statewide effort to review the 4-H camping program: Dave Snively of Morgantown and Sue Jones of Grantsville, both 4-H’ers, members of 4-H All Stars and native West Virginians.

Apologized. Apologizing to the 4-H community for “the difficulty this issue has caused all of us,” Cote said, “Our goal continues to be to move forward and to keep West Virginia 4-H strong.”

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