At the turn of the 20th century, “Indian lore” was quite the rage for boys. In an increasingly industrialized and urban society, the romanticized native American with his ability to move soundlessly through the forest and build shelter and transportation without tools was an idealized hero. And when Lord Baden-Powell’s scouting movement made its way to the States, a number of boys groups had already been created based around Indian themes. These groups – and the themes – were incorporated into the Boy Scouts of America. And as the Boy Scouts grew over the next century, it’s American Indian theme became prominent, seen as a significant part of the scouting tradition and influencing the names of the national divisions.
Meet Frankie Crow Flag. Frankie’s father was Blackfoot and his mother raised him to respect his heritage.
Native American culture is still active in the Pacific Northwest. And Frankie, who lived in Portland, Oregon, attended pow-wows, learned the dances, and kept traditional symbols in his home.
And, appropriately for a young Blackfoot boy, Frankie’s mother did not cut his hair. By six, it hung in a straight full sheet down his back.
Frankie was a bit shy and not the most masculine boy in town, but he was a boy and he wanted to do “boy things”. And he very very much wanted to join the Cub Scouts.
So, in the mid 80′s, Frankie’s mother took him to sign up and begin his scouting adventure. But for the Cub Scout Master, gender conformity and gender appearance far outweighed any ideals he may have had about Native American culture. He told Frankie’s mother that he wasn’t welcome in the Cub Scouts because “he looks like a little girl and it will confuse the other boys.”
I didn’t understand. At that age, the only time I felt different was when I tried to fit in.
A loss for both Frankie and the other little boys who could have learned about a culture different from their own.
Today Frankie lives in Los Angeles and is part of the exclusive team of servers at The Abbey, where no one has any trouble figuring out if he is a boy or a girl.
To participate in the Local History Project, please email Timothy Kincaid (email@example.com) or Randy Potts (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell us your story in your own words.