Indian Lore Merit Badge – What is the typical American Indian like? Although many of us try to classify all Indians into one group, the truth is that Indians are as diverse a group as one can find on this Earth.
Using the term “American Indian” to describe all of the native peoples of North America is like using “European for all the nationalities in Europe.
Swedes and Spaniards, Greeks and Germans, Britons and Romanians-all are Europeans but all have distinctly different cultures and traditions.
So it is with American Indian tribes. American Indians have many different cultures, languages, religions, styles of dress, and ways of life. In fact, they were not “Indians” until Europeans called them by that general name.
The original inhabitants of North America thought of each tribe as a separate nation, with different names, customs, and languages.
Therefore, as you work or the Indian Lore merit badge, remember that there is no “typical American Indian. There are Onondaga, Seminole, Dakota, Yakima, Paiute, Navajo, Cherokee, Menominee, and scores of others from coast to coast.
Most Indians today identify first as members of their tribe, and secondly as American Indians.
Indian Lore Merit Badge Requirement
As you study Indian cultures, be alert to religious customs, rituals, and traditions, including ceremonies and prayers, dances, songs and music, special clothing, artwork, and even games. Sometimes these are part of sacred rituals.
Be careful not to give offense by misusing anything of religious significance. Ask questions if you are not sure whether an item or activity you are portraying is part of a tribe’s religious custom.
Just as you might have ceremonies and rituals that are sacred, your faith, and your religious practice, so do the Indian groups you are learning about.
- Identify the different American Indian cultural areas. Explain what makes them each unique.
- Give the history of one American Indian tribe, group, or nation that lives or has lived near you. Visit it, if possible. Tell about traditional dwellings, way of life, tribal government, religious beliefs, family and clan relationships, language, clothing styles, arts and crafts, food preparation, means of getting around, games, customs in warfare, where members of the group now live, and how they live.
- Do TWO of the following. Focus on a specific group or tribe.
- Make an item of clothing worn by members of the tribe.
- Make and decorate three items used by the tribe, as approved by your counselor.
- Make an authentic model of a dwelling used by an Indian tribe, group, or nation.
- Visit a museum to see Indian artifacts. Discuss them with your counselor. Identify at least 10 artifacts by tribe or nation, their shape, size, and use.
- Do ONE of the following:
- Learn three games played by a group or tribe. Teach and lead one game with a Scout group.
- Learn and show how a tribe traditionally cooked or prepared food. Make three food items.
- Give a demonstration showing how a specific Indian group traditionally hunted, fished, or trapped.
- Do ONE of the following:
- Write or briefly describe how life might have been different for the European settlers if there had been no native Americans to meet them when they came to this continent.
- Sing two songs in an Indian language. Explain their meanings.
- Learn in an Indian language at least 25 common terms and their meanings.
- Show 25 signs in Indian sign language. Include those that will help you ask for water, for food, and where the path or road leads.
- Learn an Indian story of up to 300 words (or several shorter stories adding up to no more than 300 words). Tell the story or stories at a Scout gathering or campfire.
- Write or tell about eight things adopted by others from American Indians.
- Learn 25 Indian place names. Tell their origins and meanings.
- Name five well-known American Indian leaders, either from the past or the people of today. Give their tribes or nations. Describe what they did or do now that makes them notable.
- Attend a contemporary American Indian gathering. Discuss with your counselor what you learned and observed. Include in your discussion any singing, dancing, drumming, and the various men’s and women’s dance styles you saw.