The Tribe of Mic-O-Say dance teams regularly perform’ in ‘Native-style regalia’

A century of history: The Boy Scouts ‘origin story’ has claimed ‘Native teachings and spawned several factions claiming American Indian lore (Part 3)

When searching the Boy Scouts of America website for ‘Mic-O-Say’ the website says “Sorry nothing to display,” However, after careful searching, the Mic-O-Say makes its way to the surface.

Though references to the Mic-O-Say cannot easily be found on scouting.org, the history of the Tribe of Mic-OSay are much more profound in the scouting world’s public eye.

The Tribe of Mic-O-Say — as described on their website at micosay.org, which also posts the emblem of the Boy Scouts of America and state they are a proud partner — are the honor camping society of Camp Geiger, Pony Express Council, and the Boy Scouts of America and that “its ceremonies, customs, and traditions are loosely based on the folklore of the American Indian.”

Mic-O-Say groups performing - Buffalo mask
A screen capture of a Mic-O-Say White Shield dancer.

The about page of the Tribe of Mic-O-Say states:

“By blending the spirit and pride of the American Indian with the ideals and objectives of the Boy Scouts of America, the Tribe of Mic-O-Say endeavors to prolong the Scouting adventure with a historical theme that has held the attention and captured the imagination of boys and men alike for many generations. Its purpose is to reinforce the principles of the Scout Oath and Law and to foster continued participation in Scouting.”

What and who are the Mic-O-Say?

Though the Order of the Arrow is more of a secret-based honor society of the Boy Scouts of America, the tribe of Mic-O-Say is much more pronounced in the public’s eye.

H Roe Bartle as 'Chief' Lone Bear  - circa 1925
H. Roe Bartle also referred to as "Chief" Lone Bear - circa 1925

The Mic-O-Say was founded in 1925, under the leadership of Harold Roe Bartle, a former Scouting leader for the Cheyenne Council of Boy Scouts in Casper, Wyoming, that claimed he was inducted into a local tribe of the Arapaho people. According to a “traditional Mic-O-Say legend” Bartle was also given the name Chief Lone Bear by an Arapaho chief.

Due to Bartle’s desire to bring his version of Native American culture to scouts, he took over a pre-existing camp society called Manhawka. He used his experiences with local tribes such as the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone in creating the Tribe of Mic-O-Say.

As the leader of the Tribe of Mic-O-Say, Bartle became the ‘chief,’ a nickname he carried for his life. As chief, Bartle conducted ceremonies on new members, by placing an eagle claw around their necks and giving them a ‘Native name.’

Mic-O-Say patch
Mic-O-Say patch

The Mic-O-Say became wildly popular and increased camp attendance in scout summer camps by young men who wished to incorporate Native American traditions into their scout activities. In 1928, Bartle was named the Scout Executive of the Kansas City area council, and Mic-O-Say had become so successful, other Mic-O-Say camps were formed.

Though some historical accounts differ as to the number of scout members, here is one description as posted in a 2015 Facebook page post by the Missouri newspaper ‘The Clinton Daily Democrat.”

“The Tribe of Mic-O-Say has hundreds of members in Henry County alone and tens of thousands in Missouri and Kansas. At present, there are around 60,000 Scouts who are members of the tribe. Founded in 1925 near Agency, Mo., under the leadership of the legendary Chief Lone Bear (H. Roe Bartle), the tribe has a link with the Arapaho Nation, Lakota Nation, and Shoshone Nation. As a Scout Executive in Wyoming in the 1920s, Chief Lone Bear worked with an Arapaho Chieftain who was a Scoutmaster for a troop on the Wind River Reservation to help formulate the program which, in 2015, still emphasizes a belief in a higher power and fundamental values.”

Though Mic-O-Say proper is not described on the Boy Scouts website, Bartle’s Mic-O-Say camp in Osceola, Missouri, which is now called the ‘Bartle Scout Reservation” still exists today.

According to the BSA webpage description, which includes a Vimeo video is as follows:

“The H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation, located in Osceola, Missouri, is home to over 6,600 Boy Scouts and 3,000 leaders each summer. The 4,200 acre reservation consists of three camps Lone Star, Sawmill, and Piercing Arrow and the Osage Wilderness Trail. The H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation has been a summer home to Scouting and its leadership development program, the Tribe of Mic-O-Say since 1929.”

Mic-O-Say and Kansas City Chiefs connection

Harold Roe Bartle - cigar

Bartle, who was known in many of his circles as ‘chief’ continued into the world of public service and politics. Bartle served as mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, for two terms and in 1962 he helped to persuade the Dallas Texans football team to come to Kansas City.

As written about in a Kansas City Star article from 2016 by Rick Montgomery:

“Bartle learned on a business trip that Hunt was thinking about relocating his American Football League franchise. Not yet ready to sever his football ties in Texas, Hunt originally declined the mayor’s invitation to check out Kansas City. So Bartle promised total secrecy, which included mailing papers to Hunt from a location outside City Hall.

When Hunt visited, Bartle introduced him as ‘Mr. Lamar’ and referred to Steadman as “Jack X.”

Team owner of the Dallas Texans Lamar Hunt who was also the founder of the American Football League met with Bartle under a veil of secrecy that he truly enjoyed according to the article, and after what then Kansas City Star sports columnist Joe McGuff cited as “a remarkable selling job on Lamar Hunt,” the team owner agreed to have his team named the Kansas City Chiefs after Bartle.

The Kansas City Chiefs were not named for a Native American, but for Bartle’s invention as a chief and his involvement with Mic-O-Say.

Mic-O-Say today

Today the Tribe of Mic-O-Say flourishes as evidenced by their website in which leaders go by the names of ‘Chief and Chieftains, Camp Directors and Scout executives. Listed on the Mic-O-Say website these “Chief and Chieftains” Camp Directors and Scout Executives can be seen wearing various Native-inspired regalia with the majority being Native style headdresses.

Tribe of Mic-O-Say

Leaders and members have a list of Native-themed titles such as chief, chieftain, foxman, brave, warrior honorary, warrior hard-way, fire builder, tom-tom beater, runner, Keeper of the sacred bundle, shaman, sachem, keeper of the wampum, sagamore and medicine man depending on their level of achievement and status in the Mic-O-Say.

The Tribe of Mic-O-Say's website with organization leaders wearing headdresses

Each of the titles also has a certain ‘eagle-claw’ emblem, usually worn as a necklace designating their status in the Mic-O-Say. The titles also have a specific description as described on the Mic-O-Say site.

Mic-O-Say Rank and Paint stations

An example are the sachem and medicine man, which are part of the tribal council, they are described as follows:

Sachem

Signified by white paint on the tips of the claws. Sachem is the first level of membership in the Tribal Council.

Medicine Man

Signified by white paint on the tips of the claws. Medicine Man is the senior level of membership on the tribal council.

According to the Mic-O-Say “Rights and Responsibilities” page on the Boy Scouts of America website:

“There are two ranks in the Tribe of Mic-O-Say: braves and warriors / honored women. The two divisions of warriors are hardway warriors and honorary warriors. Hardway warriors entered the tribe before their 18th birthday, whereas honorary warriors and honored women entered the tribe after their 18th birthday.

The descriptions are listed on the Boy Scouts web site.

‘Native’ traveling dance teams

The Mic-O-Say promotes Native dances in full “regalia” by nine separate dance teams that travel across the country to different scouting and public events. The nine teams are Crossed Arrows, Five Rivers, Kanza, Lone Star, Ma-Has-Ka, Maha, Otoe, Robidoux and White Shield.

Mic-O-Say groups performing (1)
Screen capture White Shield Dancers

The White Shield Dance team is one of the nine non-Native dance teams that travel around the country performing Native-themed dance demonstrations. As listed on the Mic-O-Say as well as their own website at www.whiteshieldmicosay.com The White Shield Dancers are the “largest in the Pony Express Council encompassing the entire 19-county Kansas City metro area.”

The team, which wears “Native-themed regalia” has an average attendance of 30 “tribesmen” at every performance and 50 “tribesmen” at every practice. The current dance director is Paul Brenneman, who is called the “Sachem Northern Owl.” His image on Facebook shows him wearing such “Native regalia.”

Currently, Boy Scouts or Cub Scout groups can request dance performances from the White Shield Dancers, as well as the other groups as is described on their “Schedule a Performance” pages.

Tribe of Mic-O-Say - website screen capture

The White Shield Dance Team is one of many such teams throughout the United States.

Make Talk Now

The Mic-O-Say has several social media accounts existing under the name @MakeTalkNow which are currently active. The @MOS_HOAC, the Official Twitter account of Mic-O-Say from the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation, has an active account, but the tweets are protected as a private account.

Mic-O-Say Twitter

The most prominent of the accounts is the MakeTalkNow YouTube site which has nearly two hundred videos with scouts wearing Native-style ‘regalia’ conducting interviews, giving tutorials on creating regalia and videos of the Mic-O-Say pow wows and dance recitals.

MakeTalkNow - YouTube

The Mic-O-Say’s purpose

According to the Boy Scouts of America, the Tribe of Mic-O-Say “accomplishes its purposes by affording members ongoing opportunities for introspection on Scouting values as well as practical application of those ideals.”

The website description, which lends credibility to the organization's ideals continues as follows:

“The program is focused on boys who have shown leadership abilities through specific achievement and growth, and provides them with a distinctive lifelong direction. The program is energized by memorable customs and traditions. Adult leaders are brought into the Tribe so that they may interpret and encourage the use and application of those principles in the lives of boys.

Mic-O-Say powwow at Camp Geiger - Facebook
Facebook - Mic-O-Say at Camp Geiger

“Tribesmen who have embraced the principles of Mic-O-Say will find their lives enriched by a vision raised to higher sights, see their performance increased beyond previous limitations, and will develop lifelong friendships. They will stand tall within their communities as examples of unselfish service and of willing leadership.”

Through its cultural appropriation of Native culture, there has still been a list of high-achieving individuals that have made their way through the ranks of the Mic-O-Say.

Prior members of the Mic-O-Say, which as of 2019, has had membership into the several tens-of-thousands since its conception in 1925, have included the following members:

Harold Roe Bartle: the former two-term mayor of Kansas City; Congressmen Ike Skelton: A 34-year member from Missouri's 4th District and Sam Grave from Missouri's 6th Congressional District and Todd Graves, a former US Attorney.

The Tribe of Mic-O-Say has no indication of slowing its impression on young scouts. 

Mic-O-Say image search displays thousands of appropriating photos
Mic-O-Say image search displays thousands of appropriating photos

As David Woodman, aka Painted Elk, the presiding chieftain of Mic-O-Say wrote in part in his 2019 Year in Review:

“As anyone who has spent much time at Bartle knows, the place grabs a special hold on our hearts and stays there, forever pulling on us to return … Let's see where we can take the Tribe in 2020 and beyond. There will be challenges but together we can weather the storm and keep the Tribe pointed in the right direction. I ask for your support to volunteer, donate and serve where you can. Ya Ta Hey.”

Stay tuned for the full list of source materials and research links following the last of five articles.

Indian Country Today reached out to a considerable number of sources connected to the Boy Scouts, including troop leaders, upper administration, media relations and more. None of Indian Country Today’s requests for comments were answered aside from one - listed and cited above.

Stories in the Boy Scout article series by Indian Country Today associate editor Vincent Schilling

Boy Scouts ‘have been one of the worst culprits’ of cultural appropriation

Order of the Arrow is a ‘secret’ scout society ‘in the spirit of the Lenni Lenape’ - a Lenape leader disagrees

The Tribe of Mic-O-Say dance teams regularly perform’ in ‘Native-style regalia’

How the Kansas City Chiefs got their name and the Boy Scout Tribe of Mic-O-Say

The Koshare museum raises money and its ‘Native’ dancers perform even after being told they shouldn’t

Native voice helped create the Boy Scouts, Charles Eastman ‘Ohiyesa’

Solutions for moving beyond appropriation in the 21st-century scouts. Star Wars?

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Comments (3)
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TanyaAF
TanyaAF

I think they do a white people powwow near Chicago, too, but they advertise it like an actual tribe is hosting. Super gross.

Drew WaepewAwaehsaeh
Drew WaepewAwaehsaeh

I am simply disgusted and the very site of these pictures and the abhorrent nature of these white "wannabe" adults who are encouraging these youth to BE something they are NOT! From a Native standpoint........this just sickens me.

If they want Native cultural information..........then go VISIT a Reservation! Go TALK with some Native-Elders! Go OPEN a book that describes the generations of Natives that were Beaten,forced to HIDE their culture and language so that they could become more "assimilated". All I see in these pictures,are white men acting like "chiefs" of nothing but complete and total misinformation that has been passed down over and over again.

phughes
phughes

While this is an example of accurate reporting on an appalling example of ignorance and twisting of Eastman's original intention, it does nothing to elucidate those who continue to participate in traditions that are not part of their own cultures. Attempts to reach out need to go beyond asking for comments on critical articles that offer no analysis. No wonder you didn't get any cooperation. And those quotes could have led to a more meaningful critique versus slam and run.