Shock! Horror! Dismay! Outrage!
Wait a second, Trisec - isn't that spelled "Klansman?"
I don't have to tell you all about my years in the Scouting movement. It is lesser known, but among my many honorifics is the title "Apensuwi", interpreted as "Enjoyable One". It is my 'Vigil' name from a peculiar institution called the Order of the Arrow.
Once a competing organization of the Boy Scouts, the group was subsumed back in the early days of the movement, at least since 1915, and has transformed into what is popularly known as "Scouting's Honor Society".
It is as it says - purely an honorary group, devoted to service to others (primarily providing the manual labor for maintenance at our various camp facilities), as well as working throughout the local Scouting community to promote that service, as well as camping and outdoor activities in general.
The traditions and ceremonies of the Order are loosely based on a conglomeration of Native American rituals, strongly influenced by the Leni Lenape tribes of the Mid-Atlantic region. I am sworn to secrecy about a lot of the ritual, as it is not meant for outside eyes and is part of the 'mystique' of Order.
But I can tell you this - candidates are elected by their peers, they are not selected by local or district leadership to be so honoured. Once selected, a candidate must camp one weekend in what is called an "Ordeal". It is meant to focus you spiritually, and renew your commitment to the ideals of Scouting. Part of it is a night in the woods alone without shelter, silence and meditation throughout the day, and a long day of heavy manual labor with scant food.
But here is where I am suddenly horrified. On the Friday evening of camp arrival, candidates meet their guide, called an "Elangomat", and are separated into their groups for the weekend.
Unlike the rest of Scouting, these are not called Patrols....but are instead "Clans".
The word itself *should* be inoffensive. Our friends at Merriam-Webster define a "Clan" thusly:
Definition of clan
1a: a Celtic group especially in the Scottish Highlands comprising a number of households whose heads claim descent from a common ancestor
the MacDonald clan
b: a group of people tracing descent from a common ancestor : FAMILY
The whole clan gets together for the holidays.
2: a group united by a common interest or common characteristics
the country club clan
It was actually not that long ago, that I used to take great ironic joy in telling people at work that I was out in the woods being a "Clansman" all weekend. Their horrified looks were always worth the explanation.
But you see why this won't fly anymore.
The Spirit of Adventure Council, ScoutsBSA (Former Boston Minuteman) was the national leader and driving force behind changing our national membership policy. As early as 2001, our Council President posted a letter to National Headquarters stating that this council does not discriminate, and all boys were welcome to join. Things like race, religion, sexual orientation, just didn't matter to Boston as long as those boys were getting a good program.
ScoutsBSA Troop 56 (Cambridge) was the first Scout Troop to fully integrate. They have allowed female members for as long as I have known this troop - and the troop leadership entered the records into the national database as a matter of course and awarded ranks and merit badges, same as all the boys.
With those kind of credentials, earlier today I emailed the Council COO (and a longtime personal friend) and expressed my concerns with that terminology.
As I succinctly put it to him,
"I can't imagine any scout of color being too keen on staying with the Order if this is the terminology that's being used all weekend during their first exposure to Lodge traditions."