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"Indian Counselor Programs" and "The Studio" 

During the 1930s and 40s, some camp leaders and educators recognized the significance of providing authentic indigenous experiences. While these actions were progressive at the time, we realize now that the intentions were good, but the execution of these actions was not the best. For example, in 1929, camp directors were in contact with “Indian colleges” and advocacy groups explicitly looking for “Indian counselors.” Several directors connected with the American Indian League (AIL) (a group organized by white Americans to “preserve Indian arts and culture” in 1910) to aid in this recruitment. Camp directors hoped to create a program specifically for training “Indian counselors” in the future. This idea was approved by many leading organizations, such as Teachers College of Columbia, the national YMCA, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, and many private camps. Later in the 1930s, with funding from the National Youth Administration (a part of the New Deal initiatives), young indigenous adults in New York State were offered a one-week course on “Indian stories and crafts, teaching them how to be ‘Indian counselors’ and then sending them off to work” in summer camps. In 1938, eighty-three young adults were assigned to nonprofit organizational camps in New York State and other private camps in the northeast. Leslie Paris, author of Children’s Nature: The Rise of American Summer Camps (2008), said, “The performance of camp Indianness did not come naturally to Native American counselors, many of whom were students at schools such as Syracuse University and Dartmouth College. Despite their modern achievements, they were hired for their connection to Indian tradition… Campers often perceived Indian counselors to be living embodiments of history.” (Paris, 2008)

Another example of an initiative (or rather an attempt) to promote cultural appreciation of indigenous arts and crafts practices began in 1932 with the establishment of "The Studio" at the Santa Fe Indian School by visual art educator Dorothy Dunn. "The Studio," a painting program for indigenous students in the American Southwest, lasted five years. During this time, "Dunn's art teaching, the exhibition of her students' works, and her publications helped to codify ideas about Native American identity, Native American art, and its authenticity for both Native people and non-Natives. Some Native American artists found in Dunn's influences the means to create positive identities for themselves as Native people. Others rejected Dunn's influences and, from this rejection, created a different basis for their Native American identities and established new directions in Native American art.” (Eldridge, 2001) While Dunn's teachings did not directly live in summer camps, her influence (either positive or negative) was felt throughout the field of art education in America. This trickled down into arts and crafts programs in summer camps and the general attitudes and procedures for teaching indigenous cultural arts and crafts.

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