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Koshare Indian Dancers are members of Boy Scout Troop 232 in the Rocky Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America, located in La Junta, Colorado. They have been dedicated to maintaining Native American culture through dance since 1933. In addition to participating in regular Scouting activities, such as camping, merit badge projects, and community service, Koshares must create an historically accurate dance outfit, including leatherwork and beading. They travel around the country and perform traditional Plains and Pueblo Native American ceremonial dances. They also perform 50–60 Summer and Winter Ceremonial shows, annually, at their kiva located at the Koshare Indian Museum in La Junta. The Koshares have performed in 47 states.
Founded by James F. "Buck" Burshears (1909–1987) in February 1933 the Koshares, originally called the Boy Scout Indian Club, first practiced in Burshears's backyard and chicken coop. Their name was subsequently changed to Koshare, meaning clown or "delight-maker" in the Hopi language, as Burshears thought the name appropriate for the early members of the troop. Bill Sisson and Bob Inman, the first two Koshare Scouts, expanded the troop to include eighteen other Scouts. Their first performance took place in September 1933, at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in La Junta, Colorado.
Koshares may increase their ranks within their individual tribes by completing various scouting activities and fulfilling rank-specific requirements. The three different tribes whose dance styles are represented include the Kiowa, Sioux, and the Navajo.
New members are called Papooses. They must be at least 11 years old, but no older than 18 or have earned an Arrow of Light Award, which is the highest Cub Scout award.
After having obtained their Star Scout Rank within the Boy Scout hierarchy, they may work towards the status of Koshare Brave. In order to become a Brave, the Scout must maintain a "C" average in school, earn the Indian Lore Merit Badge, be well practiced in five Koshare Indian dances, exemplify good Scout attitude, read five books about Native American culture, create a well researched outfit, and be elected by current Koshare members.
Following the rank of Brave, a Scout may become a Clan Chief, with one Chief for each of the three tribes, after attaining their boy scout rank of Eagle Scout. Additionally, each year one Eagle Scout is elected to be the Head Chief and is responsible for leading all members.
The Clowns, painted in black and white, intercede between dances to provide comic relief, by taunting the crowd and mimicking the dancers. In the Pueblo culture, the clowns, or koshare, help to depict unacceptable behavior and teach values.
In 1995, in an attempt to make the dances more accurate, two girls were allowed to perform with the Koshares each year. Thanks to its success, in 2003, girls were invited to join the performances, regularly, and the "maiden program" was created.
On July 25, 2008 the Koshares celebrated their 75th anniversary with a reunion at the kiva. All former members were invited to join with the current members in an evening performance. The two original members, Bill Sisson and Bob Inman were in attendance along with hundreds of current and former members.
Media related to Koshare Indian Dancers at Wikimedia Commons