ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — When Kinlichiinii John set out to earn a religious emblem for his uniform like other Cub Scouts, he learned that none exists to acknowledge his Navajo beliefs.
Neither the traditional Navajo spiritual way of life nor the Native American Church are among the 35 religious affiliations represented in emblems approved by the Boy Scouts of America.
So 9-year-old Kinlichiinii, with the help of his family, Navajo medicine men and others, has embarked on a quest to establish Scouting’s first American Indian religious emblem.
“This is just another tool we need to raise them in order for them to hang on to their tradition, their culture, to who they are,” said his mother, Melvina John.
Living in Clermont, Fla., Kinlichiinii is far from the Navajo Nation — the country’s largest Indian reservation, spanning parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. But he wants to be closer to his faith and learn about tools used in ceremonies, how to pray, and the significance of sheep and sand paintings to the Navajos, his mother said.
As a Cub Scout, he takes an oath to be reverent toward God, to be faithful in his religious duties and to respect the beliefs of others.
“The religious component is a very important part of a boy’s life,” said David Richardson, director of religious relationships for the Boy Scouts of America.
Religious emblems earned by scouts are issued by churches, not the Boy Scouts of America, though the organization approves the wearing of them, he said.
There are some rules, Mr. Richardson said. At least 25 Scouts must be members of the Native American Church for the Boy Scouts to consider approving an emblem for it.
Kinlichiinii’s family has been working on the emblem’s design and the guidelines to earn it.
Mrs. John said her son has spent recent weeks learning about prayer, preparations for medicine men and how the Navajo language fits into his faith.
“His time is definitely not his anymore, and he hasn’t complained,” she said. “But we have been telling him, this is how leaders are made.”