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.”
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.
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.’
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
An example are the sachem and medicine man, which are part of the tribal council, they are described as follows:
Signified by white paint on the tips of the claws. Sachem is the first level of membership in the Tribal Council.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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