The Koshare Indian Dancers are the members of Boy Scout Troop 232 and Venturing Crew 2230 of the Rocky Mountain Council, Boy Scouts of America. The Koshares perform between 50 and 60 shows a year. Their dances and shows are recognized by Native American dancers as authentic representations of Native American dance; both historically and culturally accurate. In addition to their Summer and Winter Ceremonials and other shows at home, the Koshare Indian Dancers are available for performances anywhere in the world. The Koshares have delighted audiences from Alaska to Mexico and California to New York. Museum admission is included in the show ticket, so come early to tour the museum exhibits, shop in the trading post, view auction items or enjoy the atmosphere in the Koshare Kiva
SCOUTMASTER J.F. “BUCK” BURSHEARS
La Junta owes a debt of gratitude to J.F. “Buck” Burshears. As has been said earlier on this site, it is the people who shape the destiny of the towns they live in. Small decisions, once made, can take on a life of their own. The Koshare Dancers have indeed become world famous today, but they didn’t start like that. The Koshare Dancers began as a small group of Boy Scouts interested in Indian Lore and led by a visionary Scoutmaster in 1933. This visionary Scoutmaster was J.F. “Buck” Burshears (1909 – 1987) and he is considered one of the best Scoutmasters in Boy Scout history. Buck would end up serving his La Junta troop for fifty-five years.
Buck started his scouting career when he was 12 years old and it would continue until his death in 1987. He was an avid scout and threw himself wholeheartedly into the fledgling scouting organization. He demanded excellence from himself and expected it from others – a tradition that continues today with the Koshare Dancers. Buck’s interest in having scouts perform Native American dances began while he attended college. He met Lester Griswold, Scoutmaster of Troop 10 in Colorado Springs. Lester was involved in promoting Native American lore and dance with his troop. Buck noticed the interest the boys had in this program and wondered if he could bring this to his own troop in La Junta. When Buck brought Troop 10 to La Junta to perform a show, which made a lasting impression on the La Junta scouts, his own troop was inspired to start a scouting program called the Boy Scout Indian Club in 1933. The boys met in Buck’s backyard using a chicken coop remodeled to accommodate their new club. That September the group presented their first show in the basement of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. From that humble beginning, the Koshare Dancers would evolve.
THE BIRTH OF THE KOSHARE DANCERS
Buck’s backyard and the remodeled chicken coop became the home of the first Koshares. The early Koshare shows were nothing more than backyard talent shows, the costumes were simple and the footwork was unsure. Never-the-less the boys were undaunted. When they received their first donation of $5.00 from an impressed spectator it proved to the boys that they could put on shows for admission. They started calling themselves Koshares, meaning clown or fun maker in the Hopi language.
Koshares are an integral part of the Pueblo Indian culture. They are not an individual tribe, as some have thought, but a society of “delight-makers” that reinforce community values. During the Native American dances, the Koshares are black-and-white striped characters that portray unacceptable behavior in comic ways – they teach values in outrageous and sometimes even profane ways. Their inappropriate behavior is meant to provide entertainment while passing on the morals and traditions of the community. Buck thought the name was perfect for his group of young dancers; the Boy Scout Indian Club was renamed the Koshare Indian Dances.
The Koshare Indian dancers are members of Troop 232 and Venturing Crew 2230 of the Rocky Mountain Council, Boy Scouts of America. Troop 232 has a full scouting program with all the activities you would expect from the Boy Scouts – camping, advancement, and summer camp. But Troop 232 offers more if the scout so desires. Troop 232 is home to the Koshare Dancers. Members are asked to go above and beyond the normal scouting commitment. Koshares spend countless hours learning and practicing Native American dance. They must create their own authentic Native American costumes. Being a Koshare goes beyond just practice and performing; it becomes a way of life.
BECOMING A KOSHARE DANCER
Becoming a Koshare Dancer is quite an achievement in itself. A boy must first be a Scout or have earned the Arrow of Light Award and be less than 18 years old. All of the Koshares are expected to participate fully in an active program of Scouting and Native American culture. To become a Koshare Brave a Scout must attain the rank of Star Scout then must complete addition requirements to be elected as a Brave in the Koshare Indian Dancers:
Maintain at least a "C" grade average in school.
- Demonstrate good Scout spirit in his daily activities.
- Earn the Indian Lore merit badge.
- Demonstrate quality in at least five of our major dances.
- Read five books about Native American culture from the Koshares' library.
- Research, design and construct their own authentic dance outfit and pass inspection.
- Be elected by a 2/3 majority vote of the active Koshares and Key Leaders.
To become a Koshare Chief the Scout must be an Eagle Scout and meet more rigorous club requirements.
The Koshare Dancers began as an exclusive boy’s organization because it was based on Boy Scout principals. Then in 1995 the chief’s council voted to let two girls participate each year as guest dancers in order to make the dances more authentic. The guest dancer program was a success, so much so that in 2003 the Koshare chiefs decided to invite girls into the program. Any girl that wanted to become a member would have to make the same commitment as the boys. Today the “maiden program” has added a sense of style and grace not previously seen in the Kiva.
A large part of the Koshares’ success is due to the dancers’ personal demand for excellence. Since their beginning, the Koshares have performed in 47 states and three different countries. The Koshares have traveled from coast to coast, to Madison Square Garden in New York to a U.S. air craft carrier a hundred miles at sea off San Diego. They also take numerous trips throughout the year to Native American Pow-Wows and Feast Days at New Mexico Pueblos. The Koshares have been recognized and accepted by the Native American community – the highest honor bestowed on a non-Indian group.