The American Sikh Council (ASC) participated in the National Scout Jamboree held by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Glen Jean, West Virginia from July 19 – July 28, 2017. The National Jamboree is held every four years. This year over 40,000 Boy Scouts and over 6,000 adult volunteers and organizers participated in the event.
Ten Sikh volunteers, two Sikh Boy Scouts and eight Sikh youngsters volunteered at the event. The ASC actively invited Sikh American youngsters to participate and volunteer at the Sikh exhibit so that they could have a immersive experience and not only join Scouting but also inform others within the community about the awesome experience. Over 11,000 brochures were given out and every Sikh volunteer was completely engaged with the Scouts, while answering questions and having discussions.
The Sikh exhibit at the Jamboree presented a number of posters that highlighted the basic principles of the Sikh Faith, such as ‘Ik-Onkar’; and the ‘Khanda’. There were posters of the three main principles of the Sikh Faith, Sikh soldiers in World War I & II, and two Sikh Eagle Scouts. A few short documentaries explaining the salient aspects of the Sikh principles were presented including, the Sikh martial art of ‘Gatka’, showcasing the first Sikh American idol – Gurpreet Singh, the first Sikh American officer from West Point – Captain Simratpal Singh was run constantly in a loop. Several types of brochures were distributed to the participants. These included a brochure on ‘Sikhs and Scouts’, which is now regularly printed by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Brochures such as ‘Sikh Faith’, ‘History of Sikh Americans’, ‘Bullying of Sikh American Children – Through the Eyes of a Sikh American High School Student’, ‘Sikh Genocide 1984-1998’, ‘Sikhs in Scouting’, ‘Sikh Scouting Initiative’ were some of the other brochures disseminated to thousands of Boy Scouts and Scout leaders.
The Sikh exhibit at the National Boy Scouts Jamboree attracted tremendous attention, with constant lines of participants waiting for an hour or more to learn about the Sikhs and tie turbans. There was a stream of Scouts asking questions, and groups of Scouts gathering around Sikh volunteers who fearlessly answered their queries. The Scouts waited patiently and enthusiastically in lines, for their turn to have a turban tied on their heads, which many wore with pride around the event grounds throughout the day.
Over 2,300 turbans were tied by the end of the 4th day and after wearing the turbans on their head through the day, most scouts took their turbans with them as souvenirs.
Scott B stated, “Everyone had only positive things to say about your outstanding exhibit“.
The organizers of the BSA Jamboree were highly impressed with the presentations at the Sikh exhibit. They not only complemented the ASC participants for a phenomenal job, but also made a strong pitch for continuing and further strengthening the collaboration between ASC and BSA by inviting them for the World Jamboree being held in July 2019.
On Monday July 24, 2017 Karanveer Singh an Eagle Scout, was honored by the Boy Scouts of America, by being asked to give the opening prayer just before President Trump gave his speech to the entire Jamboree. Karanveer Singh introduced himself, then did the ‘Ardas’ in Punjabi and then translated it into English and finally thanked the crowd of over 45,000 Scouts, adult leaders and visitors. The crowd was not only extremely respectful but also hugged, high fived, took pictures with him and many Scouts wanted the same style turban the next day.
This event provided a significant opportunity for Scouts from various faiths to learn about Sikhs since there are over 2.4 million active Boy Scouts with another one million adult leaders across the country. There another over 2 million Girl Scouts and another 800,000 adult leaders across the nation.
On Sunday July 23, 2017 the Sikh Prayer was held at the ‘Worship Tent’. More than 250 Scouts and Adult Leaders showed up to observe and participate in the services. A shabad was sung, then translated for the congregation, basics of the Sikh Faith were presented, the protocol of the Gurdwara was explained and then there was a Q&A session. The well attended Sikh Prayer session lasted a little more than an hour.
The American Sikh Council (ASC) is the umbrella organization representing Sikhs across the United States. It is the representative and elected body of Sikh Gurdwaras and institutions. The main governing purpose of the organization is to represent the collective view of all Sikhs in the United States.