Thursday, June 29, 2017

Students Demand Right to Wear Native Regalia at Graduation

Students Demand Right to Wear Native Regalia at Graduation:

Students Demand Right to Wear Native Regalia at Graduation

In 2015, Christian Titman, a Native American student at Clovis High School near Fresno, California and member of the Pit River Tribe, was denied his request to wear an eagle feather at his high school graduation ceremony. What’s more, he was told by district officials that if he did wear the feather during his walk across the stage he would not graduate nor receive his diploma until he completed summer school and a designated amount of community service hours.
Mary Levi, president of NEA American Indian/Alaska Native Caucus, says wearing an eagle feather symbolizes the strength it took to reach the milestone and represents the strength and power of an eagle soaring through life, which is what native youth take with them as they continue on to the next stage in life.
“You don’t turn your back on that. When you walk across that stage, you’re not only proudly representing yourself, but your family, extended family and your tribe,” explains Levi.
With Native students having the lowest graduation rates among any student demographic in the United States, Native Americans see high school graduation as a significant achievement in a youth’s life.
Bring up eagle feathers for graduation, and you’re told you’re just remembering the past. But it’s very present. The reason why these students need to represent their cultures is to show others and themselves that they are still here today” – Mary Levi, NEA American Indian/Alaska Native Caucus
Milestone ceremonies are inextricably linked to Native identity. In a ceremony, Native Americans offer a prayer and typically wear an eagle prayer feather, beads or other Native regalia, on their head or in their hair throughout the ceremony. To be given any such items to wear during a ceremony is considered an absolute honor.
By wearing these symbols, students honor those who have supported them through prayer and guidance. That’s why most Native American students want to participate in their high school graduation ceremony wearing cultural items in their hair or on their graduation cap.
But like Christian Titman, most are prohibited from doing so. Districts enforce a strict dress code that prevent students from wearing anything other than school colors and graduation Students Demand Right to Wear Native Regalia at Graduation:

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