Harlan McKosato: It's time to change school policy on feathers

Hayden Griffith has been told she can't wear an eagle feather during graduation ceremonies despite support from the Delaware Tribe of Oklahoma. Photo from Facebook

Harlan McKosato, a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, wonders why schools across the nation are still telling Indian students they can't wear eagle feathers to graduation:
Every year during graduation season the issue of wearing eagle feathers comes up among Native students and their schools. The argument against Native high school and college graduates not being able to adorn their caps with a sacred symbol that is synonymous with accomplishment and a rite of passage goes something like this – it’s against school policy!

Here’s an idea: change the policy. All across the country young Native people are being denied the opportunity to wear their eagle feathers with pride as they celebrate one of life’s biggest moments. Schools around the country could take a page from Albuquerque Public Schools when it comes to changing policy.

Earlier this year APS created the Office of Equity and Engagement and together with the Indian Education Department made a major change in district policy to allow Native students to show their cultural roots, their pride and identity by wearing not only eagle feathers on their caps but their Native dress as they walk across the stage to receive their diploma. What a concept.

But that’s the exception rather than the rule. Story after story is coming out that Native students in Florida, New York, Oklahoma, Washington, California – all over the U.S. – are being denied their requests to attach an eagle feather to their caps or gowns while participating in graduation ceremonies. One particular story about a young woman in Oklahoma being denied her intention to wear an eagle feather on her cap led to her contacting the Native American Rights Fund for help.

In a letter to Caney Valley School District Superintendent Rick Peters, on behalf of Delaware tribal member Hayden Griffith, NARF wrote: “Ms. Griffith indicated to us that she wishes to wear the feather for religious and spiritual reasons in order to honor her Native American heritage."

Get the Story:
Harlan McKosato: School Policy in the 21st Century (Indian Country Today 5/20)

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