Zephry Holloway shows the cap painted by his grandmother, Blackfeet artist Valentina LaPier. Photo: Zephry Holloway

Blackfeet Nation student was denied painted cap for graduation

A public school district in Montana is apologizing to a student from the Blackfeet Nation who wasn't allowed to wear a painted cap for graduation.

Zephrey Holloway, 17, was allowed to attach an eagle feather to his cap at the June 2 ceremony. But the cap itself had to be plain -- instead of the one painted by his grandmother, a traditional Blackfeet artist.

"It's beautiful," Holloway tells Montana Public Radio. "It's awesome that my grandma took the time for my graduation cap to paint it. It took her 12 hours, a long time."

A new state law bars governments and schools from denying tribal citizens the right to wear cultural items at events like graduation. But administrators made an "error" in Holloway's case, the principal at Flathead High School said.

"The School District and administration of Flathead High School regret the misapplication of this policy and has extended apologies to the student, their family, and their grandmother, who painted the cap," Principal Peter Fusaro said in a statement posted on the school's website. "Although school administrators were generally aware of SB 319 prior to commencement exercises, the school district has taken steps to ensure that Montana law authorizing expressions of indigenous heritage is honored fully in the future.”

SB 319 was written to address the wearing of eagle feathers, headdresses and other tribal items. It was signed into law on April 21.

Flathead High School, incidentally, is home to the "Braves and Bravettes."

Read More on the Story:
Native Regalia Law Tested, Brings Change In Kalispell (Montana Public Radio 6/5)
School offers apology for graduation incident (The Kalispell Daily Interlake 6/5)
Family Says Student Not Allowed to Wear Regalia at Graduation (The Flathead Beacon 6/5)