How should I talk to my school about wearing feathers to graduation? I recently earned feathers for my school achievements, but I am afraid of asking if I may wear them because the staff might not understand what they mean.
I have read about students who were not allowed to wear feathers, or who were fined and denied their diploma. But, I feel like it would be disrespectful to my culture if I did not wear them simply because I was not allowed to. What do I do?
I’m glad you asked this, as I’m sure there are others thinking the same question.
Here are a few things to think about to help you get organized:
- Why is it important to you? Spend some time thinking about this question and begin writing it down.
- What do eagle feathers mean to your tribe? Start talking to people to get their perspective and write down their answers.
- Do Your Homework. Get on the Internet and research what’s happened and is happening in Indian Country.
- Get organized. Start to organized your thoughts and the perspectives from your tribal members. Treat this as a debate. Expect to respectfully defend your request and anticipate questions you may be asked.
- Make an appointment to talk with your Superintendent and Principal. Go to your schools front office, let them know you would like to talk to your principal/ superintendent about wearing eagle feathers during graduation and ask them to set up an appointment.
When you talk to your administrators:
- Come dressed to impress.
- Come early.
- Be respectful and polite.
- Be prepared.
- Ask that your school board stand in support of wearing culturally respectful representations of your tribe’s culture during graduation.
- Tell them what it means to you and your tribe to preserve your values by wearing eagle feathers.
- You can let them know that in many Native American cultures, the eagle feather is used as a symbol of achievement and/or rites of passage. Among those rites of passage is graduation, a public ceremony that signifies the students’ next step to adulthood.
- If extra coaxing is needed, you can let them know what other States have done, like when Oregon passed a resolution called Support for AI/AN Students Religious Expression at Commencement Ceremonies. Or, when an Oklahoma school allowed Native students to wear their moccasins during graduation. Or, when the #LetTheFeathersFly campaign was started.
I hope this helps! Congratulations on your upcoming graduation and good luck. You’ve got a whole community out here rooting for you!
Love, Auntie Manda