Native American student not walking because of tribal feather

Right here in the grand state of Alabama (sarcasm, y’all), a seventeen year old Native American student named Chelsea Ramer is being denied her diploma because she was wearing a tribal feather on her cap while graduating from Escambia Academy High School in Atmore. She  is a member of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (which is common down here) and wore the feather to celebrate her heritage. Her school has a “no extraneous items” policy and made graduating seniors sign a contract. Chelsea did not sign, however, and was still allowed in to the ceremony. She will not get her diploma until she pays a $1000 fine.

Now for my critique. I can’t wait to see them attempt to enforce a ‘contract’ with a minor, that she couldn’t legally consent to anyway.  It’s funny that high schools try to pull that crap as if it matters anyway.  You still graduate.  Your school still has to provide transcripts when asked by a college or university. I have never been asked to show my actual high school diploma for anything.

This is also very racist and shows how little respect people have for heritage these days. On the other hand, Chelsea was completely aware of the rule but still violated it. They should have pulled her out of line.  But charging her a grand for breaking the rules seems ridiculous.

When I was a senior, we had a policy similar to Escambia’s. We could only wear white dresses that had to be a certain length, with straps, under our gowns. We were only allowed to wear white shoes. I bought a pair of silver sandals and was told that I would not walk if I wore them. However, some students showed up with rhinestones glued to the tops of their caps and not a word was said. A friend of mine whose hair was dyed an unnatural shade of red for her who high school career was forced to dye her hair in order to walk across the stage. Some girls showed up with hot pink weave, but were still allowed to graduate.

It is rumored that Chelsea is getting a lawyer (the headmaster from Escambia has been replaced, by the way). If she wants to pay all of the money for a lawsuit that she probably won’t win, more power to her. This type of discrimination happens everywhere. I do hate that my home state gets to take the blame for housing such ignorance in this case, though.

Photo: WPMI-TV

Photo: WPMI-TV

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11 thoughts on “Native American student not walking because of tribal feather

  1. “When I was a senior, we had a policy similar to Escambia’s. We could only wear white dresses that had to be a certain length, with straps, under our gowns. We were only allowed to wear white shoes. I bought a pair of silver sandals and was told that I would not walk if I wore them. However, some students showed up with rhinestones glued to the tops of their caps and not a word was said. A friend of mine whose hair was dyed an unnatural shade of red for her who high school career was forced to dye her hair in order to walk across the stage. Some girls showed up with hot pink weave, but were still allowed to graduate.”

    All I’m reading here is a bunch of Americans saying: “This is OUR heritage and OUR traditions, which is more important than your traditions or heritage. So you adjust to ours, because there’s no space for individuality here. You either adjust, or we’ll screw you over.”

    I think the whole graduation thing is a lovely idea, we don’t have that in such a way in my country (it’s much more free and unorganized here, still fun though.), but the moment it starts crossing borders with a person’s individuality, that’s just wrong.

    • I agree. There is no individuality. I can see the point in wearing school uniforms, simply because of the gang violence we have in my city… but being told what to wear to your own graduation is going overboard.

      If the rules have been laid out, as they were in this case, I don’t see the point in deliberately disobeying them though. Taking away individuality isn’t right but neither is such a disrespect for authority.

  2. Thank you for posting this.
    There are many things that could be said, but few will matter to her right now.
    When will Native people, the first people of this land, ever be given the respect that they deserve?
    Hope the lawyer that she chose is a Native person~

  3. You are right, this was ridiculous. In my opinion, all students should be able to at least moderately express themselves and their heritage. It’s not your state’s fault, though. As you pointed out, this type of thing occurs everywhere.

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