When Chelsey Ramer, a graduating senior at Escambia Academy wore an eagle feather during her high school graduation ceremony on May 23, she was denied her transcripts, high school diploma and fined $1,000. The 17-year-old member of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians knew there would be consequences, but what she and her family didn’t expect was the amount of support they would receive.
After the story broke on the Indian Country Today Media Network website, thousands of supporters from all over the country have voiced support for Chelsey. And some have put their money where their mouth is. Dan Morrison, the communications director at First Peoples Worldwide has created an Indiegogo effort he’s called, “Chelsey can't graduate because she is proud to be Native American” to raise the money to pay the fine.
As of June 5, $177 had been raised toward paying the fine. Any extra money raised over the amount of the fine will go toward helping Chelsey with her education.
Though school officials at Escambia Academy in Atmore, Alabama have refused to say whether Ramer will be made to pay the fine, in a letter to ICTMN June 5, Chelsey’s mother, Debra Ramer has stated the family plans to pay it to ensure there will be no difficulties for Chelsey in further pursuing her educational goals.
“According to Escambia Academy, no decision about the $1,000 fine was made Monday by the Escambia Academy board because the topic of the fine was not up for discussion. With that being said, in order to pursue Chelsey’s educational goals and achieve college freshman status this fall, which is our highest priority at this time, the fine must be paid. That doesn't make it right. That doesn't mean I agree with it. And that doesn't mean that the fight is over,” wrote Debra. (Related story: “Poarch Creek Student Fined for Wearing Eagle Feather at Graduation”)
In the e-mail, Debra also said how proud she is of her daughter’s efforts and how much she appreciates the outreach she and her family has received.
“First and foremost, I love and support my daughter more than she will ever know. I am so proud of her and her accomplishments. Graduating high school in today's world is a huge accomplishment in itself. The fact that she has plans to continue her education makes me even more proud. However, I am proudest of her for standing up for things that are important to her, no matter the consequences. I'm ashamed to say it, but Chelsey knows more about our native culture and history than I do. She is very proud of our heritage and I respect that.
Yes, we as a family, discussed the consequences and every scenario imaginable before she made her decision to wear her eagle feather, but that doesn't make the consequences right. That doesn't make it right to deny Chelsey her rights. She has strong beliefs and convictions about many things that effect (sic) her life. From being able to be the only girl to play football on the team with the boys to her heritage and I will always support important issues with her.
I would also like to make crystal clear that the "contract" for the graduation dress code was generated by the Escambia Academy board, not Ms. Warren. No one especially minors, should be made to sign anything under direst (sic). I have nothing but respect for Ms. Warren and sincerely hope that her abrupt resignation had nothing to do with this situation.
The outpouring of support has been tremendous. We can not say thank you enough. It is astounding how one very discreet, yet very poinet (sic) display of pride can grab the attention of so many people. It is our hope that you all are as passionate about many other important issues to not only our community, but our tribe, our state, our country and the world. Please continue with the phone calls, the text messages, the emails and the petitions, on matters that are important to you. It is our hope and ambition that one day every human being in the world will have the oppurtinuty (sic) to discreetly and proudly display symbols of their heritage, spiritual and religious beliefs without consequence, as this countries constitution intended.”
Debra Jackson Ramer
Proud PBCI tribal member
Proud friend to many EA families
Proudest to be mother of Chelsey Ramer