School officials in Seminole County, Oklahoma, told Native American seniors at Seminole High School that they are prohibited from wearing eagle feathers on their graduation caps for Thursday’s ceremony. The officials said that it would violate graduation guidelines.
But 25 Native seniors will walk across the stage on Thursday night, some vowing to wear the feathers anyway. “This is a way of expressing who we are,” Kaden Tiger told KFOR news. “I’m still going to wear it. I can’t take it off. Can’t make me.”
Tiger was given the eagle feather for being an outstanding citizen of the Seminole Nation and has already tied it to his cap, along with tribal beads. “I wasn’t going to go by the rules anyway because it’s my right,” he said. “The accomplishment of completing high school is pretty big for me. That eagle feather represents what I’ve accomplished.”
According to PublicSchoolReview.com, at least half of the school’s enrollment is American Indian. And the fact that its mascot, the Chieftains, wears a headdress and eagle feathers seems contradictory to some.
Amari White (Seminole, Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw), a parent of one of the graduates told Native News, “It does confuse me, that you use the Chieftain mascot, but you can’t honor it with a feather when you have it painted on the wall… it confuses me.”
Despite this confusion, school officials said that none of the students are allowed to wear embellishments on their mortarboards. “While we applaud the many accolades our students have received in their activities outside the school environment, our graduation ceremony is designed specifically to honor achievements attained under the district’s purview,” said Jeff Pritchard, the school’s superintendent, in a statement on Wednesday.