A Nebraska high school has reversed its decision of not allowing a Native American student to wear religious feathers to her graduation.
Several members of the Native American community showed up at Omaha Public School’s board meeting on May 18 to request that the district reconsider its policy after it told a graduating senior she could not decorate her cap with an honorary eagle plume to honor her Sicangu Lakota heritage, Omaha.com reported.
According to the high school senior’s older sister, Nicole Tamayo, school officials initially turned down her request to wear the symbolic plume, saying no adornments or “bling” were allowed on graduation day.
“Do I have bling-bling on?” John Andrew Tate asked the board, while pointing at the eagle feathers on his hat.
Tamayo, who is the director of a suicide prevention program at the Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition, told KETV that her sister wanted to wear the feathers to honor her family and tribe.
“We fought a long time to be able to wear our feathers, to practice our religious rights,” Tamayo said. “My sister was told if she wore the plume on her cap she wouldn’t be able to walk (at graduation) and would have her diploma withheld from her.”
Native American community members who attended the school board meeting requested for an official policy that preserved the rights of Native American students.
“Nobody at school is going to tell a young lady not to wear a crucifix to her graduation,” Jordan Menard told the board. “Nobody is going to tell anybody not to wear something that represents their faith. But somebody told a young lady not to wear an eagle feather.”
Other members reiterated to the board that the eagle plume symbolizes hard work, achievement and Native American pride.
Their concerns did not fall on deaf ears, as board president Lou Ann Goding announced on May 19 that the teen will be allowed to wear her honorary eagle plume at the graduation ceremony, which will be held the same night.
“It tells the story of your achievements,” Tamayo said.