Federal Magistrate Rules Delaware Tribal Citizen Cannot Wear Eagle Feather in Graduation Cap

Former Delaware Tribe Chief Pechonick (l) with Hayden Griffith (r), Delaware War Mothers Princess, at a tribal council meeting

Former Delaware Tribe Chief Pechonick (l) with Hayden Griffith (r), Delaware War Mothers Princess, at a tribal council meeting

School’s attorney grills teen to tears

TULSA — An appeal will be filed on Wednesday after a federal magistrate on Tuesday ruled high school senior, Hayden Griffith, a tribal citizen of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, will not be allowed to wear an eagle feather in the tassel of her graduation cap as she walks down the aisle to receive her diploma.

Time is running out for the legal process. The graduation ceremony for the Caney Valley High School in Ramona, Oklahoma is Thursday evening.

“A feather for me is not decoration,” she told the federal magistrate on Tuesday. “It’s sacred, like a symbol of God.”

By the time her testimony was over, Griffith left the witness stand crying after grilling by an attorney representing the Caney Valley Schools. Griffith maintains it is her religious right to wear the eagle feather.

The attorney questioned her about the consequences of not wearing the eagle feather at graduation. She admitted her traditional beliefs do not dictate she wear the feather on her cap, but stated it would show disrespect to the elder who presented the feather to her and the Creator who is symbolized the eagle feather.

The Caney Valley Schools has a strict dress code relating to graduation ceremonies. Officials argue allowing Griffith to wear an eagle feather opens the graduation ceremony up to a free for all.

“If someone wanted to wear a cross on her hat, we would have to consider that,” said Principal Debra Keil. “And we could have to get ridiculous.”

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