SEMINOLE COUNTY, OKLAHOMA — High school seniors are starting their celebrations all across Indian country, but for some of those Native students, they are not allowed to walk across the stage with the honor of wearing an eagle feather.
At one high school, it is almost ironic, the students are called the Seminole Chieftaians, but they cannot wear eagle feathers at their own high school graduation ceremony.
In Seminole county, Oklahoma, at Seminole High School, the student body is 49 percent Native American according to a Public School Review online record (http://www.publicschoolreview.com/school_ov/school_id/66602). And even though they Native students account for a large part of the student body, the Native seniors, were informed they were not allowed to put an eagle feather on their graduation caps.
Parent of Senior Sefuan White, Amari White (Seminole, Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw) said his son, along with three other cousins, already had eagle feathers prepared and to find out they couldn’t wear it, he was surprised.
“Why would it bother someone, they worked so hard to graduate? I find it odd that it would be told to them that they can’t wear it. How do you tell the people who worked on that feather, that beaded it, that now they can’t wear it?”
When asked about how White felt knowing that his son’s high school’s mascot is the Chieftans, but now the school is not letting the Native families honor their own students, White stated, “it does confuse me, that you use the Chieftan mascot, but you can’t honor with a feather, when you have painted on the walls, it confuses me.”
White’s son, who also recently signed with Ohio University’s football team to play for the bobcat’s next year, said the University was even lenient in letting him come to the camp a few days late due to Seminole ceremonial dances.
“The coaches at Ohio understood why he is coming in late, why can’t the high school understand in letting him wear an eagle feather?”
Seminole high school principal, Michael Crawford stated in a telephone interview “no one is allowed to put anything on their graduation caps, although there is no rule, that is our Seminole (high school) tradition, we don’t put anything on them.”
Seminole high’s graduation is set for Thursday May 22nd. Twenty-five of the Seminole graduates are Native Americans.
Rhonda LeValdo, Acoma Pueblo, is a current faculty member in Media Communications at Haskell Indian Nations University. She is the most recent past president of the Native American Journalists Association.