Congrats to all the high school seniors across North Dakota getting their diplomas this month.
It's a pivotal, once-in-a-lifetime achievement, and you deserve to be celebrated!
But many Indigenous students cannot fully celebrate this achievement – from both a spiritual and cultural perspective – unless they are permitted to wear their ceremonial tribal regalia, like an eagle feather on their graduation cap, during the event. After centuries of attempted genocide and erasure of Indigenous culture and tradition, the ability to celebrate commencement in a culturally appropriate way is deeply important for Indigenous students.
Across the country, some schools have prohibited Indigenous students from wearing these items at graduation, claiming that it would violate the school's dress code and speculating, without any basis, that it would disrupt the ceremony. However, there are various state and federal laws that protect public school students' rights to wear tribal regalia during commencement – and in North Dakota, we have specific laws to protect that right.
Still, it's important to know your rights – and what you can do if your school pushes back.
Indigenous students should be able to celebrate their graduation while remaining true to their cultural and religious heritage.
Hats off to all graduates this year!