United Houma Nation Student Suspended For Refusing to Cut His Hair

United Houma Nation Student Suspended For Refusing to Cut His Hair


Seth Chaisson, was suspended March 15 from Juban Parc Junior High School in Denham Springs, Louisiana, because he has repeatedly refused to cut his hair.

The 13-year-old United Houma Nation student keeps it long for religious and cultural reasons.

According to “Traveling The Spiritual Path: The Struggle For Native American Religious Freedom,” by Laura Brooks, long hair is an integral part of the ceremony necessary for Native spiritual expression.

On March 15, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana stepped in., writing a letter to the schools principal stating the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedoms. After getting no response from the school, the ACLU filed formal appeal on Seth’s behalf on March 18. In it, the ACLU demanded the disciplinary actions be reversed and that his record be cleared.

“Everyone, including junior high school students, is guaranteed the right to practice his or her religion,” said ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie R. Esman in the ACLU press release. “Schools may not discriminate against a student whose religion is not that of the majority. In fact, the schools have an obligation to protect students from religious and other forms of discrimination.”

According to the Associated Press, Ed Foster, supervisor of child welfare and attendance for the Livingston Parish School System, had scheduled a meeting with Seth’s mother, but wouldn’t discuss the situation further.

According the ACLU, Louisiana law protects religious practices.

“Preventing a Native American from wearing his hair long is like preventing a Christian from wearing a cross,” Esman said in the ACLU release. “The law protects all faiths, including that of Seth Chaisson. Seth should be commended for his courage in standing up for his religious beliefs and cultural heritage.”

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gamma's picture
Submitted by gamma on
The story below is still developing and my friend is confronting similar issues in Utah as I write this. I have a friend in college who is both Indian and Mormon in Utah. He had long hair and a very tiny tribal tattoo - about half an inch. To pray at his church (Temple) he has to go to his priest (Bishop) and first get a "temple recommend" that will allow him access to the temple. Without a temple recommend, he is denied entry into the temple. The Bishop said my friend won't get the temple recommend unless he erases his very small tattoo and cuts his hair - and has paid the tithe for the entire year. My friend refused to cut his hair and went a tier higher to the President of his stake. The Stake President told him the same thing. Those are the Mormon church standards, he was told. All of which made the Bishop feel even more righteous. My friend's family was suffering from a series of health and other problems, so he desperately needed to visit his Temple. Last week my friend finally gave in, cut his hair and erased his tribal tattoo. He still has to interview with his Bishop before the Bishop will issue him a temple recommend. An earlier Bishop had told him to abandon all his Lamanite (Indian) practices, including his "Lamanite" language, because they are sinful. Even more disturbingly, the Book of Mormon says that White, advanced, beautiful, cultured Nephites first populated the US around the time of Jesus. Then after a few years, the dark-skinned savage, sinful, ugly, grotesque Lamanites (Native Americans) came to America. The sinful Lamanite Indians killed off all the Nephites very cruelly. So the Lamanites are much hated by Mormons. And therefore this land rightfully belongs to the earlier White Nephites and their White descendants. The Indian churches in Utah are still called "Lamanite wards." The White skin is a mark of purity and the Lamanite skin was turned dark by God because they were sinful. A present-day Mormon prophet has said that after the Indian Lamanites were baptized in the Mormon Church, their skin actually became whiter. And Mormons believe this. Almost all of the Paiutes in Utah have been baptized Mormon. Now the church has doubled its effort to reach Navajos in the neighboring state and they are sending missionaries to every reservation in the country. They are also using Mormon Indians to bring in more Indians into their church. Mormons baptize the dead. The Jewish leaders have convinced Mormons not to baptize Jews who died in the Holocaust. And the Mormon Church has agreed. Indian nations also need to get a similar commitment from the Mormon Church - that they will stay out of Indian nations.

howardtripp's picture
Submitted by howardtripp on
Your Friend should be proud of his Native American Heritage and his first amendment right. As a Native American Veteran I served to protect the rights of others. We have been fighting Terrorism since 1492 and we are the original peoples of North America, Long before the Government was formed. I'm Native American first, and U.S.Marine Vet Second. Hopefully his Spirit will guide him in the right direction.