The Chamberlain Board of Education in South Dakota voted 6-1 to not allow a Native American Honor Song at its graduation ceremony May 19.

South Dakota School Won't Allow Native Honor Song at Graduation

May 15, 2013

The Chamberlain Board of Education in South Dakota voted 6-1 to not allow a Native American Honor Song at its graduation ceremony May 19. The negative vote was cast even though, as The Daily Republic reported, most of the 40 attendees at the meeting raised their hands in favor of the change.

Steve Fox, the lone board member in favor of the honor song said it’s up to the board to vote for change.

“We vote for change all the time,” he said. “And that’s supposed to be our goal to change in good ways.”

Fox said other cultural activities have happened at graduation in previous years, like his son receiving a star quilt.

“I could think of so many reasons to do this for our kids,” he said. “Why not give three or five minutes to teach our kids to honor another culture?”

Other board members didn’t see it that way. Board member Casey Hutmacher thanked the students for getting involved and signing the petition to include the honor song but voted against adding it to the graduation ceremony.

“I can’t see how it honors everybody when it’s not in our language, and when I say our language, I mean English,” he said. “I look at the Pledge of Allegiance and it covers everything.”

According to the South Dakota Department of Education about one-third of the students in the Chamberlain School District are Native American.

The board president didn’t think the honor song was necessary since a feathering ceremony was already added prior to the graduation ceremony.

“Most schools with our demographics have either a feathering ceremony or an honor song,” Rebecca Reimer said. “Not both.”

The Daily Republic spoke to Chris Rodriguez, who is one of the students who started circulating the petition and will be graduating from Chamberlain High School this year.

“I will come back to the school board because my sister is coming to school here, too,” he said after the meeting. “I wasn’t just fighting for this year’s seniors. I was fighting for generations after that.”

The students aren’t the only ones who are upset. James Cadwell, a bilingual instructor at the Crow Creek Tribal Schools and parent of three children who have gone through the Chamberlain district, was also disappointed by the vote. He’s been fighting for the inclusion of the honor song for the past three years. (Related story: “Will South Dakota School District Allow Native Honor Song at Graduation?)

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Cadwell said the honor song was again confused as being religious. He said in a statement in April that, “The honor song is exactly that, a song that acknowledges the efforts of all the students graduating and encourages them to continue their education.”

He said the May 13 vote was shocking to a number of students and staff and “several were seen crying as they left the room after the vote.”



Brock Conway's picture
Brock Conway
Submitted by Brock Conway on

I lived in Chamberlain SD It is the most racist place in the country! Chamberalin is right next to reservations, and they carry a real strong anti-native outlook even though they predate on their resources! I worked at their local prison there filled with Natives! They really do hate Native People there and they will never honor anything native!

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on

"“I can’t see how it honors everybody when it’s not in our language, and when I say our language, I mean English,” he said. “I look at the Pledge of Allegiance and it covers everything . . . "

This is pure bullshit! It's clearly predjudice that's leading Mr. Hutmacher. After all, what is the predominant langugage spoken in that school district? What could possibly be wrong with honoring the indigenous population?

He's also wrong about the Pledge of Allegiance covering everything: what if you're NOT Christian? What if you don't believe that we are a nation "indivisible?" What if you don't want to swear allegiance to a country that murdered your ancestors?

The one thing Native people can ALWAYS count on is the lack of compassion, lack of empathy and the expedient fall back to false patriotism that the White man uses to cover his racism. I suggest that all the Native families whose children are graduating from Chamberlain High School to have their own graduation.

This is why Native people all over the U.S. will never fully integrate, because they don't really want us to.

ilis 's picture
Submitted by ilis on

After reading i felt a great sadness, it is obvious that the members who voted against it are hiding behind policy,regulations etc, to cover their real personal reason of not wanting this HONOR song. Shame on them!! where is the Equality? The Pledge of Allegiance? the members should be made to say and write it 100 times!!!!!!! give an essay on what each sentence means to each one of them. Maybe the supposed meaning of their PLEDGE will sink in their heartened hearts.this makes me sad then angry, people continue to keep our culture from growing, but that will not happen, our nations are learning to speak up.@Chris Rodriquez, do what you must, bring attention to what they are doing.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

Couldn't they have the honor song in two langguages? in the original language and then in english? When is honoring anoter culture more than once, a bad thing? Especially when 1/3 of this school is apart of that culture, this culture is a part of america, It was the first culture of america.

Sometimes i wish i could have promoted more spanish culture in my own graduation, which has about half spanish heritage.

Ron Sully Sr.'s picture
Ron Sully Sr.
Submitted by Ron Sully Sr. on

these older board members are scared of change....the students accept but the board controls...Its a Honor Song Casey!

curtj's picture
Submitted by curtj on

Look up the definition of the word colonialism and think of the centuries of Indigenous being subjugated through enslavement and genocide, at the hands of first the Europeans, then the Americans, to enable Freebooters, theives, murderers and corporations to steal their natural resources and lands for occupation and colonization.
As descendants of the illegal European immigrants who stole and murdered their way across our lands, most whites see nothing wrong with these policies against the Indigenous, although everytime they foist those policies of colonialism against other countries, the backlash is the terrorist attacks like the one that murdered 3,000 Americans on 9/11.
Ha Ha Go ahead and refuse to print this, since it goes against the craw of your corporate sponsors.