Chelsey Ramer
Chelsey Ramer, 17, at Escambia Academy High School's graduation ceremony on May 23 with her eagle feather on her tassel.

Help Fined Poarch Creek Student Get Her Diploma

Vincent Schilling
June 05, 2013


When Chelsey Ramer, a graduating senior at Escambia Academy wore an eagle feather during her high school graduation ceremony on May 23, she was denied her transcripts, high school diploma and fined $1,000. The 17-year-old member of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians knew there would be consequences, but what she and her family didn’t expect was the amount of support they would receive.

After the story broke on the Indian Country Today Media Network website, thousands of supporters from all over the country have voiced support for Chelsey. And some have put their money where their mouth is. Dan Morrison, the communications director at First Peoples Worldwide has created an Indiegogo effort he’s called, “Chelsey can't graduate because she is proud to be Native American” to raise the money to pay the fine.

As of June 5, $177 had been raised toward paying the fine. Any extra money raised over the amount of the fine will go toward helping Chelsey with her education.

Though school officials at Escambia Academy in Atmore, Alabama have refused to say whether Ramer will be made to pay the fine, in a letter to ICTMN June 5, Chelsey’s mother, Debra Ramer has stated the family plans to pay it to ensure there will be no difficulties for Chelsey in further pursuing her educational goals.

“According to Escambia Academy, no decision about the $1,000 fine was made Monday by the Escambia Academy board because the topic of the fine was not up for discussion. With that being said, in order to pursue Chelsey’s educational goals and achieve college freshman status this fall, which is our highest priority at this time, the fine must be paid. That doesn't make it right. That doesn't mean I agree with it. And that doesn't mean that the fight is over,” wrote Debra. (Related story: “Poarch Creek Student Fined for Wearing Eagle Feather at Graduation)

In the e-mail, Debra also said how proud she is of her daughter’s efforts and how much she appreciates the outreach she and her family has received.

“First and foremost, I love and support my daughter more than she will ever know. I am so proud of her and her accomplishments. Graduating high school in today's world is a huge accomplishment in itself. The fact that she has plans to continue her education makes me even more proud. However, I am proudest of her for standing up for things that are important to her, no matter the consequences. I'm ashamed to say it, but Chelsey knows more about our native culture and history than I do. She is very proud of our heritage and I respect that.

Yes, we as a family, discussed the consequences and every scenario imaginable before she made her decision to wear her eagle feather, but that doesn't make the consequences right. That doesn't make it right to deny Chelsey her rights. She has strong beliefs and convictions about many things that effect (sic) her life. From being able to be the only girl to play football on the team with the boys to her heritage and I will always support important issues with her.

I would also like to make crystal clear that the "contract" for the graduation dress code was generated by the Escambia Academy board, not Ms. Warren. No one especially minors, should be made to sign anything under direst (sic). I have nothing but respect for Ms. Warren and sincerely hope that her abrupt resignation had nothing to do with this situation.

The outpouring of support has been tremendous. We can not say thank you enough. It is astounding how one very discreet, yet very poinet (sic) display of pride can grab the attention of so many people. It is our hope that you all are as passionate about many other important issues to not only our community, but our tribe, our state, our country and the world. Please continue with the phone calls, the text messages, the emails and the petitions, on matters that are important to you. It is our hope and ambition that one day every human being in the world will have the oppurtinuty (sic) to discreetly and proudly display symbols of their heritage, spiritual and religious beliefs without consequence, as this countries constitution intended.”

Debra Jackson Ramer

Proud PBCI tribal member

Proud friend to many EA families

Proudest to be mother of Chelsey Ramer



Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on

Tribal lawyers, get on this case & turn it around for this family! This isn't about money per say, but is about getting justice for this young First Nations daughter of our people!

It's high time that these racist & bigoted people out in this world know that we First Nations people will not stand for this kind of treatment of our people.

Lawyer friends out here reading, lets get busy on this matter & get this young lady her well-earned diploma. While we're at it, before you folks get finished with this school board of dark-hearted washichus, lets make sure this never can happen again to anyone, anywhere; not ever!

This story made me angry! I despise injustice, corruption, lies & willful ignorance, racism, bigotry & evil people, ways & hearts. One never gets too old to stand up for goodness & fight against evil.........

Take care my friends...............tribal lawyers, go get'em!

ruth r's picture
ruth r
Submitted by ruth r on

it takes courage to be who we are. we have been denied too long and told to fit in the square hold even though we are circle. it did not hurt anyone it did not take away from the ceremony. she honored her heritage, something we raise our children to do. now there is punishment for this. what are we telling her to be ashame of your heritage and where you come from.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

Since it's a private school, I'm not sure lawyers can do a thing about it.

However, withholding her diploma won't harm her ability to get into a good university, although it might be a problem for a mediocre university. I was denied a high school equivalency certificate because I was only 17 when I passed the GED and in Oklahoma you had to be 21. The university did not care.

She'll do fine.

The only possible grounds for suit would be breach of contract, since the Constitution only binds government, not private parties. I would bet the contract is all one sided toward the school.

This is horrible, but the girl will come out of it smelling like a rose while the school will come out of it just smelling.

realwaldo's picture
Submitted by realwaldo on

The thing I do not get, is how is it the school somehow has the authority to fine this person?

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

Every tribe in the nation needs to descend upon the school district office, the school and the principal's home in protest...

Mahiyoc's picture
Submitted by Mahiyoc on

1000$? That is ridiculously outrageous. No one should submit to such exploitation, rather fight to see this act to idiocy abolished.

Lady Hummingbird's picture
Lady Hummingbird
Submitted by Lady Hummingbird on

It is wonderful to see our young people taking a stand and being proud of their heritage. We all need to stand united and not let this happen to our children. Sending Chelsey and her family love, light and the brightest of blessings!

Miss Kaquoli Meli Reno's picture
Miss Kaquoli Me...
Submitted by Miss Kaquoli Me... on

I can not send money because I try to survive on SSI but being Native American she should be allowed to where the feather with no restrictions. The School is wrong in doing this to her! God bless her and all who help her...

Kim Rose's picture
Kim Rose
Submitted by Kim Rose on

Who do you people think you are? Since when do you have the right in America to deny someone there diploma and fine them over a damn feather. This young lady has worked hard to make her dreams come true and you want to deny her evidence of her accomplishments over something so meaningless-she is supporting her heritage and has every right to. Do we need to have a national indian day like Martin Luther King day to get you peoples attention? Seriously!

cassandra adams's picture
cassandra adams
Submitted by cassandra adams on

Ridiculous! Give this beautiful, smart, and proud native american her diploma!!

yanet blaido's picture
yanet blaido
Submitted by yanet blaido on

Give that child her diploma... She worked hard and earned it. She should not be denied the right to graduate or the right to receive her diploma due to the fact that she knows and displays who she is and where she has come from . People should be proud of her for knowing her heritage/ culture/ ancestry. In which today so little of our children think important. And most cannot even tell you where their mother came from let alone their grandparents. Where are this child's rights to freedom of speech and religion.... By some, The eagle is sacred and looked upon as a messenger and a guardian between our world and the spirit world. And by displaying the feather she was exercising her rights as an indigenous American citizen to be in possession of an eagle feather . This is absolutely horrible for this child. Graduation is suppose to be a happy day. A proud day for all. It looks to me like racism ,and discrimination is alive and well in this child's school and town . Good luck and keep up the fight and good work . May the Creator and your ancestors walk proudly by your side as you journey into a new life. I don't even know you but I am proud of you for standing tall in your beliefs. Blessings from Minnesota.

Adeline Fregin's picture
Adeline Fregin
Submitted by Adeline Fregin on

that is complete BS. We natives have every right to wear our regalia to grad or wherever we want to. good for you Chelsey. I am sure if someone wore a cowboy hat they wouldn't get fined. shame on your school district.

Adeline Fregin's picture
Adeline Fregin
Submitted by Adeline Fregin on

that is complete BS. We natives have every right to wear our regalia to grad or wherever we want to. good for you Chelsey. I am sure if someone wore a cowboy hat they wouldn't get fined. shame on your school district.

Katherine A Long-Felsch's picture
Katherine A Lon...
Submitted by Katherine A Lon... on

I want the name of the school superintendent, phone number if possible. Speaking from a lot of personal experience, I have come to the conclusion that the ONLY way to get their attention and right a wrong, is through their wallets.....

J. Raymond's picture
J. Raymond
Submitted by J. Raymond on

Chelsea Ramer is proud of her Academic Achievements and is,of course, especially proud of her rich Cultural Heritage; and she has every right to do what she did in celebration of her graduating! What the school board officials did to her is wrong in every sense of the word! They have violated her rights on the most fundamental level, that of Free Speech, and it is the School Board who should be fined $10,000,000.00 for this morally wrong violation of Chelsey Ramer's civil rights to proudly and rightfully show her pride of Academic Achievement and Cultural Heritage by wearing an Eagle Feather alongside the traditional tassel! Furthermore, if the School Board could be made to pay this fine, while at same time cancelling Chelsea Ramer's Fine, every penny of this money should be put into a Tribal Education Fund and used to help pay the education costs all students like Chelsea Ramer so they can realize their Academic Dreams! Chelsea Ramer,I wish you the best of luck in getting this matter settled in your favor. Furthermore, don't let this morally bankrupt school board prevent you from; ever being proud of who you are, and achieving all of your Academic Dreams!!!!!

Reece williams's picture
Reece williams
Submitted by Reece williams on

The residential schools have done nothing but regard aboriginals as an abomination. It's time they took action and stopped this abhorrence. Thanks

Zenia Borenin's picture
Zenia Borenin
Submitted by Zenia Borenin on

Are you friggn kidd'n me--when is it a crime for someone to be proud of their Native American heritage. All different American ethnic groups do it all the time, that's what America is about. Plus "Native" means "original inhabitant" "belonging to one by birth" American, gives you U.S. citizenship status and that you make it your home--We are the first Americans, its our right, for heavens sake. Don't punish the girl for her belief's, shame on you!!

Kathy Schauer 's picture
Kathy Schauer
Submitted by Kathy Schauer on

The school is in the wrong here. She was voicing her cultural right.

Buni Thomas's picture
Buni Thomas
Submitted by Buni Thomas on

You go Chelsey. I think the school systems now take to many things away, What they are doing to you is terribly wrong. There was no reason to treat you this way. You fight for your heritage girl. Will be praying for you to win, I too have Indian heritage.

Don 's picture
Submitted by Don on

This is the most ridiculous crap,Ive ever heard of, give the lady her diploma, drop you're stupid fine, then APOLOGIZE and leave her alone, what the hell's wrong with you people??

Val Elmergreen's picture
Val Elmergreen
Submitted by Val Elmergreen on

This school board should be ashamed of themselves, denying a diploma, transcripts, and making a chunk of change to boot for a proud display of her culture. I think it should be the right of any culture to honor where they have come from. Sad day when in some way they can justify this.

Jerry Chmiel's picture
Jerry Chmiel
Submitted by Jerry Chmiel on

Here was a chance to extend a great jesture and it was lost.
(Your constitutional rights do not disappear when you walk through a door.)
Win, lose or draw; walk proudly Chelsey Ramer

Robin Dawne's picture
Robin Dawne
Submitted by Robin Dawne on

Girl you have the knowledge, and you have pride, that is enough. Don't worry, the world knows your story now, and whoever put you in this situation should be ashamed of themselves, but also thank their ignorance for your successions.

Gilbert R. Murrell's picture
Gilbert R. Murrell
Submitted by Gilbert R. Murrell on

I've been somewhat speechless, since I first read this post on Facebook.. To me this is just more of the same old Govt. CRAP that seems to have been DESIGNED to keep Native Peoples down!! If this young lady is a tribal member, and carries a CARD, another Govt. thing, there should NOT be a problem at all!! We never needed CARDS to PROVE who we were in the past.. NO-OTHER-RACE of peoples have to carry a CARD to PROVE who they are!? Why only US!? No Disrespect against our beautiful, and sacred (ONLY TO US) eagle BUT, do you suppose that SOMEONE out there actually THINKS that the eagle WANTS THAT FEATHER BACK!? When our HAIR begins to shed, and fall out, do people FREAK-OUT over it!? This is an Eagle Feather! It is as sacred to us, as the eagle itself! We have special, Sacred Ceder boxes to keep them in, and know how to care fro them properly! WHAT do you suppose Law Enforcement will do with that feather, after taking it from this Proud young Lady, who has cared for it, as if it were a part of her OWN-BODY!? They will throw it away, just like an average piece of trash SO, I ask you: WHAT IS THE POINT!? Leave this Child alone, and let her graduate! DO NOT fine her!! You have already MESSED up her graduation, after working VERY HARD for 12 YEARS, to get to that point!! Give her a break!1 I TRULY wish I would have thought of this VERY SAME THING!! My graduation, was in 1974.. S'gi, Nole Tsgwisdi Adassligi Nasgi Nihi.. (Thanks, and Many Blessings Upon You).. Also: PRAYERS, that you, who did this, will WAKE-UP!! :/

Rafael Angel's picture
Rafael Angel
Submitted by Rafael Angel on


Linda Stoner's picture
Linda Stoner
Submitted by Linda Stoner on

The school's behavior is just plain wrong. They should give this young lady her diploma at once, with no charge. Next year, every student should wear a feather, natives and non-natives alike. Let's see the school refuse diplomas to everyone. What utter nonesense!!!!!

Quetta Hyatt's picture
Quetta Hyatt
Submitted by Quetta Hyatt on

No fine and give her her diploma other kids had other thing Ill bet