Principal Tells Graduating Native: Hide Your Eagle Feather Under Your Gown
Native high school student Waverly Wilson, who will be graduating soon from Lakes High School in Lakewood, Washington has been told by an advisor and principal Karen Mauer-Smith that she would not be allowed to wear a gifted eagle feather on her tassel. Mauer-Smith instructed Wilson she could only wear an eagle feather is if she hid it under her graduation gown when walking to receive her diploma.
Wilson says the school has made her feel like she has to hide that she is Native American. “They said I have to have it inside my gown, and I could only have it out afterwards. So I could not have it when I was going out on stage.”
After first purchasing her cap and gown, Wilson asked her counselor and graduation advisor if she could wear her feather. Her counselor said no, and sent her to the principal.
“The principal said I have to make sure that it is hidden and that nobody can see it and it is out of sight. It makes me feel like I have to hide who I am,” said Wilson, who also said she faces criticism by students and teachers when she addresses Native American issues in school.
“Our textbooks are all wrong and I get marked down for defending who I am. I have always been told to be who I am—to have to hide this? I am like, ‘No, that is not how it is.” she said.
Waverly’s mother Andi Dillon, an enrolled member of the Fort Belknap Indian Community says she is emotional and angry about the school’s decision.
“I asked her counselor about wearing a traditional eagle feather in her cap. She said ‘no,’ and that ‘the rules say we cannot do that.’ My daughter was immediately hurt and angry. I asked if there was any way to appeal that decision.”
Dillon says the counselor also forwarded her message to Principal Mauer-Smith who responded in an email:
I am sorry but the Eagle Feather cannot be worn on the outside of the gown or the cap, as per district policy. I have had students in previous years ask the same question and the answer has been the same. One option previous students have used is to pin the feather on the inside of the gown so they are still wearing it on their person for the ceremony and meeting the requirement about how to wear the cap and gown. After the ceremony then for pictures, etc. the feather could of course be put on the outside of the gown.
Dillon says she is disappointed the school would only let students wear the eagle feather under their robes and that she only wants the best for her daughter and for her to be able to represent her Native culture.
Dillon also says to add insult to injury, the principal was disrespectful to her daughter because Dillon refused to allow her daughter to go to Clover Park High School because their mascot name is the “Warriors.”
“Clover Park High School, the school that is closest to our house, their mascot is the Warriors. I did not allow Waverley to go to that school because of that,” said Dillon. “The principal has since given my daughter dirty looks in the hallway. She has been very ugly with my daughter… Waverly has been raised to be proud, and I want to prepare her for what might happen. We’ve always told her to respect her elders so she struggles with this a lot.”
Though ICTMN reached out to the Clover Park School District, at press time, officials were unavailable for comment.
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