Native American student denied diploma after wearing tribal feather in her mortarboard

June 04, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Imperialism, Intersectionality, Poverty, White Privilege


From Salon:

Alabama high school graduate Chelsey Ramer was fined $1,ooo and denied her diploma and transcripts after wearing an eagle feather attached to her mortarboard as a symbol of her Native American heritage.

Ramer is a member of the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, and had previously attempted to appeal the school policy banning students from wearing “extraneous items” with the school’s headmaster, but her request was denied. “About two months ago, me and the other Indian seniors from the graduating class asked our headmaster if we could wear the feathers on our caps,” Ramer told Indian Country Today Media Network. “She told us ‘no’ and that if we did, she would pull us off the field.”

Ramer wore the feather anyway, saying it was important to her to represent her heritage. “Being honored with a feather for graduation is a wonderful experience. It’s a lot more than showing off your culture. It has ties into our spirituality as well,” Ramer’s former teacher Alex Alvarez told WMPI-TV.

Now, more than a week since the graduation ceremony took place, Escambia Academy High School is still withholding Ramer’s diploma. Ramer has appealed the fine and may seek legal counsel, but says she does not regret the decision to wear the feather in her cap: ”It was worth it. It means a lot to me,” she said.

A Proud Day for Tribal Advocates of the Violence Against Women Act

February 28, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, Poverty, White Privilege


The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization passed the U.S. House on February 28 by a vote of 286 to 138. In a major victory for Indian country, it mirrored the already passed U.S. Senate provisions that allow tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians who commit violence against women and families on Indian lands.

To tribal and Native American advocates who have spent many long days and nights working through bleeding heels, seasonal sicknesses, and missed holidays with loved ones, the vote represented the end of a journey that sometimes seemed impossible.

“I’m so excited—this is overwhelming,” cried Deborah Parker, vice-chair of the Tulalip Tribes, who was out of breath and in tears immediately after the House passage.

Parker’s daze was understandable. Still catching her breath, she noted that some legal experts have said that there hasn’t been major tribal legislation that grants inherent tribal authority since the historic days of treaty times. “We’ve had other successes,” she said, “but this will have a substantial impact on our sovereign ability to govern.”

Through two Congresses, Parker experienced the first-hand battle of getting an important piece of tribal legislation passed in today’s conflict-driven capital. She regularly flew the red-eye from her home in Washington state to Washington, D.C. trying to get politicians to understand the plight that all too many Indian women and families experience. Some of the politicos wouldn’t budge in their anti-tribal positions, some wouldn’t take meetings, and others chose to ride in the backseat, not making much of an effort to secure passage.

Thanksgiving Takeaways

November 21, 2012 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Imperialism, Intersectionality, Poverty, White Privilege

From Indian Country Today:

The U.S. has long treated Indian religion and creation stories as quaint myths, but it sure holds dearly to its own mythical stories of creation. The colonizer’s myth of the first Thanksgiving is a delightful story where Native nations of the east broke bread with the colonists of the “new world.” Native peoples, however, know the full fabrication of the historical circumstances surrounding this celebration. But one thing that cannot be forgotten is the central role that food plays in this historical pageant. Food takes center stage in this narrative because Native peoples were in control of their food.

Connecting the dots between vibrant Native food systems and economies, however, is far from complicated. Agricultural and food-systems production provided the backbone of trade and exchange for most Indian nations. One aspect of American history rarely receives attention was the U.S. government’s strategy to deliberately starve Indians into submission by deliberately destroying their food systems—whether it was George Washington’s torching of hundreds of thousands of bushels of Iroquois corn, or the willful destruction of the fields and orchards of the Apache and Pueblo people.

Roughly 400 years after this first Thanksgiving, many Native peoples are dependent upon public assistance to eat, including the USDA’s commodity food program. Statistics also tell us that Native people in 22 states receive commodity food, and that approximately one in four Native households is “food insecure,” and do not have enough to eat. Moreover, another one in 10 households is experiencing hunger. We can easily connect the dots between the current state of Native food systems, and Indian peoples’ lack of control, and horrifying Native health statistics.

Health studies show that six of 10 Native Americans are likely to develop type 2 diabetes—mostly the result of poor dietary health—and have higher instances of obesity and heart disease. It is troubling that diabetes was essentially unknown among Indians in 1912, and still clinically nonexistent in 1930. Today, Indians suffer diabetes more than twice the national average (some places, the rate is much higher), and it is consuming more and more American Indian health-care resources. A final startling fact, from “State of the Science: A Cultural View of Native Americans and Diabetes Prevention.” In it Edwards and Patchell alarmingly report that per-capita health care expenditures in 2003 were $3,803 for each federal prisoner, but only $1,914 per capita in the federal allotment to Indian Health Services. How can we not conclude that spending priorities on health are directly linked to access to care and health outcomes.