Two North Carolina high school seniors were rebuffed in their efforts to wear eagle feathers and beads to their upcoming graduation ceremony, WRAL reported.
Zianne Richardson and Taylor Williams are members of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe and petitioned the school board in January to wear the symbols of their Native American tribe when they graduate from Warren County High School in a few weeks, the television station reported. Board members rejected the request.
“Whenever one of us graduates, it's sort of an accomplishment for the whole Native community all over the United States,” Richardson told WRAL.
In March, the 17-year-old became the fourth Warren County student to receive the Morehead-Cain Scholarship, The Warren Record reported. The scholarship pays all expenses for four years of undergraduate study at the University of North Carolina. Richardson has maintained straight A’s through high school.
“I'm what people call a model student," she said. "I've always made straight A’s, and I've always been involved in my class.”
Richardson had hoped to put the eagle feather next to the tassel on her graduation cap.
“It would hang right there beside your tassel, so when you turn your tassel, you turn the feather with it,” she told WRAL. “You earn your eagle feather. “They're not just given.” Warren County School Superintendent Ray Spain told The Warren Record, “We don’t want to be offensive, judging who can do what.”
Spain said his concern was that granting the requests made by Richardson and Williams, “would open it up to practically anything students wanted.”
Richardson said she was disappointed but would comply with the school board’s ruling but would continue to fight for future graduates The Haliwa-Saponi tribal council passed a resolution asking board members to reconsider, WRAL reported.
“It's culture for us, because we were born into the traditions, we've learned these traditions since birth, so this is all we know,” Richardson told the television station.