May 17, 2013

Tribe threatens boycott over honor song

Tribal leader wants boycott of Chamberlain after school board's decision

High school's rejection of graduation song triggers calls for economic backlash

By Peter Harriman
The Chamberlain School Board’s refusal to allow a tribal honoring song at high school graduation Sunday has sparked a call from Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Brandon Sazue for an economic boycott of the city, the withdrawal of millions of dollars of tribal funds from a bank that declined to condemn the district, and a demand for Chamberlain High School to return an eagle feather staff.

Sazue said the board’s 6-1 vote Wednesday night showed a lack of respect for tribal culture.
The nitty-gritty:The school district and tribal leaders, including Sazue, clashed when the Chamberlain School Board early this month turned down a request from a group of high school seniors to allow a drum group to perform an honoring song for graduates during Sunday’s commencement. Sazue said the song is a tribe’s way of honoring all Chamberlain’s graduates, Indians and non-Indians alike.

“We want to show our respect, our humility to the good kids of Chamberlain to show together they can do many things by accomplishing graduation,” he said.

School Board President Rebecca Reimer could not be reached for comment Thursday. However, Johnson said the board’s resistance rose in part from concerns that non-Indian students who signed the petition felt they had to do so or face allegations of racial prejudice. About 30 percent of Chamberlain High School students are Native American.

District officials reached out to other school districts whose graduation events feature feathering ceremonies and honoring songs to learn their protocol. What they largely found, Johnson said, is those districts have one or the other; Chamberlain is feeling its way this year by having a feathering ceremony for the first time.
Comment:  I've posted this kind of story before. Usually the Native students want to wear feathers in their caps and the schools won't let them.

This story is noteworthy because the Natives are asking for two honors, not just one. And because the tribe is threatening a boycott over the rejection.

One honor or the other seems fair to me. I'm not sure that the 30% of Native students should get to control what the other 70% experience. Maybe if there was a school-wide vote...but that hasn't happened.

And a boycott seems like overkill to me. Again, the Native students are already receiving one honor especially for them. How is the present situation not fair to everyone?

For more on how schools treat Native children, see Montesssori School Mocks Native Culture and "Squaw Bury Short Cake" Assignment.

1 comment:

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see:

Tribal Members Protest Chamberlain Graduation After Honor Song Controversy

Tribal members stood outside the Chamberlain graduation in protest after the District told Native American students they could not have an honor song sung at their graduation ceremony.

"I want them to be proud of their heritage, proud of their culture, and proud of their language," Tally Colombe said.

Last week, Chamberlain High School students took a petition to the school board asking for the song to be sung. The school board voted it down 6 to 1. The school board says they had concerns about how this petition came about. These tribal members say this song is to honor all the students on their big day.

"All the graduates need to be honored and this is how we do it, this is how we say we appreciate you and we want to thank you for all your accomplishments," Kevin Wright with the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe said.

The school allowed tribal members to sing the honor song outside the graduation on the street after the ceremony was over. Hundreds of people gathered to watch. Tribal members say this has become more than singing a song.

"Initially it was the honor song and it was for the seniors, but obviously what we are starting to see are a lot of unresolved issues with this community," James Cadwell with Crow Creek Sioux Tribe said.