High school's rejection of graduation song triggers calls for economic backlash
By Peter Harriman
Sazue said the board’s 6-1 vote Wednesday night showed a lack of respect for tribal culture.
“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.
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.