Bill to allow Tribal regalia at state school graduations
By Press Times staff
NORTHEAST WISCONSIN – A bill in the state legislature — Assembly Bill No. 210 — would allow Indigenous students to wear Tribal regalia — defined in the bill as “a Tribe’s traditional dress or recognized objects of religious or cultural significance, including tribal symbols, beads and feathers” — during their graduation ceremony in Wisconsin schools.
The bill states that school boards and charter schools cannot prohibit members, or descendants of members, of a federally-recognized “American Indian Tribe or band from wearing traditional Tribal regalia at a graduation ceremony or school-sponsored event.”
The bill states that Wisconsin statutes contain “some general protections for a pupil’s religious beliefs, ancestry, creed, race and national origin.”
“However, current law does not explicitly address an American Indian student’s right to wear traditional tribal regalia at a graduation ceremony or school-sponsored event,” the bill text reads.
The bill was first introduced by the Joint Legislative Council in April and a public hearing was held in October.
The bill was unanimously approved by the Assembly Education Committee on Dec. 5, sending it to the full Assembly.
“Each year, around times of special significance such as graduation or when an American Indian student is being recognized or honored, Indigenous students across the state are too often prohibited from wearing items of religious and cultural significance, such as eagle feathers. For many Indigenous students and their families, wearing cultural and religious items honors their nation, community and heritage,” a letter from Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction State Superintendent Jill Underly stated.
“Eagle feathers are symbols in many Tribal Nations of the specific passage into adulthood. An American Indian student might be gifted an eagle feather at graduation that has been passed down for generations; to wear this eagle feather is an act of pride in an American Indian’s culture and heritage.”
“Many Native Americans celebrate major life accomplishments by wearing tribal regalia, which are considered sacred traditions, symbols of achievement and connection to the Tribal community. This is meant to ensure that the protections afforded under current law clearly provide for Tribal regalia,” added a statement from Oneida Nation Secretary Lisa Liggins.