Thursday, June 6, 2013

American Indian Graduate Fined for Wearing Eagle Feather at Graduation

Chelsey Ramer is a Poarch Creek Indian. She has now been fined $1,000 for wearing an eagle feather at her high school graduation. Imagine the silliness!

But believe it or not, it's true! A private High School in Alabama has denied a graduating senior her diploma and fined her $1,000 because she wore an eagle feather during her graduation ceremony. 

Escambia Academy High School senior Chelsey Ramer dangled the feather on her mortarboard as a show of pride in her Native American heritage, reports WPMI-TV. And yes, Chelsey Ramer, 17, is a member of the Poarch Creek Band of Creek Indians.

"I was excited," Ms Ramer told WPMI. She also told the local NBC affiliate that she had explicitly sought permission from the Escambia Academy headmaster to wear the eagle feather at the May 23rd graduation.

"She told us we could not wear our feathers," said Chelsey. "They told me that if I wore it that they would pull me off the field."

There is a dress-code contract, which states: Students and staff shall not wear extraneous items during graduation exercises unless approved by the administration. But Ms Ramer told WPMI that she never signed the contract.

While the senior did apparently walk across the graduation stage with her feather intact, it’s not clear how school officials handled the situation right there and then. And yes, school officials have since told Ms Ramer that she must pay a $1,000 fine if she wants her diploma and access to her transcripts.

"I don’t think it’s fair at all. I feel like it’s kind of discrimination against me. Somebody’s gotta do it. Somebody’s gotta make a stand," she said.

The newly-minted high school graduate said she doesn’t regret her actions, despite the resulting kerfuffle. "It was worth it. It means a lot to me," she added.

The Poarch Creek Indians are the only federally-recognized tribe of Native Americans in Alabama. Poarch Creek Indian Gaming operates three Alabama casinos. According to its website, the tribe descends from the original Creek Nation, which once lived in the much of the land that is now Alabama and Georgia. The tribe’s reservation is located eight miles from Atmore.

According to the Escambia Academy 2012-13 handbook, the school is not officially church-sponsored but it does offer a noticeably Christian atmosphere. For example, "every class has a daily devotion during homeroom. In most cases, this routine consists of prayer, Bible reading, and/or a devotional."

My small advice to Escambia Academy High School is behave in a Christian manner and give the young lady her diploma, give her access to her transcripts, and drop the asinine threat of a $1,000 fine.

Education is tough with many hard lessons, and not all lessons come from books -- many come from experience. This experience is teaching her to choose between threats and her heritage. And frankly, I respect her for choosing wisely even in the face of a bully in the form of a High School administration.

Like many of us, I've seen streakers, flower lies, shorts, and a many other different expressions of educational completion walk across a stage or two just to receive their handshake and diploma. This school is setting a poor example and will reap nothing good out of this negative publicity. As an educational institution, Escambia Academy High School might have a hard time grasping the reality that being jerks over a single feather may cost them a lot more in the long run.

Full-price tuition at the Atmore, Alabama, private high school is $3,420 per year. That is a steep price to lose over one feather if just one parent thinks Escambia Academy has presented itself in a way that is not to their liking.

And by the way, you folks at Escambia Academy High School might want to apologize to Chelsey for putting her through such absurdity. It's only right that you do.

And yes, that's just the way I see it.
Tom Correa

1 comment:

  1. That is such absolute hogwash! Fined for wearing an eagle feather in school. AND she's Native American. That's not a distraction, it's a tradition. I get that you think wearing an eagle feather in your hair is illegal but come on. Native Americans have done it for much longer than now and THEY haven't gotten in trouble. Iron Eyes Cody wasn't really Native American but neither he nor Hollywood ever cared. I'm part Cherokee but you don't see ME wearing war paint everywhere I go. I also happen to be Irish and Italian and quite possibly Mexican, Dutch, and Jewish depending on what my family has told me. I have a biological cousin named Lisa Gonzalez who is Mexican-American and her father, Mark Gonzalez, is actually my step-uncle. My grandmother, Judy Gail Bence, actually married a Mexican man as her first husband and I was told his name was Fidel Gonzalez. I was also told that he was a rancher back in Chihuahua, Mexico, where he was from. She divorced him and married my grandfather, V.F. Bence, but not before she had Uncle Mark. (Don't ask what the V.F. in my grandfather's name stands for, it's complicated). Then I was told by MawMaw, (which is what my grandmother was called), that PawPaw, (which is my grandfather is called), only met him once. He walked right up to Fidel Gonzalez and said, "You take a good long look at me, friend. Cause I'm the new man in the life of your now ex-wife. And if I ever catch you in Wahneta again, you'll be sorry cause I'll have you in jail." By the way, Wahneta is where I grew up. The people of the town tried to spell "Juanita" but for some reason the painter they hired to paint the sign must have been drunk because he spelled it wrong. He couldn't even say it correctly. And so became the town of Wahneta. It's part of the Winter Haven area and a place where my grandfather still lives. That is, when he's not traveling the world. He's originally from Alabama but has been here since 1958. He's 80 years old still and a big part of my life. As for Fidel Gonzalez? Don't really remember much about him and don't know what happened to him. Except for that one time my grandfather saw him, he never popped back up. I'm thinking by now he has since died. So I guess my full name would be Benjamin Lewis Gonzalez Morehead Bence Jr. Or just Benjamin Lewis Gonzalez Morehead Bence. But I call myself Benny Bence and my family calls me Bubba. I was once mistaken for a Mr. David Scott over the phone and in my mind, I shoulda went along with it. It was funny. Maybe I'll use that as a stage name. When somebody asks me what ancestry I have, (which is really a pet peeve since I don't remember), I tell them, "I can be anything I wanna be. And it doesn't need to be true." So in my mind, I'm Irish, Italian, Cherokee, Mexican, Jewish, Dutch, or whatever it is I wanna be. Or just plain American. But seriously, all this over an eagle feather? Some people need to get a life.


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