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Patti Wigington

NC Teen Wants to Wear Sacred Eagle Feathers at Graduation

By May 25, 2008

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This one comes to us from near Fayetteville. In the town of Pembroke, NC, Corey Bird is about to graduate from high school, and he wants to wear his tribal eagle feathers on his gown in honor of his cultural and spiritual heritage. However, school board officials are saying that if he does so, he could be punted out of the ceremony altogether, because school regulations prohibit any altering of the graduate's cap and gown. Bird, a member of the Lumbee tribe, has asked the local tribal council for help, and leaders are speaking out against the school board's decision, and have officially asked Bird and his cousin, also graduating this year, be allowed to wear their feathers.

The school's policy says there is to be no "wearing of messages, signs, markings, stringers and ribbons on caps and gowns." However, one has to wonder about this because if Bird argues that the feathers are a mark of his spirituality, then you could find a case for religious discrimination if students of other faiths are allowed to wear symbols of their own religions. There are over ten thousand Native American students in the Robeson County school system, so whatever decision is reached could have some wide ramifications. Personally, I think if a kid has worked hard enough to earn a diploma, he should be allowed to wear a feather, a pin, or even a pair of deelybobbers as long as it doesn't interfere with any other student's ability to graduate.

And really, haven't the Native Americans had enough things taken away from them? Do we really need to take this too? Let the kid wear his feather -- he's earned it, and he should be allowed to wear it with honor.
May 25, 2008 at 11:42 pm
(1) Ryan says:

Coming from someone who graduated only last week, I find this apalling. I understand the traditional solemnity of the graduation ceremony, but a show of religious pride and heritage is one of our constitutional rights. No one at my school, even here in the heart of the bible belt, would have the gall to tread on the toed of the bill of rights.

May 26, 2008 at 12:29 am
(2) Quelkaima says:

I have to side with the school on this one, simply because high schools typically rent caps & gowns instead of letting the students buy them outright. If it’s modified, the student would have to foot the bill for buying or repairing it. That’s probably why the policy is in place and I can’t fault the school for that.

That said, however, I’d like to propose a compromise– string the feathers into a set of earrings (or clip-ons if his ears aren’t pierced). This way, there’s no modification of the garb and he can wear his tribal pride. If that doesn’t work, then the school board has a problem.

May 26, 2008 at 8:47 am
(3) Rane Hunter says:

then i think the god freaks should not be allowed to wear their crosses, their sign of christian pride and love.

May 26, 2008 at 9:05 am
(4) HedgeWitch says:

Why not wear a hair ornament, or an ear bob with a feather or two. Then it would be “jewelry” and they would have to tell everyone to remove their jewelry if they wanted to have these Braves remove theirs.
If the policy is for the cap and gown, this would not apply.

May 26, 2008 at 1:32 pm
(5) Ross says:

I have to agree with Patti on this one. If other students are allowed to wear their crosses (or other religious symbols) then this boy should be allowed wear his feather.

May 26, 2008 at 9:27 pm
(6) paganwiccan says:

Quelkaima, that is a good point, and i don’t know if this particular school district rents out the graduation gowns or if the students have to buy them (when I graduated from high school, a billion years ago, we had to purchase our gowns and caps). If the gowns are the property of the school board, I can see how they might have a leg to stand on as far as “no modifications,” however, I do think they still need to allow this student to wear his ceremonial feathers in some other fashion, such as a hair ornament or such.

If the kids have to buy their gowns, then they should be able to stick anything they like on them, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of anyone else enjoying the ceremony.

And Ryan, the ACLU seems to agree with you, and says this kid might actually have a chance at challenging this, based on the unconstitutionality of it. I’m interested to see what happens – if any of our NC readers hear more, keep us posted!


May 26, 2008 at 9:31 pm
(7) Ash says:

Ya know, its policies like that that take all the fun out of graduating. My graduation ceremony was total crap. We were suppose to sit in silence the whole time, and weren’t allowed even to speak to anyone, cheer, whatever as we walked out.

It was horrible and boring. Not what graduation was suppose to be, a celebration. I say so long as its not to nuts, let kids do what they want. Its suppose to be a happy time.

May 26, 2008 at 11:14 pm
(8) Reverend Mike says:

Actually, as the policy is described here, then no, Christians would not be allowed to wear crosses either- as jewelry, maybe, but not on the cap or gown. The policy is constitutional because it affects everyone equally, and the school has every right to enforce it.

Now, that said, there is still the matter of it being a STUPID policy, all legality arguments aside. The school may be within the law to restrict speech they deem disruptive, but it would be nice if they decided to, I dunno, spend their time TEACHING THE KIDS, rather than just maintaining some false sense of order.

May 27, 2008 at 2:10 am
(9) Bluedawn says:

I think that all religions, if asked, should be honored in one way or another. What the native children in the Pacific Northwest is attach their eagle feather to their graduation tassel. Technically, it’s not part of the cap/gown and belongs to the student personally. Am I right on that one???

May 27, 2008 at 5:26 pm
(10) Friend says:

Equal protection laws apply to all faiths in the USA. If other students are allowed to wear religious symbols or political etc. then that privilege must remain open to all.

Gov’t may completely ban all speech. At issue is whether the graduation ceremony is a limited public forum. If it is, then student free speech may include student-initiated and student-led prayers. I don’t think the ACLU would like it.

From a news article– Hunt said if the school system allows students to wear anything on their cap or gown it would set a precedent. “If we allow a group to do that, there are other groups that want to do the same,” he said.


Yes, Nordic types might display the Norse god’s SWASTIKA as a symbol of their paganism. And Moslems might post Osama Ben Laden photographs on theirs.

Jews and Christians… I leave that to the reader.

May 27, 2008 at 6:25 pm
(11) Shiva says:

1. The Swastika was originally Indian. Hitler kind of… borrowed and warped.

2. The Hammer of Thor is Norse.

Get something straight, Friend.

May 27, 2008 at 6:37 pm
(12) Angela says:

I understand that most caps and gowns are rented. THat is a valid arguement. Then allow him to but the cap and gown. THen he can do whatever he wants with it.

Also, anyone wearing the cross or any other religious symbol should NOT be allowed either.

May 28, 2008 at 9:37 am
(13) Ross says:

I had to purchase my cap and gown when I graduated from high school, and we still weren’t allowed to modify it in any way.

May 28, 2008 at 11:31 am
(14) Scolaí says:

I teach in NC – about 50 miles north of Fayetteville. Schools systems vary in their practices regarding graduation, so it is possible that the cap/gown is rented. I know students in our system buy their cap & gown.

We have a huge population of Haliwa-Saponi in our district. If one of them (that did not attend the Haliwa-Saponi school) wanted to honor his heritage with feathers, I can’t imagine the district would raise that much of a stink over it.

It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that the principal’s objection to the students’ addition of tribal elements to their robes was based on the spiritual religious aspect of the accessories. This is the Bible-belt after all. However, if the problem is with altering the cap/gown, I say make a tribal piece with the feathers that can be worn like honor cords. If there is an argument about that, then we know that the students are being singled out due to the religious nature of the feathers.

I’ll look at the news coverage for this story and see what comes up.

Oh, yes. Before I hit the submit button – Friend: you’re still proving yourself to be a raving idiot. Osama pictures on Muslim robes? Please. Every Muslim student I teach (and as an ESL teacher, that’s more than just one or two) denounces the acts of OBL as those of a radical with no true understanding of Islam.

Are you always so out of touch with reality? Wait. Don’t answer that. The fact that you are a Xian trolling a Pagan board gives us the answer.

May 28, 2008 at 12:30 pm
(15) Friend says:

Osama’s not popular with you moslems? Boy, they sure got YOU fooled! HeHe

I don’t believe it for a moment. And what would you do if they did? Once the religious symbols are allowed, let the battle of religious ideas begin and there is nothing you or your school can do… IF you allow one faith to display its symbols. Personally I like the idea of all faiths expressing their views. Let’s enjoy and have at it.

As for Arians, who want to display the NORDIC religious swastika, they can if others are allowed to display their faith’s symbols. And by the way the Anastasi Indians weren’t the only ones with the SWASTIKA… the pagan Norse and Germanic tribes had it too. Just FYI.

I smile with delight at this discussion. You see I value freedom of expression and free speech for all faiths.

May 28, 2008 at 6:48 pm
(16) Shiva says:

LOL Okay. Cudos to you for a good laugh, Friend. When I said Indian, I meant Eastern Indian… India.

May 29, 2008 at 10:09 am
(17) Scolaí says:

Friend said:
Osama’s not popular with you moslems? Boy, they sure got YOU fooled! HeHe

Wow. Just when I believed it was not possible you could make yourself look any more ridiculous, you go and post this. You claim to know what people you’ve never met think about a man who is not a religious icon in the Muslim world.

Tell me: do you read tea leaves or crystal balls to figure this stuff out?

Me? I’ve worked with students of the Muslim faith for 5 years now. I’ve talked with their parents and taught these kids in the classroom. Never have they indicated that they support the cause of radical Islamists. Never have I been labeled “infidel” or targeted for death. I know these kids. I know their parents. And I know from experience that Osama’s not a guiding force in their lives.

You, Friend, are hardly qualified to identify the beliefs and motives of the kids I teach.

Every time you write something, you look more and more ignorant. How about stopping now before truly convincing us all that you are indeed a blithering idiot.

May 30, 2008 at 8:39 am
(18) motherseer says:

This is a cut-and-dried case of religious discrimination. Any fresh-out-of-law-school barrister could win this case. And other faiths always display their symbols (necklaces of crosses, Stars of David) – it’s just that feathers are larger (smirk).

May 30, 2008 at 8:51 am
(19) Ann says:

I am from North Carolina and I think he should be able to wear his sacred feathers. He wants to do so in honor of his grandfather and heritage. We gave the American Indians a raw deal. I don’t think this is to much to give.

May 30, 2008 at 9:05 am
(20) MomWolf says:

I like the idea of wearing them in his hair or as an earring/ear cuff. I’m sure those of other faiths/paths/cultures will be wearing their symbols as jewelry. Go for it!!!!!!!

May 30, 2008 at 9:13 am
(21) Gunivera says:

Ok, this isn’t going to be very popular (and may be a bit jumbled), but I don’t think adding any decorations to the cap/gown should be allowed, whether gowns are purchased or rented (I didn’t even know they rented those things). All I can picture is an entire class with various symbols all over their gowns, I think it would look quite tacky. I do feel that perhaps wearing the feathers in the hair, if that is an option of the Nation, would be better, as someone else stated and compared it to jewelry.

I’m all for freedom of speech, religious freedoms, and showing pride for your heritage. However, I do feel allowing the wearing of the feathers on the cap/gown just opens things up too much for various fanatics. (No, I’m NOT calling these graduates or the people who support them fanatics, just saying fanatics could look to use this as a foot in the door.)

May 30, 2008 at 9:24 am
(22) Saraya Summerton says:

There’s an easy fix to this. Get this story out to all the local papers and get the community and the other students involved. I’ll bet if half the graduating class, or even the whole graduating class along with their parents, relatives and whoever else is invited to the graduation ceremony, showed up with feathers on their gowns or clothes in support of this young man, the school would NOT throw them ALL out. And being from NC not far from this kid’s area, I’d put money on it that he’s not the only Native American in this crowd. For that matter, if it were me, I’d show up with my formal tribal dress underneath the gown and encourage all of my friends and family to wear the same. This is rediculous. School board officials should be ashamed of themselves!

May 30, 2008 at 9:53 am
(23) SaraLee McGyver says:

I believe the boy should be allowed to have his feather adornments. What could it hurt, really? NOTHING!

May 30, 2008 at 9:57 am
(24) Norma says:

Let the “Bird” show off his feathers of pride: he has earned the right to wear those feathers, it kept him strong enough to finish school, how many do not finish because they have no direction: i agree with a statement made:hasn’t america taken away enough from all our native americans

May 30, 2008 at 10:41 am
(25) JoyCrux says:

I don’t see why this is such a big deal? The cap and gown are a form of uniform – and as such, should not be altered. Why doesn’t this person just wear the feathers in their hair or as jewlery? Then there would be no reason for all of this… I agree with the school. You don’t see Christians painting a big cross on their robes, Jews attaching the Star of David to their tassles, or even any Pagans using tape to create a pentagram on the top of their cap! The cap and gown are their own symbols, please keep your symbols as accessories.

May 30, 2008 at 10:56 am
(26) jeff wyatt says:

I was at a graduation last night where a soldier wore his uniform instead of the cap and gown, I see no reason why not he cant wear them, and this was a high school graduation too

May 30, 2008 at 11:21 am
(27) Losing Faith.... says:

As you can see, my name says losing faith. Not in my beliefs but in humanity. It’s not enough for the people of this country to have pushed them off their land and reduced them to having all their things shoved onto small reservations… now people have decided that they can not use their religious markers in graduation even though that might be the only reason they made it through?

Why do we feel that we must push our beliefs and our way of life onto everyone else? This is a pointless argument that just makes the school board look ignorant and afraid of change.

May 30, 2008 at 11:31 am
(28) Feather in the Wind says:

Where I live every Native American Graduate is given an Eagle feather, it does not alter the cap or gown, its the same as the tassle, though much more meaning full, (my own personal opinion)
the bead work done on them is breathtakin beautiful, The school is being ignorant, actually I makes me ill. just thinking about it. Do I have my tassel from my cap from highschool… no, it was lost long ago, but my Eagle Feathers are treasured!

May 30, 2008 at 11:46 am
(29) Jade SilverWolf says:

I believe that this young man should be allowed to wear his tribal items. It really is amazing how closed minded people still are. Wake up people …we are entering a New Age…the Earth is changing as are we. If he is graduating, the school board should be honoring him for his hard work. At least he made it this far…there are many who do not make it this far for one reason or another !
Blessed Be Corey !

May 30, 2008 at 11:51 am
(30) michele says:

i beleive he should be allowed to wear his feather and yes native americans have lost enough rights i would tell anyone who feels this is wrong get over it

May 30, 2008 at 12:00 pm
(31) Greeb Owl says:

Tribe grab is scared and important. So are any other religious articles to the people that wear them. I respect their right to believe as they choose.

However being a high school teacher I see the point of nothing being done to alter the gowns and caps. It is everyone’s day. If let to create their own outfit the students would most likely detract from importance of the day. It would would be changed from honoring their sucess at their studies to how wild and crazy they could possibly be.

After the ceremony each student and their family have a right to have a celebration and take what ever pictures in whatever outfit – spiritual or not – any where it is legal to take pictures! And I encourage them to do so.

Because we are such a diverse culture it is important that we keep some things in one traditional form and allow for diversity in other places.

Graduation in one of those places where one tradition is enough to honor the hard work and accomplishments of the graduates.

I hope the young man and his cousin enjoy the honors his family and tribe offer him at his graduation celebration.

May 30, 2008 at 12:24 pm
(32) Kristine says:

Thats real good considering that children of the Christain and Catholic faith always seem to be allowed their crosses to be about their neck during these times. At my sisters graduation I must have counted at least 75% of her class of about 200 wearing their symbols of religion. Is that not a violation of school policy as well? I say let the boy, and any other who wishes, have the chanse to show his pride in his beleives.

May 30, 2008 at 12:26 pm
(33) Ann Marie Mina says:

My son Graduated in 2006 and at our school they let the kids decorate their caps. My son is also native and I decorated his cap accordingly…I put a beautiful piece of beadwork that I had done and I also attached a hawk feather to HIS CAP and no one said a word, but our school is name after the Molalla Indian tribe so I guess they did NOT Mind. I hope that it all works out for them. Keep fighting for you rights as a native person….You have more of a right to display WHO YOU ARE than my son did.

May 30, 2008 at 12:45 pm
(34) Holly says:

If they are going to ban Native American symbols, then ALL other religious symbols should be banned as well.

May 30, 2008 at 12:48 pm
(35) Shannon says:

My Goddess, Let the young man wear his feather’s. Hey Christians, You would be soooo mad and have a fit if someone did this to you.

May 30, 2008 at 1:17 pm
(36) Dancer says:

[quote]“no wearing of messages, signs, markings, stringers and ribbons on caps and gowns[/quote]

People, this means that NO wearing of markings, etc. That does not say “Nothing but the Christian cross is to be displayed”. It says “NO!” There is no reason this kid cannot put them in his hair, as earrings, around his neck (like most kids do) under the cap and gown, to be displayed for the afterparty. This is not religious discrimination, as it says “No” not “Only some”. If they let him do it, they are in violation of their own policy. Now, if some kid destined for seminary obtains permission for a St Chris’s medal, then we have a case but as it stands now, no. Sorry, guys.

May 30, 2008 at 1:28 pm
(37) tasia says:

At every graduation I have attended (my own and other people’s), at least a few grads had symbols or messages taped to the flat tops of their caps. Some were religous symbols, some were thank-yous to people, some were expressions of joy or celebration. I don’t know if that is considered “alteration” of the cap (since the tape peels off afterward) but it’s very common in my experience and it came to mind when I read this.

I think the feathers should be allowed, if not pinned to the gown, then worn on a string around the neck or otherwise displayed. I am sure more than one Christian student will be wearing a cross on a chain around the neck. This would be no different.

I would be proud to see a diverse array of symbols displayed at my school’s graduation, if I were the administrators. It’s unfortunate the the first response was “no” rather than “let’s figure out a way.”

May 30, 2008 at 1:44 pm
(38) Wiccad says:

When my son graduated last year he wore a medicine bag that had crystals from his Gram’s Croning Ceremony, as well as some of her ashes in it. He made sure it was on the outside of his gown and was going to refuse if he was asked to tuck it in. He wasn’t, which was good. But this was very important to him as his Gram had passed away the summer before. In his words “Gram is walking across that stage with me. I did this for her.”

May 30, 2008 at 2:48 pm
(39) Jewish Mystic says:

Actually Shivia the Swastika is: The swastika (from Sanskrit svástika स्वस्तिक ) is an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, in either right-facing (卐) form or its mirrored left-facing (卍) form. The swastika can also be drawn as a traditional swastika, but with a second 90° bend in each arm.

edited by Patti – see note below
History of the Swastika
The Swastika and Ancient Troy
Carl Sagan on the Origins of the Swastika
The Swastika and Hinduism
The Swastika and Buddhism
end edit

The Muslim “Friday” mosque of Isfahan, Iran and the Taynal Mosque in Tripoli, Lebanon both have swastika motifs.

and when “friend was speaking of Norse symbols he was speaking of how the Asatru use the Swastika.

So Shiva I say to you get YOUR facts right.

Note from Patti: JM, I’ve edited your post for brevity. I realize you were trying to provide helpful information, but C&Ping info from other sites takes up a lot of bandwidth. Instead, I’ve taken the liberty of posting a few links to pages that reference the things you discuss in your post.

May 30, 2008 at 5:22 pm
(40) Silver Thunderbird says:

Oh, Geez… this started as a comment board about a young man graduating, and not being allowed to carry with him something precious to him. it’s a cultural thing, almost more than a religious thing, i would think, but that part doesn’t matter quite as much. What matters is equal treatment. There are always ways around things, they’re called loopholes. And I spent most of my high school carreer finding them. ;) He’ll wear them somehow. Have faith, everyone.

As for the swastika thing, guys, it’s well known that ALL symbols have traversed thru many different cultures and religions before they arrived at the current ‘meanings’, is it really something to be fighting over on a comment board? c’mon, guys. There’s no reason to copy an entire article from wikipedia and paste it in, (which, i actually read a little more than half of it, then skipped to the very bottom) only to find at the end more fighting.

Friend, are you going to tell us all to “sit down and shut up” again? because once again you’re trolling on a site that you obviously don’t have any compassion for the people that it’s written about. For someone that prides him/herself in being ‘christian’, you sure don’t act like a christian. At least, not a TRUE one.

Thanks for the great article, Patti. ;) keep ‘em coming. :P


May 30, 2008 at 5:49 pm
(41) rinnyrainwind says:

that would usually sound like they have a case for discrimination, but the fact of the matter is that they arent letting christians wear crosses on the cap or gown, and they probably arent letting wiccans put penticles on them…

the feathers are a tough issue because of how they would have to be worn, not what they are. most of these other religions can simply wear a charm on a necklace and tuck it beneath their gown with nothing objected to about it. the feathers stand out a litle more.

it really dosent seem fair from a stand point of being told that you express your faith, but on the same note it wouldnt be fair to the other students that it would detract attention away from them on a day which is also theirs.

i’m sure the students families will have a celebration later, maybe its just better to keep tradition there, rather than at a public school that by law has to treat all of their students the same.

May 30, 2008 at 6:21 pm
(42) paganwiccan says:

Yeah, you know, I think the issue is whether or not they’ll allow him to wear the eagle feather in some other fashion, rather than affixing it to the robe itself (says she who thinks graduation robes are a really antiquated notion anyway).


May 30, 2008 at 6:51 pm
(43) Val says:

ok, first off, i think the whole cap and gown thing should be done away with altogether…we should be individuals, not lemmings! We should be allowed to wear nice clothes on grad day, tasteful of course and be able to adorn ourselves with religious wear, no matter what it is. I dont want to see my girls graduate and not be able to pick them out because they look like everyone else. The whole feather thing…LET HIM DO IT!! PRIDE IN FAITH. I am pagan and proud of it!!

May 30, 2008 at 8:08 pm
(44) Karen says:

I say let him wear his feather. It is a feeling of pride he’ll feel while wearing his sacred feather.

I consider it unconstitutional to not allow him to where what is sacred to him. If the school board don’t like it, tough crap! I don’t like to sue people, but I say go get a lawyer and threaten to sue the pants off the school board.

When I graduated from school in 1993, it was always tradition for a priest/minister to say a prayer before the cerimony. Because of one not wanting to have it done they wouldn’t let us. I’m not catholic but I felt like I was being denied something that meant so much to so many. We ended up after the cerimony getting a priest/minister to say a prayer for us. It just wasn’t the same.

May 30, 2008 at 8:11 pm
(45) Kangi Winyan says:

Ohhhh boy, why is this kind of thing still happening? I was going to say something in Lakota about how I feel about this… but I won’t because that would make me the same as the washichu. I may look washichu, but inside… red rules!
Eagle feathers are usually earned, and thus an accomplishment just as sacred and important as the graduation cap, gown and diploma. Washichu has chosen our way of thinking, living, speaking for so long. I say leave this koshkaloka alone and let him have his time to shine. It is no different than a yarmulke, cross, pentagram, etc.
Wear your feathers with pride koshkaloka, even if you have to hang them from your hair, necklace, whatever. Do not hide who you are or acquiesce to the washichu any longer. I do not say this with anger, I say it with pride. Red Pride!! I also say it with my Jewish Pride, My ScotchIrishWelsh Pride and my Wiccan Pride. Anho!!!

May 30, 2008 at 10:36 pm
(46) Shai says:

so what do they do if a muslim needs to wear the hijab, its the same premise!!!!

May 31, 2008 at 4:59 pm
(47) Andie Ratcliff says:

As has been pointed out before, the policy doesn’t say that he can’t wear the feathers, just that he can’t attach them to the cap or gown. A religious discrimination case won’t have a leg to stand on as long as other students aren’t allowed to attach religious symbols to their gowns.

Put differently, he’s crying discrimination because he isn’t getting special treatment. I refuse to tolerate that kind of behavior from anyone of any religion.

May 31, 2008 at 5:02 pm
(48) Leo says:

I am a veteran and served in the armed forces so that young men like this one could wear their signs of faith with pride and honor. Was my time in the service wasted if we are basically denied a simple right supposedly guaranteed to us as Americans?

May 31, 2008 at 5:21 pm
(49) KiwiBird says:

Living only an hour away from Fayetteville, I am extremely disturbed at this disregard to our constitutional rights so close to home. I graduated last year and I lost my grandmother shortly after me graduation. I would have been extremely upset if I had been told i couldn’t wear something in remembrance of her had she died earlier. The Fayetteville officials need to show that they have some understanding of our rights and allow Corey to wear his feathers. Where’s the harm?

May 31, 2008 at 5:56 pm
(50) Kirk (Little RedHawk) says:


It again, appears that unless one is of Christian faith, the wearing of any other Spiritual item other then a cross is again forbidden. Things like this just reaffirm that for one to be fully excepted in this country one must look, act and believe as the Euro-Christian racist community is. Things never change.
The only thing I can add, is that this child wear the Sacred Feather in his hear, if his hear is of long enough length to braid a piece of leather attaching the feather to his hair, or attach the Feather to a head band and then put on the graduation cap. Thus showing not only his heritage, but also his Sacred ways.


May 31, 2008 at 7:15 pm
(51) sarahswan24 says:

I agree absolutely with patti. Corey should be allowed to wear his feathers at graduation! It seems like sometimes the powers that be in this country bend over backwards to change things to accomadate certain cultures here (think about it). I agree, haven’t we taken enough away from the Native Americans?! They were here before other cultures. As a t-shirt I own says “American Homeland Security since 1492″

May 31, 2008 at 8:28 pm
(52) Delia says:

If the student is footing the bill for his gown, there should be no problem in his wearing of his religeous symbols; at any rate this could be considered a violation of the 1st ammendment. I would like to see what comes off of this. It is sad that a nation as big as ours, and everything we’ve had to go through is still caught up in bigotry. I agree that if other students are allowed to wear religious symbols it shouldn’t matter which religion he follows.

June 1, 2008 at 9:26 am
(53) paganwiccan says:

I think the courts are going to have to look at a couple of things — first, is the school board refusing to let him wear the feathers at all, or just saying he can’t attach them to the gown/cap? If they’re saying he can’t wear them at all, that’s different than saying “You can wear them attached to your person, just not attached to the cap and gown which belong to the school.”

Then again, they also have to look at who owns the cap and gown (is it rented, or purchased?), and if it’s purchased by the student, is it or is it not Constitutional to say the student can’t attach religious items to it.

I do think the whole notion of cap and gown is silly — I mean, we’re raising kids to be individual thinkers, and then we dress them all up exactly alike and toss them into the world. If you have to have it, though, it would be nice if the school said, “Okay, the gowns you can’t touch, but if you want to stick something on your cap to express who you are or what you believe, it’s cool.”


June 1, 2008 at 11:42 am
(54) WHITEHAWK says:

The NATIVE AMERICAN People have been mistreated enough. I think if he want to wear his eagle feathers he should be allowed to. Connect the eagle feathers to the tassel. The tassel is his to keep. It was given to him for undertaking this great journey. The tassel is his to wear with pride and honor. So are the Eagle feathers. So wear them both with pride and great honor. It is your right. If they don’t like this idea then put on the bear claw necklace and attach the feathers to it and wear it like that. What can they say about a necklace? Good luck and may the Great Spirit watch over us all.

June 1, 2008 at 11:45 am
(55) Scolaí says:


From an insider’s point of view (I teach high school not far from Fayetteville, NC), schools are a place where children are taught that conformity of will and person outweigh individuality. For 13 years, children have been taught that they need the approval of an authority before doing anything, and anything they do is subject to the approval of that same authority.

Kids ask permission to go to the bathroom. They await validation or invalidation of their work. They’re dressed in uniforms so they all look the same at school. Walk on the right side of the hall. Eat lunch at such-and-such time, not when you’re hungry. No snacks in the classroom. Conform. Conform. Conform.

Then we put them in matching caps and gowns and send them off to graduation, proud of the individuals they have become – individuals that think, speak, and act just like everyone else.

Were I this student, there would be some personal religious icons hidden under the stupid robe that would be unseen during Pomp and Circumstance but clearly visible as I crossed the stage.

Screw them and their ideas of conformity.

June 1, 2008 at 6:01 pm
(56) Decca Gaeafgwyrdd says:

High school graduation really has nothing to do with your religion (if you have one) and even Christian kids wouldn’t wear a big cross over their robes. If you’re wearing the feathers for your own spirituality it shouldn’t matter whether you wear them on top of your robes or underneath them.

If the school has no problem with students wearing whatever they like underneath the gowns, it isn’t discriminatory at all. Eagle feathers might be spiritual for these students, but a CND symbol might also be spiritual for another student and where does it end if some people are allowed to flourish their inspirational symbols and others can’t? I’d rather see a graduation filled with smart black gowns, than one where everyone can pin whatever they like to them. Then it looks less like a formal ritual, which graduation is, and more like a rag-tag, come-as-you-are rally. That bit comes later when the graduates celebrate with their families and friends!

Graduation is a rite of passage, and just like any rite of passage there is the ritual clothes that go along with it and yes, they are identical, but I don’t believe it symbolises conformity and the breaking down of individuality. I think it symbolises unity. The people who graduate together are all equals regardless of socio-economic and cultural background. It’s outside of school, in the university of life, when people truly become individuals…so isn’t it fitting that people first start out seeing the similarities between each other before they set out and find out what makes them different? It’s the similarities that bring us together and the differences that break us apart.

This student doesn’t have to stop being a Native American to graduate, wearing his feathers under his gown doesn’t mean he’s denying his heritage. Wearing the correct clothes for a ritual is something everyone has to learn sometime, regardless of cultural and religious background.

June 1, 2008 at 10:38 pm
(57) Melanie says:

Gee – if it’s in his hair, there’s no problem, right? If there is a regulation against hair ornaments I guess all the girls are screwed from wearing barretts, aren’t they? Attatch it to his hair, not the cap or gown. Can’t say a DANG thing about it!!

June 2, 2008 at 12:44 pm
(58) Donna says:

Good for him that he wants to include his heritage in his graduation but I have to say one thing if the school allows him it should be allowed for all students under all differnt faiths.

June 3, 2008 at 2:22 pm
(59) llunaticraven says:

If the school board has such rules regarding adding anything to the cap and gown, I would string the feather on and wear it as a necklace of sorts. This young person has all rights to wear the eagle feather, and is simply trying to honor his heritage and his people, something more of us should think about.

June 3, 2008 at 4:29 pm
(60) Laurie says:

If the kids can’t wear them on their caps and gowns for whatever reason, than it seems to me that a compromise can be had by making it into a hair ornament or necklace type arrangment. I graduated back in 1972. We rented the caps and gowns and nobody would even think of altering them (well maybe one or two of the wilder ones). The National Honor Society kids get to wear either the NHC tassels or NCS thing=a=ma-bob that is like what the preachers wear. So if THEY can wear this and they can, than something similiar should be allowed for the NA kids.

As for yelling out and clapping, that has gone on for years. At my daughter’s graduation a year or two back, I whooped and hollered loudly because it was such an ordeal just to get her through school! And she did it! They reminded people not to do this, but at least they waited until people calmed down before the next name was called. It was fun as it should be.

If they tribe has a ceremony for the kids to wear their eagle feathers, than it should be allowed. Its not like they are defacing the gowns or hats.

June 3, 2008 at 8:33 pm
(61) Sorcha says:

One whom is proud of his/her beliefs should be able to honor them on that special day…..their beliefs helped them get where they are. Bright Blessing to the young man!

June 4, 2008 at 12:00 pm
(62) daisy says:

I spent the last 9 yrs of my life living in that part of North Carolina, and grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana. The part of this that bothers me the most is that the Lumbees are not recognized by the National Tribal Association. The ‘tribe’ was formed from runaway slaves and local indians of many tribes that had been shunned by their own people for having relationships with non-indian people. They call themselves Lumbee after the river that runs through the area, not the other way around as most people think. I know most of you will think this is a picky point…but it is my opinion. No tribal recognition…no feathers at graduation.
As an extra note, the Lumbees have been applying to the National Federation of Tribes for a very long time for recognition and keep getting turned down. Why? Because they are not a true tribe.

June 5, 2008 at 3:22 am
(63) brooklynn says:

okay, if no one is allowed to pin anything to their gown and this has been a constant through out the high schools existence, than religion should not even be involved. i mean yeah, its kinda stupid, but its not a religion issue. its just a rule the high school inforces, probably to keep obscene items on gowns {think of the bathroom walls when you where in high school}. if they allow anything to be pinned upon the gowns and not the feathers than clearly its unfair and unjust to not allow this guy to express his beliefs at this milestone in his life. and to respond to a comment by daisy, i was not aware someone’s beliefs had to be recognized by an association to be valid. come on now, pagans have been trying to go against that myth for years.

June 6, 2008 at 9:33 am
(64) daijah says:

I think that what they are doing is is only showing the rest of the world what huge imperialist we are.By no letting the kid where his eagle feathers is going against what is cleary stated in the Constution of the United States Of America. I mean, come on I am only 12 and I know what that means.

June 6, 2008 at 2:43 pm
(65) Tina says:

If he wants to wear the feathers, there should be no issue! I actually live in Robeson County NC which is home of the Lumbee Tribe. However, it is also a big part of the bible belt and the schools here only reconginze the Christian faith. I actually receieved a letter home from my son’s teacher because his mohawk wasn’t a hair style “good boys” would wear. The school here just don’t care about the rights of the students.

June 7, 2008 at 5:34 pm
(66) Crystal Crow Dog says:

My brother and I do too wish to wear eagle feathers when we graduate. I wish to wear an eagle plume and my brother an eagle feather. It is a major accomplishment to graduate high school! Major accomplishments is how an individual earns feathers.
I understand Coreys decision to wear them in honor of his mother and grandfather who died in a car accident. I see nothing wrong with this at all. There have been other graduates in the past the have worn eagle feathers and eagle plumes for graduation. They are even allowed to have a star quilt on their chairs.
So i see absolutely no problem with his decision!
My father is writing a letter to the superintendent, principal and chairman!

I just pray that they dont let their fear and ignorance cloud their decision!!

Toksa Ake, Lil Sunka Kangi

June 17, 2008 at 9:41 pm
(67) pattyc says:

Did anyone hear if he got to wear the feathers?

June 18, 2008 at 5:32 pm
(68) Rowan says:

When my niece graduated last year in NM, several of the Navajo kids wore the feathers in their hair. Both male and female members of the tribe usually wear their hair long. It looked very striking.

December 7, 2008 at 10:00 pm
(69) Crystal Crow Dog says:

In response to:
(67) pattyc says:
Did anyone hear if he got to wear the feathers?

I have been in contact with Corey, he did get to wear his feathers!

April 13, 2009 at 2:55 am
(70) Hope Blanshan says:

the Robeson county school system is not playing with a full deck of cards. If my fellow native american cannot ba allowed to wear his tribes feathers on his gown to honor his spirituality then not even one of their little rich white kids who attend that school should be able to ever wear anything to that sysmbolizes their white god. that school is purposely discriminating him and are about to open a whole can of worms. that is just ridiculous- he cant wear feathers but yall can wear support our troop pins on your graduation gowns right? theres a serious problem there. I suggest that school carefully re thinks what they are about to do.

April 13, 2009 at 2:58 am
(71) hope blanshan says:

And no, corey bird should not have to compromise to be able to display his spirituality! that is completely absurd! he should not have to compromise with a bunch of washichus!

July 24, 2009 at 11:58 am
(72) Chad says:

Native American Indians that have obtained a formal federal permit, are the only, and I repeat only ethnic group allowed to possess an Eagle feather due to Title 50 Part 22 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations, commonly known as The Eagle Feather Law, and this law is currently in effect. This means that if one is not of the proper ethnic heritage with the proper documentation according to the laws related to federally recognized tribes, it is illegal for them to possess an Eagle feather. The ACLU has worked on similar Religious Freedom Jewelry (or other spiritual items) in the past, including Native American ones. The typical conclusion in most court cases has been that the student is constituionally guaranteed freedom of expression in a public school setting (even if that expression is secular.) There have been cases however, where this is not always the case, in 1998 two African American students were prohibited from wearing a ceremonial Ghanian Kente cloth over their graduation gowns, because according to the school officials it conflicted with “the message of unity” that the graduation ceremony was intended to display. (The irony is that the constitution is the primary legal document of the USA, and it says nothing about “unity” between different faith groups; instead it speaks of the governement not having the authority to deny or promote any religion… an indvidual’s right to pursue freedom, happiness and liberty, and the people of the land being the primary benefactors of the legal system.) According the ACLU website “The Supreme Court has not ruled on the constitutionality of dress codes in relation to students 1st Amendment rights. Personal appearance and clothing may be constitutionally protected by the 1st Amendment if the clothing conveys a religious message or the clothing coveys a political message. It is generally not enough in the eyes of the court for a student to object to a dress code on the basis that it does not allow him/her to convey their individuality.” This teen is within his rights to fight the school in this matter, if he so chooses. Since the Supreme Court has not specifically ruled, this would be done through either the District Court, County Court, or State Supreme Court.

July 24, 2009 at 12:13 pm
(73) Chad says:

I wanted to add from the ACLU website: In an Alabama case, Alabama v. Coushatta Tribes of Texas v. Big Sandy School Dist. “…the court issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the school from enforcing a hair regulation against Native American students who asserted that the maintenance of their long hair represented moral and spiritual strength. The court found this to be a symbol of their religion and thus it was protected as a matter of religious freedom.” Since the Eagle Feather is a symbol of Native American religion (in fact, it is even one of the very few legally protected spiritual items based on ethnicity and cultural heritage), if this goes to court, that Alabama ruling should be evaluated.

July 24, 2009 at 12:30 pm
(74) Chad says:

I should have read the earlier comments more thoroughly… so he did get to wear his feather(s) after all! Just curious, though, was that a court ruling? or did the school change its original position?

July 30, 2009 at 8:53 pm
(75) THISTLE DOWNE says:

This is a tragedy indeed, and an outrage that they could even think to prohibit such a thing. After all, technically, our ancestors stole their lands from them, among other things.
I am very glad to hear that he was allowed to wear his tribal symbols after all.

In a country where our own government initially based many of it’s principles on “religious freedoms” and “freedom from oppression”, it seems ironic that many who do choose to follow the “other” path, a.k.a. christianity, go out of their way to subdue and crush those who actually seek this religious freedom, which in actuality is our right as an American citizen.

July 8, 2010 at 5:33 pm
(76) Bob says:

wow i bet you lums just love that title. but you still talk about how the government has been sticking you over the years. Why do you continue to follow by that fake name find out who you really are stop wandering search for the truth its out there many others found it and you can too. make your ancestors proud and bring back there traditonal name to this land and you will be a stronger minded person and i promise you will be proud of who you really are. why do they keep changing were they come from? they cant keep there lie strait. the lies are running out. why do they come to the tuscarora and ask them questions about makeing ceromonies? they have none. why to they want to learn the tuscarora language, woops,I thought they were a cheraw speaking language, woops again cheraw was a tribe that was wiped out after the wars from 1711-1713. now they are saying they are sioun speaking people, but arent the wacamaw a sioun speaking tribe but a few years ago the lumbee said there was no relation between the two but know they claim there bloods. shame, now they are stealing blood. why is it when you go up to one of there historians they either drop there heads and walk away or they are always confused about the history lesson you just give them. the croatan indian normal school was just a big setup to brainwash the people here and teach them the lies and it worked for some but not all. they used the same tuscarora migration pattern but just changed the tribal name to cheraw, but they use to say the cheraw came from south carolina, you see all they do is sit around and think up new lies to tell the people and the government but why do they try and fool the government who created them and knows who they really are. but they want to play dumb and act blind. God did not create the lumbee the white man did so why would you want to be apart of something not of God. but he did create the tuscarora and all the other real tirbes of the world and there language ,ceromonies,traditions,clans,goverment but all the lumbee can do is go back to 1956 were it all was created. THE BIG LIE!!!!!!!!look in the Wikipedia dictionary it will tell you were lumbee came from.

October 26, 2010 at 8:13 pm
(77) steve says:

I believe it should be allowed if it is a tradition of this tribe or familys tradition and not just a made up fad to do or something to be different but since lumbees have no such indian customs or tradition I would say side with the school.

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