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Poarch Creek Band of Indians High School Graduate Shunned for Wearing Cultural Regalia

17-year-old Chelsey Ramer is a Poarch Creek Band of Indians member who wore an eagle feather in her graduation cap during her graduation ceremony at Escambia Academy High School, a private school in Atmore, Alabama last month. Feathers, and eagle feathers in particular, hold a special significance for many Natives (which is federally recognized), and are sometimes used to commemorate special events—graduations included.

Yet Ramer was fined $1,000, prevented from accessing her high school transcripts, and was deprived of the diploma she earned for wearing the eagle feather because of a bizarre and racist contract (which Ramer did not sign) that outlined that feathers are not allowed to be worn during graduation. Three other Native students were so fearful of the school’s exclusionary policy that they declined to wear an eagle feather.

An online petition called “Chelsey Ramer can’t graduate because she is proud to be Native American” was created in response to the incident, and raised more than enough money to cover the $1,000 fine—but it turns out it Ramer won’t be fined at all. ICTMN reports that the school has reversed its decision, and Ramer has now received her diploma.


2 thoughts on “Poarch Creek Band of Indians High School Graduate Shunned for Wearing Cultural Regalia

  1. There was no racist or cultural bias here. The rule was for wearing anything attached to the official grad clothing of robe and hat….not even a cross, star of Divid, viking helmet, Irish cap or other thing was to be added. The student knew the rules and thought she would, an underage 17 year old,… just as she pleased…..sneaking the feather on at the last minute before going on stage…. defying her teachers and the board members’ rule. She’s no heroine…Get real here and stop being biased and doing the blame gaming. By doing so whoever wrote this report up IS BEING biased, racist and anti Christian. One thing this private christian school attempts to do is to teach honesty and the respect of elders and fellow students…. She obviously DIDN’T get it…..perhaps spent too much time day dreaming about how special she’d look with a feather flopping around in her face come grad day. But, not to worry……She keeps adding up more and more monetary donations for her college….as well meaning nitwits empty their pockets out to help honor the brave young maiden….~

  2. I agree with you that the actions of the school was not racist but it was culturally insensitive, yet very racially aware. When I graduated from a 98.9% white, conservative, christian, midwest graduate school, I wore cultural regalia to honor the slaves, my ancestors and the community who were denied an opportunity to obtain and college degree and the life that it would afford me. It had nothing to do with the school itself, but had everything to do with carrying my culture everywhere I go and in everything that I do, even in celebration. As you would imagine, I received a multitude of stares and awkward looks which I didn’t understand. And yes, my school had hidden somewhere, the sam rule about not “adding to the regalia”. I wanted to know why all these White Folks were giving me this look. So, a middle age woman was brave enough to ask me about my ethnic graduation stole. She even stated that it was “upstaging” the honors tassels. I had the opportunity to explain to her why I was wearing the stole. She remarked that the stole was beautiful and that she thought the reason I was wearing the stole was in honor and celebration. She confirmed that with her question. I then asked her why was it appeared to be making people uncomfortable. And you know what this middle-aged white woman told me? It’s because of the same reasons you wear it, Whites do not want to be reminded that there was a time in our history that they denied Blacks, Natives and others basic human rights based on race or ethnicity. She stated that my pride was someone else’s shame.

    That’s my experience.

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