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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

From the Native Times, 6/23/03:

Navajo teen not allowed to wear eagle feather at graduation
School head compares cultural garb to controversial musician

SAM LEWIN 6/23/2003

A tiny school district in Oklahoma refused to allow a Navajo girl to wear Native American adornment to her high school graduation. In defending the decision, the school superintendent compared an eagle feather to controversial shock-rocker Marilyn Manson.

Wellston is a small town about forty miles east of Oklahoma City. There are only 750 students in grades K-12 and 18-year-old Heather Mauritz was the only Native American in her class. Early on in her senior year, Heather decided she wanted to express her heritage when she walked down the aisle to receive her diploma.

"I felt that I'm Native American, and to graduate from a mostly white school, it's a big celebration. This is supposed to be Oklahoma and Indian Country," Heather told the Native American Times. "I wanted to wear an eagle plume and they said no."

Superintendent Dwayne Danker said the school board decided that to allow Heather to wear an Indian adornment would set a poor policy.

"The board just didn't approve it because everyone wears the same thing. She wanted to wear a complete Indian headdress. If someone wanted to wear Marilyn Manson stuff, we would have had to let them," said Danker.

Heather and her mother, Julia, are enraged over the comparison to Manson, a heavy metal rock star who makes frequent references to sex and drugs in his music and is rumored to have ties to the occult. The two also deny Heather wanted to wear a full headdress, saying the request was for a simple eagle feather.

"That makes me upset. He's comparing us to Marilyn Manson. It's not the same thing-you don't compare the two because it doesn't make sense. This town is very religious and he's trying to make it look like I worship Satan or something," said Heather.

"This [Marilyn Manson] is not a belief, it's not a culture. We are talking about something spiritual," said Julia Mauritz. "I just felt it was a slap in the face to the Native American community. The Christians and other people have rights to wear crucifixes and this was denied us."

Danker claims he is not sure if a Christian student would be allowed to dangle a crucifix outside of his or her graduation gown. Heather and her mother are certain the school district of a small bible-belt town with at least fourteen churches would let them.

The upshot of the situation is that Heather never went to her graduation. She picked up her diploma later and is now headed to college to major in American Indian studies.

She's not sorry she took a stand and has a proud mother to attest to her courage.

"I hear a lot of people say they are Native, but I don't see them standing up for our culture. Heather is very headstrong, it's not just about herself, it's about her people."

Related links
"Primitive" Indian religion
Tipis, feather bonnets, and other Native American stereotypes

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