Native Students should not have to worry whether they will be allowed to wear eagle feathers and plumes during school-sanctioned events

Pictured: North Dakota State Representative Ruth Buffalo (D-ND-27).(Photo: Office of Representative Ruth Buffalo)

North Dakota State Representative Ruth Buffalo's House Bill 1335 prohibiting school districts from creating policies that bar students from wearing eagle feathers or plumes at graduation passed the Senate unanimously and is headed to the governor for signing

I am pleased to inform the readers of Indian Country Today that my House Bill 1335 is headed for Governor Doug Burgum’s desk for signature after it unanimously passed the Senate last week. I was excited to partner with my fellow legislators and dedicated students on this important legislation. Their support truly made a difference.

North Dakota House Bill 1335 will allow high school students to wear eagle feathers and eagle plumes during the celebration of their academic achievements and milestones at important school-sanctioned events like their high school graduation ceremonies.

Every year, Native high school graduates seek to express their academic achievement and religious beliefs by wearing eagle feathers as a part of their graduation ceremonies. Although most high schools recognize the academic and sacred importance associated with wearing eagle feathers at graduation, there still are a few schools and districts that do not allow this tradition.

Rather than have each student navigate through a system of advocacy which causes anxiety and stress to our young people, we want to be proactive by passing this bill to where all schools cannot prohibit the wearing of eagle feathers and eagle plumes during graduation ceremonies.

Students should not have to worry whether they will be allowed to celebrate their heritage by wearing their eagle feathers and eagle plumes during a school-sanctioned event.

As a member of a federally recognized tribe and someone who grew up on an Indian reservation in North Dakota, I not only understand the importance of our sacred items, but I also know just how important it is for our young people to thrive while embracing their Native American heritage. Our young people have high rates of suicide and low rates of graduation. This bill helps us celebrate the very existence of our Native American students and their achievements by allowing them to wear important pieces of tribal regalia during graduation ceremonies and other school-sanctioned events.

There is great importance attached to sacred items, but as a parent with a public health background, I know and understand that the protective factors of embracing our Indigenous culture and identity are essential to our survival.

I invite all who may have questions on this topic or important legislation to make your voice heard. Please contact rbuffalo@nd.gov.

Ruth Buffalo is the first Native American woman to be elected to North Dakota’s House of Representatives, serving the 27 District since December 2018. She is an enrolled citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. 

Representative Buffalo is actively involved in several boards and advisory councils ranging from local food systems to low-income youth interested in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, or applied mathematics (STEAM). She has served on the Fargo Native American Commission (2016-18) and National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. In 2016 she was honored as one of National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s "40 under 40."

On March 14th, 2019, Representative Buffalo was invited to testify before the House Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples of the United States to address the growing rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the United States.

Comments (8)
No. 1-4
apelbaumthebull
apelbaumthebull

You know. A lot of school districts around America, still have a problem with many ethnic groups dressing their own culture. And it's high time these school districts stop with this problem. All schools should embrace every students culture. From Native American culture. To all cultures from all over the world. And that's it.

Renee Appell-McGowan
Renee Appell-McGowan

First, I truly hope the Governor signs this bill. Second, (as a mixed blood Mexican American) it is beyond my understanding why this is still an issue in 2019. That being said, where in the Constitution does it say "Freedom of religion BUT only if you're white"? I mean c'mon. It's almost one fifth of the way through the 21st century and Natives are still have to hide their religious beliefs so as not to offend...who...?...Christians? Are they any less American? Of course not. They're the Originals. Sorry for the rant.

In this article, I didn't read the chance of whether or not this bill will be signed by the Governor. I have high hopes for it to pass. I will be smudging and praying for the well deserving kids. A'ho.

HowardtheDuckIII
HowardtheDuckIII

Rise and shine.

War Eagle
War Eagle

Let's hope the North Dakota US Rep. takes this example to the national level.