Via Honoring Cultural Traditions of Native Graduates

To view previous TEDNA articles and links about eagle feathers and graduation this year, click here, here, here, here, here, and here.

NARF, California Indian Legal Services and the ACLU of CA wrote a letter together for the Superintendent of Clovis Unified School District on behalf of Christian Titman.

An excerpt:

One of the proudest moments in my life was graduating with my master’s in education administration from Oglala Lakota College and receiving an eagle feather for achieving a lifelong dream. That was until 2012, when our oldest son graduated from high school, and my wife and I had the honor of tying his eagle feather on him. And we are looking forward to proudly supporting our youngest son when he graduates from high school in 2017.

Eagles are known by many tribes to be a messenger to the Creator, symbolizing bravery, respect, personal achievement and honor. Eagles are protected under two federal laws: the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. These prohibit the possession, use and sale of eagle feathers and parts, with an explicit exception for American Indians who are enrolled members of federally recognized tribes. American Indian tribal members may wear feathers legally in their possession or utilized to create religious or ceremonial items for personal or tribal use.

This month, thousands of American Indian students across the country are graduating from high school and college, fulfilling a dream for themselves and an honor for their families. And with only 49 percent of Native students graduating from high school nationwide, this is a moment to be celebrated and cherished. Honoring our graduating Native students who attend the 187 tribal schools across 23 states has been a longstanding cultural tradition. Native graduates receive their eagle feathers and plumes and proudly wear them on their graduation caps or tied in their hair. This is a part of who we are and continues to affirm our identity and connection to our ancestry and culture.

To read the entire article, click here.


NARF represents Native American student in challenge to ban on ceremonial eagle feathers during graduation

A Native American student will be allowed to wear an eagle feather on his cap during his high school graduation ceremony after reaching a settlement agreement with the Clovis Unified School District late Tuesday evening. Christian Titman, a member of the Pit River Tribe, filed a lawsuit and sought an injunction in state court after repeated requests to wear the eagle feather on his cap at graduation were denied by the school district.

Eagle feathers are considered sacred objects in many Native American religious traditions. They represent honesty, truth, majesty, strength, courage, wisdom, power, and freedom. Many Native Americans believe that as eagles roam the sky, they have a special connection with God. Often, Native American graduates receive an eagle feather from an elder or their community in recognition of educational achievements and wish to wear it during their graduation ceremony in order to honor their tribal religion, community, achievement, and traditions.

In an affidavit submitted to the court, Isidro Gali, Vice Chairperson of the Pit River Tribes said, “[t]he gift of an eagle feather to wear at a ceremony is a great honor given in recognition of an important transition and has great spiritual meaning. When given in honor of a graduation ceremony, the eagle feather is also recognition of academic achievement and school-related success. Eagle feathers are worn with pride and respect.”

“Although school districts across the country recognize the importance of wearing eagle feathers to Native graduates, there remains a minority that persists in erecting undue barriers. However, once the religious and cultural significance of wearing eagle feathers is understood by school districts, it is easy for schools to accommodate the practice at graduation ceremonies,” said Joel West Williams, Staff Attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, who represented Titman along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and California Indian Legal Services.

Matthew Campbell, another Native American Rights Fund Staff Attorney representing Mr. Titman said, “Importantly, this settlement requires the school district to remain engaged after graduation and discuss with Christian ways that it can improve communications regarding religious accommodations for future graduates. We are hopeful that future Native American graduates will not face the same obstacles.”

NARF has a long history of assisting students who are prohibited from wearing eagle feathers at graduation ceremonies due to narrow graduation dress codes. For more information, please contact Staff Attorney Joel West Williams at (202) 785-4166 or Staff Attorney Matthew Campbell at (303) 447-8760.

Guest Post from TEDNA Board Member Kerry Venegas on California AB 163 and Teacher Credentialling

Kerry Venegas is the Director of the Tribal Education Department for the Hoopa Valley Tribe, and is providing an update on California AB 163, which expands Native teaching credential authorization for Tribes that passed as AB 544 in 2009.

AB 163 is still in the legislative process, but doesn’t seem to have any major roadblocks. Even the teacher unions have endorsed it. The great thing about this bill is that a teacher who already holds the Native Language credential could add on the culture credential, with tribal authorization, instead of having to go through the process again. And people seeking the credential for the first time could do the Native Language credential, or the culture credential, or both.

It does contain specific language about training for teachers credentialed under this section to receive professional development training in teaching methods in addition to tribally endorsed language and/or culture/history, but leaves it pretty much in the Tribes hands. Specifically, “Upon agreement by the tribe, a tribe recommending a candidate for an American Indian languages-culture language-culture credential shall develop and administer a technical assistance program guided by the California Standards for the Teaching Profession. To the extent feasible, the program shall be offered by teachers credentialed in an American Indian language, or culture, or both, who have three or more years of teaching experience.”

Below is a short description of both AB 163 and the original Native language credentialing bill (now law) AB 544, links to history of the bills, and a link to the CA Ed Code.

Hope this is useful information.

Take care,

CA AB 163
– This bill, as now amended, would amend Section 44262.5 of the California Education Code, and amend Section 1 of Chapter 324 of the Statutes of 2009, relating to teacher credentialing to require the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, upon recommendation by a tribal government of a federally recognized Indian tribe in California, to issue an American Indian language-culture credential with an American Indian language authorization, or an American Indian culture authorization, or both, to a candidate who has met specified requirements.

CA AB 544 – This bill authorized amending the California Education Code, Section 44262 to include Section 44262.5 to authorize the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, upon recommendation by a tribal government of a federally recognized Indian tribe in California, to issue an American Indian languages credential to a candidate who has demonstrated fluency in that tribal language, and met other requirements.

Link to CA Ed Code Section 44262.5: or here.

ED Week – Education in Indian Country: Obstacles and Opportunity

Here is an in depth series on Native Education. An excerpt:

On most measures of educational success, Native American students trail every other racial and ethnic subgroup of students. To explore the reasons why, Education Week sent a writer, a photographer, and a videographer to American Indian reservations in South Dakota and California earlier this fall. Their work is featured in this special package of articles, photographs, and multimedia. Commentary essays offer additional perspectives.

There are stories from South Dakota, California, and on the sequestration effects on Native education, among others.

Education Built to Last Facilities Best Practices Tour – Going Green in the Golden State

Here is an article regarding the recent facilities tour the Department of Education took.  This article focuses on schools in California, and new measures the state may pass to increase expenditures for such construction.  A quote:

A long-time supporter of green school facilities, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said, “I’m thrilled to see these outstanding schools showcased as part of the national tour on best practices. The students, teachers, parents, and communities have made countless efforts to improve the environmental sustainability of their campuses, increase school health as well as boost academic achievement.”


At Grand View Elementary School, parents and Grades of Green founders champion Trash Free Tuesdays and Walk to School Wednesdays, things any school can do to start the cultural shift toward greener, more sustainable schools and communities.