Last graduation season, Waverly Wilson, a senior at Lakes High School in Lakewood, Wash., asked if she could wear an eagle feather instead of the tassel on her mortar board.
Eagle feathers are sacred in Wilson’s Native American culture, typically presented by parents or other elders to tribe members to recognize major accomplishments and milestones, such as high school graduation.
School officials denied Wilson’s request, saying a feather would violate the district’s rules prohibiting add-ons to caps and gowns.
“They said I have to have it inside my gown, and I could only have it out afterwards,” shetold Indian Country Today Media Network before graduation day. “So I could not have it when I was going out on stage.
“It makes me feel like I have to hide who I am.”
But then, before she walked across the stage to get her diploma, Wilson furtively tucked the feather — blessed by prayer and decorated with special beading by her mother — alongside her orange-and-blue tassel.