Woman Labels School 'Disrespectful' After They Forced A Native American Student To Remove An Eagle Feather From Her Graduation Cap

An eagle feather is an important part of Native American culture, and the school attempted to erase that by taking away the student's regalia.

Rear view of university graduates wearing graduation gown and cap on commencement day EduLife Photos | Shutterstock

A high school has come under fire after a Native American student was forced to remove a sacred item from her graduation cap. 

In a TikTok, content creator and activist LakotaWiyanGrace argued that the move was not only incredibly disrespectful but an attempt for the school to censor and erase a prominent aspect of Native American culture.

The school forced a Native American student to remove an eagle feather from her graduation cap.

In the clip that LakotaWiyanGrace shared, which was originally posted to Facebook, a graduating high school student at Farmington High School in New Mexico was seen removing her eagle feather and medicine wheel from her graduation cap and handing it over to an employee of the school, who in turn handed her a blank cap to wear. 


In response to the video, LakotaWiyanGrace explained that for anyone unfamiliar with Native American culture, earning a feather to wear at graduation is an incredible accomplishment.

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According to the Native American Rights Fund, many of the 574 federally recognized tribes acknowledge leadership achievements by bestowing the person who earned the honor an eagle feather or plume. While tribal religions and spiritual practices vary, in general, a Native person who wears a plume or eagle feather at a public event has done something amazing to show that they have the maturity to pray and care for themselves and others.

An eagle feather holds the same significance as a cross or a rosary, and in many Native communities, eagles are considered spiritual. They believe that eagles carry the people’s prayers. Their feathers represent honesty, truth, majesty, strength, courage, wisdom, power, and freedom. The United States government has long recognized the importance of eagles for Native religious and spiritual beliefs. 

"To be able to earn a feather is a high accomplishment ... It's culture. It's regalia. We just don't give feathers to anybody. You have to earn that," LakotaWiyanGrace insisted. "She worked her [butt] off for 12 years to get there."


She also pointed out that it's illegal for somebody to possess or hold eagle feathers. Only tribally enrolled people are allowed to hold them for ceremonial purposes. So, the administrator who confiscated the Native American student's feather has essentially committed a crime.

From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act enacted in 1940 and amended several times since, prohibits anyone, without a permit issued by the Secretary of the Interior, from "taking' bald or golden eagles, including their parts (including feathers), nests, or eggs."

LakotaWiyanGrace criticized the school for taking away that Native American student's memorable moment, continuing, "She worked over a decade to get that. This is why we make such a big deal of it. States across the nation have been moving to allow Native people to wear their feathers at graduation."

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A recent bill was introduced to allow Native American people to celebrate their culture at their graduations.

In May 2023, House Bill 166, also dubbed the "American Indians Graduating with Honors Act," was unanimously passed in the North Carolina House, which is the state with the largest American Indian population east of the Mississippi River. 

The bill would allow Indigenous students in the state to wear eagle or hawk feathers at graduation ceremonies. "Eagle feathers are given in times of great honor. Many tribes present their people with eagle feathers upon graduation to signify the achievement of this important educational journey and the honor the graduate brings to his or her family, community, and tribal nation," a resource from the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) stated.

"When Native Americans say colonization is still going on today, this video of this girl having her feathers taken from her at graduation is a prime example of this," LakotaWiyanGrace added. "We make up 2% of the American population; there's not very much of us, and for us to graduate is a huge accomplishment."

Research from Reclaiming Native Truth confirms the invisibility that Native Americans have been living with for years. In the first comprehensive national public-opinion study about how non-Natives perceive Native Americans, researchers conducted 28 focus groups in 11 states, surveyed 13,306 people online, and analyzed 4.9 million social media posts. Most of the recipients of the survey were unable to name Native actors/actresses or any other media depictions of Indigenous peoples.


Erasure and invisibility are some of the more modern forms of racism that Native Americans face. The least the systems in place can do is allow Native Americans to celebrate their culture and achievements by adorning their sacred feathers at graduation. That high school girl's graduation cap wasn't harming anyone, and it should have been respected as a representation of her heritage — not shamed or confiscated.

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Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.