LEHI, Utah (ABC4 News)- A Navajo student at Lehi High school was asked to remove traditional eagle feathers from her cap just moments before graduating; now she has a message for other students hoping to celebrate their heritage at graduation.
Tasheena Salava was standing in line to graduate when it happened.
“He said if I see those feathers on your cap I’m going to have to confiscate it or you won’t be able to walk,” she explained.
These three eagle feathers violated the school’s policy of no items on the graduate’s cap, but by removing them, Salava’s freedom to express here culture and her faith were violated too.
“Those feathers were earned, they’re not just given, and it was just as significant as the cap and gown that I wore,” Salava told ABC4’s Sarah Martin. “ Its’ a part of my identity. And on my special day, I was stripped of that without the understanding and significance of the feathers. “
“It’s not something we should make an excuse for. We should not have done that,” Kimberley Bird, Assistant to the Superintendent for Alpine School District, said.
The district came under fire last year when certain schools refused students leis and other cultural clothing under their gowns. They say they have improved, but obviously not enough.
“Maybe having a form that the individual coordinate with school administration prior to graduation so there is no confusion whatsoever the day that they’re under the tunnel getting ready to have their name called and coming out,” Bird said.
Salava’s advice to others hoping to integrate their culture into their celebration is preparation. She said if you have something you want to wear, just ask.
“Let the administrators and the teachers know important it is to you and why. I just hope that next year my brother will be able to wear eagle feathers on his cap,” Salava said.