Chelsey Ramer is a proud Creek Indian who was fiend $1,000 and had her diploma and transcripts withheld after she wore an eagle feather to her graduation ceremony. Ramer maintains that even though she was fined and had to go through the ordeal, showing her heritage was worth it.
"It was worth every penny of the thousand dollars," Ramer told The Atmore Advance. "This is what I've been waiting on, and I feel like I have a right to wear it. My freshman year I went to graduation and students were wearing feathers and they didn't get in any trouble."
"I don't think they asked permission," she added. "So we asked for permission about two or three months before graduation. Warren turned us down and said if we wore our feathers we would be pulled off the field."
Ramer and the other graduates were presented with a piece of paper outlining what was acceptable attire for the ceremony. Feathers were not included on that list, and when Ramer refused to sign the paper, she was warned that she would be punished and not allowed to walk with the rest of her students.
"I didn't sign it. A few days later I did sign something, but it had nothing to do with graduation. None of my other friends were going to wear [the feather]. Then I just thought, 'This is what I've been waiting on; I feel like I have a right to wear it.' I wore it on the field and I don't think they even saw it until I got up to the stage to get my diploma," Ramer said.
"I think this is ridiculous," Alex Alvarez, another Creek Indian and a former teacher of Ramer's, told The Indian Country Today Media Network. "If they took the time to understand and respect the differences in individuals, this would have never happened. We don't have much left as Indian people, to give a child an eagle feather as an achievement should be adhered to."
"The kicker is that this is a private school. Private institutions still have to follow federal guidelines, especially in regards to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act," the teacher added.
Ramer said that the school board still has to decide whether she will receive her diploma, but that she is proud to have worn the feather and paid her fine.