Stop Disrespectful Use of Native American Gear at West High

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I am writing to you as an ethnically mixed student with concern over treatment of Native American culture in my high school. As a senior currently attending West High School, over my years here, the immensely disrespectful practices towards the Indigenous peoples of America have become increasingly noticeable. Possessing a Choctaw background, I am frequently made uncomfortable by the use of culturally, historically, and spiritually significant accessories as party costumes.

Specifically, I am regarding the adornment of native war bonnets or feather headdresses. West High’s mascot, the “Warrior,” an ambiguous Native American chief, inspires much of the school’s branding to be based upon vaguely native and tribal imagery, which in itself is questionable. Among the various native-inspired pieces, wearing the war bonnet is where it becomes clearly, without a doubt, disrespectful and offensive.

Feathered war bonnets have both cultural and spiritual importance. Every single eagle feather has to be earned as a recognition of a grand achievement. Historically, only legendary war heroes and leaders gained the ability to wear a war bonnet, since, as the name implies, they are not simply accessories, they are honors of war. It is nearly the equivalent of being knighted or receiving a Silver Star. Many Americans would be completely outraged if high school students wore mock Purple Heart medals as part of a costume to a school party. Fake war bonnets, as opposed to authentic war bonnets, are even more offensive as it mocks not only the military history, but also the religious meaning in the natural eagle feathers. Each eagle feather, blessed and sacred, serves as a special connection to God.

There are a select few students and staff that choose to wear the grossly inappropriate eagle feather war bonnets, labeled simply as headdresses, during school-wide rallies, football games, and even during our first parade. The solution is simple: ban wearing any Native American gear at West High unless it is explicitly to celebrate Native American heritage and culture. In total, there are only about ten people in total who regularly wear the mock war bonnets, meaning there will not be many people affected by this ban yet this will be an enormous step towards respecting diversity and coexisting with indigenous peoples. Being respectful and caring towards an oppressed peoples is more important than trying to maintain a racist party hat. 

Please help me, and all the native peoples of America, to stop another instance of indigenous discrimination.

Thank you, 

Eternia Love Lee 



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