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GLENDALE, ARIZONA Whisper n Thunder is non-profit with a mission to "empower Native Americans through education, awareness and opportunity," asserts our commitment to increasing the understanding of Native American cultures through advocacy of American Indian issues.
The following letter was sent on June 1 by the president of the Whisper n Thunder President Billie K. Fidlin to the high school, Southern Poverty Law Center regarding the inexcusable treatment of Chelsey Ramer, who dared to wear an eagle feather to her high school graduation:
Escambia Academy High School
1215 South Presley St
Atmore, AL 36502
To Whom It May Concern,
This morning I learned of your school's decision to deny Chelsey Ramer her diploma and transcripts until she pays a $1,000.00 fine for her decision to wear an eagle feather during her graduation ceremony. It is our understanding that this was viewed in violation of dress code for the graduation ceremony.
As I'm sure you are now mightily aware, the eagle feather holds extreme value to Native Americans, having sacred and spiritual value in the Nations (tribes). Were your students forbidden to wear crosses, symbolic of the Christian faith? The Eagle feather represents an equivalent spiritual value. I write that statement, not only as a Christian, but also in the backdrop of my position as Director of Outreach (justice and mission) for all United Methodist Churches in Arizona and S. Nevada. I write this letter in the backdrop of my position as Chair of the Public Policy Commission for the Arizona Ecumenical Council, State of Arizona, and of course, in the backdrop and capacity as President of Whisper n Thunder which is a nonprofit implemented to empower Native Americans/First Nations peoples. Your decision feels framed in discriminatory rhetoric, racism and a complete lack of understanding of what Ms. Ramer's intent was.
Whisper n Thunder would ask that Chelsey Ramer receive a public apology for your actions, and her diploma and transcripts immediately. Also, this same apology should be given to Ms. Ramer in writing so that she has a documentation trail for her records. As a gesture of good will, perhaps refund cap and gown costs, even book fees for the past year. It would be good for the school board to review the staff who made this decision, and receive training in tolerance and diversity, respect for other cultures, and for young people in general.
To what budget line item are the collected fines applied to? Scholarships? Something for the benefit of students? I'm sure Chelsey could use scholarship dollars don't you think?
Billie K. Fidlin
President, Whisper n Thunder, Inc.
CC' Southern Poverty Law Center
Escambia County Public Schools
posted June 6, 2013 8:50 am edt