Help Fined Poarch Creek Student Get Her Diploma (Video - Petition)

A Native American teen from Alabama is being fined $1,000 and denied her high school diploma for wearing an eagle feather in an expression of her tribal heritage.

Seventeen-year-old Chelsey Ramer, a senior at the private Escambia Academy High School in Atmore, wore the feather in her graduation cap at her May 23 commencement ceremony. She is of the Poarch Creek Band of Native Americans, descendants of a segment of the original Creek Nation, who have lived in the area for centuries. The Poarch Creek are the only federally recognized Indian tribe in the state of Alabama.

Ramer wanted to wear the eagle feather as a display of pride in her heritage. The feather also connects her people with their spirituality. But school policy forbids “extraneous items” from being worn without permission. Graduating seniors were required to sign a contract prior to the ceremony; Ramer says she never signed it. She asked the headmaster for permission to wear the feather but was told she couldn’t. With her family’s (and some teachers’) support, she walked across the graduation stage proudly wearing the feather.

She was then fined $1,000, with her diploma withheld until she pays up.

“I feel like this wasn’t fair,” Ramer told Indian Country Today. “It really did hurt my feelings. I have watched others wear it and I looked forward to it my whole four years there. Now when it was my turn, [they said] I couldn’t.”

“I feel like it’s discrimination,” she told WPMI.

Betty Warren, the headmaster who denied Ramer permission to wear the eagle feather, has been replaced by David Walker, who supports Ramer’s position.

“[Walker] said it it was up to him, he would give me my diploma,” Ramer told Indian Country Today. “But he had to go through the board to get it approved.”

Alex Alvarez, a Creek Indian who formerly taught Ramer at Escambia Academy, told Indian Country today that even though the school is private, it is still required to obey federal laws regarding personal displays of religious freedom.

“Private institutions still have to follow the federal guidelines, especially in regards to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act,” he said.

Alvarez called the girl’s situation “ridiculous.”

“If they took the time to understand and respect the differences in individuals, this would never have happened,” he said. “We don’t have much left as an Indian people, to give a child an eagle feather as an achievement should be adhered to.”

Chelsey can't graduate because she is proud to be Native American 

Responses to "Poarch Creek Indian Teen Chelsey Ramer Denied Diploma for Wearing Eagle Feather in Graduation Cap"

  1. Anonymous says:


  2. Unknown says:

    I give her a lot of pride to do what she did and she should be able to graduate that is a Discrimination Act. I believe and she had the guts to go through with it. Give her that diploma. She deserves it. That's what's wrong today, the federal government putting there hands into a small act of pride.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Bravo to you Chelsey! No one in your class was forbiddden from wearing their cross. Or would have banned someone from wearing a bindi. I experienced the same thing when I was in hospital. They would allow me to pray with a bible. They would allow me to smoke a cigarette. But I was forbiddden to pray to the 4 directions and smudge myself. Good luck and thank you for your bravery...our next generation of warrior women! :-)

  4. Unknown says:

    When a simple act of pride in our culture is made to be such an issue,It is wrong to think that it will and had change through time.When OTHER cultures are suppressing ours and we let them without standing up ,it is no longer a pride for them , it is a VICTORY.I AM PROUD TO STAND WITH HER IN HER FIGHT to wear her PRIDE OF WHO SHE IS and CELEBRATE what she has done as an accomplishment.She GRADUATED and DESERVE to GET HER DIPLOMAT !!!!! LET US MAKE SURE SHE'LL GET IT !!!!! STAND TALL AND WE WILL STAND WITH YOU !!!!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    not only do they need to surrender her diploma immediately, but they should also give HER $1k and a public apology for fucking up her graduation

  6. Anonymous says:

    she should hire the best law firm that she can and sue the school and the U.S. goverment for discrimination. How can the goverment do this to a young lady for celebrating her pride and her heritage its uncalled for.I think that it may also be considered a racial problem.I am very proud of this young lady and her family and some of her teachers.

  7. Anonymous says:

    thats sad. I'm sorry you are going through this. My support is with you... Be strong young one.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I wonder how many students were wearing a crucifix around their neck. Isn't that the same thing? I think we need to give them the same treatment.

  9. travlindr says:

    The actions of the school show a total disregard for native beliefs and customs. This young lady should get her diploma and should not have to pay $1K. Has anyone contacted the ACLU?

  10. Debi says:

    She EARNED her diploma! No one has the right to take that away. How many kids go to graduation drunk or just disorderly? Seriously!!!

  11. Linda J Solomon says:

    I've written on FB twice that I thought this was terrible! She earned her diploma and they haven't the right to deprive her of it! She has the right as a person, to wear whatever she choses in her hair! She wasn't harming anyone or disrespecting anyone! Give her the diploma now! I hope that Chelsey will be able to sue them for this disrespectful act by the school, for they have humiliated her and this wasn't necessary at all! :(

  12. Anonymous says:

    I support, she was showing pride in her heritage and her individuality, neither of which should be discouraged!

  13. madbear says:

    The school is just wrong in its decision. The school needs to show some respect to this fine young lady.

  14. Anonymous says:

    School systems are full of idiots that hate young people. They make all these rules to try and strip our kids of their individuality. It is downright ignorance on their part. I can guarantee you that there were many kids with crucifixes and if there were any muslim kids they would be wearing their symbols. The headmaster should be fired for being an idiot and failing to consider the best interests of students.

  15. Anonymous says:

    It comes down to freedom of religion and freedom of expression. I'm sure the school taught that to their students, to deny that to Chelsey is legally and morally wrong. Stand tall proud warrior woman, do not bow before this oppression!

  16. No child should be penalized for honoring her religion and her heritage at such a milestone event as her highschool graduation. In a world where so many teens fall away from both, fail to graduate, become addicted to drugs, get pregnant and drop out; this girl worked hard, studied hard, and held on to her faith and heritage. Expressions of religious belief are protected by the constitution. That includes a belief in the Earth Mother and the honor given when a child achieves adulthood and is granted their eagle feather. The school has NO RIGHT UNDER LAW to deny her the right to wear her feather, or to withhold her diploma!

  17. Unknown says:

    This is another example of the WHite Power over the Original People. God save the white man

  18. Anonymous says:

    thanks to you, you have stood up and walked the walk that you have earned, iam proud of you. They are just thinking of another WAY of trying to silence us (NATIVE AMERICAN).IDLE NO MORE

  19. Anonymous says:

    If prayers were said at the commencement ceremony snd it was not in her native creel language then the school has in fact violated her religous beliefs by praying in english to their god. So drop the fine, give herthe deploma or get sued yourself for religious discrimination.

  20. Unknown says:

    file a claim with the ACLU...i hate the organization but this is just ABUSE of power by the school....

  21. Anonymous says:

    Good for you for standing up for your heritage. I did the same thing when i graduated. Wore my feather with pride :) people are ridiculous now a days and think they can tell us what we can and cant wear. We have the right to. Showing who we are by havig a feather on your gown is not gonna hurt anyone. Lots of people do it. Its not even right that this is happening to this girl. Probably just want to find a way to get more money at the end of the year. Drop her fine, give her a huge apology and lastly give her, her damn diploma. Stand strong girl, dont back down and we'll be here to stand with ya supporting you.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Good for you for standing up for your heritage. I did the same thing when i graduated. Wore my feather with pride :) people are ridiculous now a days and think they can tell us what we can and cant wear. We have the right to. Showing who we are by havig a feather on your gown is not gonna hurt anyone. Lots of people do it. Its not even right that this is happening to this girl. Probably just want to find a way to get more money at the end of the year. Drop her fine, give her a huge apology and lastly give her, her damn diploma. Stand strong girl, dont back down and we'll be here to stand with ya supporting you.

  23. Timothy Hill says:

    I have never been so outraged in my life. to deny Chelsey her diploma because she proudly diplayed her heritage is plum stupid. I agree with her, she was discriminated against. This country has sunk to an all time low. Good luck Chelsey, I am rooting for you. Native Pride all the way.( Choctaw)

  24. Anonymous says:

    jGlad you stood up for your spirituality and for that of your tribe and for all Native peoples. To do what they did, IS discrimination and wrong. How many non-Natives wore crosses on necklaces and didn't have to get permission or approval from the school? How many walked and got their diploma wearing a cross or other religious symbols? The school SHOULD be reprimanded, fined and give you and your family a public apology. The person who denied you should also have to pay a fine and be the main person to apologize also. This is a disgrace and a shame. Eagle feathers are OUR spiritual representatives of our and our tribes rights give to all AMERICANS. SHAME on the administration, SHAME on the School and SHAME on the headmaster.Betty Warren.

  25. Unknown says:

    A racist act.

    The school should be disciplined

  26. Anonymous says:

    It is totally absurd to deny Chelsey her diploma because she is proud of her heritage, are you educators? you should already know how to respect others!

  27. But if the KKK rallied on the school's DOORSTEP against Indians being educated, that's THEIR RIGHT, right?

    Those people are full of manure, for sure.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I was pretty outraged reading about Chelsey Ramer's situation. While I understand that Escambia Academy High School is a private institution, fining $1000 and withholding her diploma is greedy, irrational, and reflects very badly on the school, not Chelsey. It would be intelligent for the school to withdraw the fee, award her diploma, and apologize for discriminating Chelsey's culture and spiritual views.

  29. Unknown says:

    This is 2013, they need to understand the importance of the eagle feather to the native people. Move into today and remove that rule from the list!. She was not wearing anything that would disgrace the occasion.

  30. Anonymous says:

    the school that did that to chelsey should be shut down for racial discrimination and should be forced to pay a fine because they broke federal laws. the eagle feathers that we as native americans carry and are given are part of what we use to pray to god yes god not gods. I find that people here in Alabama can be alittle backwards and ignorant at times. what we as indian peoples should do is try to at least educate the idiots that we are still here and are people also we have every rite to be what we are and that is NATIVE and proud of it

  31. Anonymous says:

    I'm wondering if you were Muslim and had to cover your head would you fined? Don't think so. Stand you ground Chelsey I'm proud of you. This makes me very angary. Good luck and much love. From Michigan :)

  32. Anonymous says:

    No one should be singled out, it should be made plain that any article of religious intent should be left off if that is what they intend. If they allow anything else to be worn at all inside or out then she should be allowed her diploma. If they are going to be picky about this then they better be fair not everyone wears their religious articles on a necklace. That fine was just to humiliate her further.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Chelsay Ramer, your people, were there long before the "white man" came. I see you managed to rase the money you needed. Naturally that dosent take away your, humiliation, pride, and token for your tue self. I wish you the best, and sincerly hope you will get your graduation paper. Regards Juni

  34. Anonymous says:

    I would.have sued and sued some more that school still has to follow federal laws and as a native american that is federally reconised the state should have pressed charges on the ones who diened her the diploma. Thisis upsetting girl Ipray u didn't pay and take them to court. Why does she need permission no its federal law she should be allowed to wear it no matter her regiala.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Right on brother. Better yet for our graduating young adults in and across the usa should even have a private graduation just for them so they can come in traditional regiala. It should be public and so we as indigenous people can educate the ignorent bigots. She is a strong native woman and Ipray she stands her ground.

  36. Anonymous says:

    A must read & share: Valedictorian calls High School out on Native American Discrimination.

  37. udaya kumar says:

    She deserves now much more to be awarded her earned Diploma. She also needs an apology from the School.

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