As high schools prepare for graduation ceremonies across Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock has signed a bill allowing Native American students to wear traditional regalia while marching to get their diplomas.

The bill signed Friday prohibits schools and government agencies from interfering with students who wish to wear eagle feathers, beads and other items of cultural significance.

In the past, some Native American students expressed disappointment and outrage after being told they couldn't wear beaded mortar boards at graduation.

Not all Montana schools banned the practice but it was left to school boards and campus officials to decide whether to allow Native American regalia.

The bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jen Gross of Billings and supported by the Legislature's Native American caucus sought to bring uniformity to the rules.

"I'm very proud of where I came from and my name," she said. "As Native people, it's important we have an opportunity to represent ourselves with regalia. For many Native Americans, graduation from high school is huge because of so many challenges in life."

 Photo Latonia Andy

Tia Welzenbach, who graduates in May from Sidney High School in Montana, sought approval from her principal before classes last fall if she could bead her cap. The principal turned down her request. So her mother took it up with the superintendent, who then took it up with the school board. In the end, the school board decided to allow the senior to march with a beaded mortar board.

Principal Sue Anderson said it was the first such request she had ever gotten. Welzenbach and her mother were told that students weren't allowed to make changes to graduation attire.
Photo: Tom Bauer

Responses to "Native Rights: Montana Gov. Signs Native Regalia Bill"

  1. A great moment of cultural recognition, instead of rejection. They are beautiful in their regalia. People are asking and when pushed, the powers that be are granting.

  2. As the courts determined in a Maine case "Sovereignty is not determined by either state or federal recognition" Therefore, the state NEVER had the authority (or the Schools) to deny the use of their regalia.
    \Tribal Chief Little Soldier, Munsee Delaware Indian Nation-USA

  3. Unknown says:

    Erstaunlich ist nicht das neue Gesetz, sondern die Tatsache, dass es vorher verboten war, traditionelle Kleidung zu tragen. Und das gerade in den USA, welche die Bürgerrechte ganz weit oben auf ihre Fahnen geheftet haben: "We the people ..." Forgotten?

  4. Judy says:

    I can see this being done, maybe only to the mortar board. Students now do it every where why not Montana too.

  5. My greetings. From Denmark

  6. Unknown says:

    Sounds like a thinking school board.

  7. Unknown says:

    Bravo! Though its something tbat should have never been an issue. Bravo my Native Brothers and Sisters. Stay strong and proud!!!!!!

  8. Unknown says:

    Does EVERY student have to seek a request to decorate their graduation cap? I find it appalling that she was denied in the first place. I've never heard of anyone having to submit their mortor board design in advance!

  9. Unknown says:

    Maybe, just maybe, there is reason for hope. Give these people, and all of us, a major taste of the "freedoms" this country always brags about. This is a small, but very significant, allowance of such freedoms. Aho

  10. Personally why is our traditions any of the governments business? Like what??? They steal the land from us and kill so many that some tribes are completely extinct and rape and murder our people and now we have to have permission to dress in our traditional clothing? They can go fuck them self with a god damn cactus and ride till they all die for all I care.

  11. Unknown says:

    Awesome! One step toward acknowledging Native still exist.

  12. Unknown says:

    At long last and at least in Montana....American Indians can show themselves with just pride of their cultural heritage in the splendor and variety of their traditional dress ! Please wear it often and everywhere so the rest of us in our drab everyday get ups can deeply admire and appreciate you.

  13. Unknown says:

    My Grandmother 👑💛 Told Me To Always Remember Who I Was. Be Proud,But Be Careful. In My Life Time I Have Come To Inner/Overstand Her Words. I've Watched As Our Indigenous Aboriginal Native People Be Traumatized.Stand,Be Proud Everyday In Our Traditional Garb. It Is Not A Costume From Any Movie. It Is Our Natural Right. Our Cultural
    Nature, Passed Down From Our For Father's & Our For Mother's To Remind Us Of Our Story, Traditions, & Our Ancestors. Aho!

  14. Unknown says:

    Golden Honey Owl Medicine Woman

  15. Rights.....Rights, exactly what creates havoc, chaos and division.
    We have use, apply and exude RESPONSIBLITY , not the systems diabolical puny rights, lol.
    Nah nah nah.
    Sovereignty is asking a state, county, town, city, of school official, they aren't responsible why ask or wait for permission from such agencies or organizations.

    Everybody seeks information, want it at 5G speed even, Moo, Bleat " moo are you in line? Is this the line? Wheres the line? I need to get in line Moo.
    And I reply, You already are. You are already information, all ready, even!
    The gloss and sheen of new born fluoride stare covers the landscapes of their faces, huh moo? What moo?
    I said you're standing in it, and so is he and she and he, everybody is information moo, in moo formation, hup 2 3 4 hup 2 3 4
    Information company halt, the prez has something to destroy, he thinks he has Rights to do this and to do that, without responsibility or consequence.
    We are here, not still here, we ARE here and will remain, being responsible caregivers of the Sacreds and Holys, and not careTakers who have Rights to harm them, and kill those, and war him, and battle her.
    We are created in the image of Creator, that long wispy flowing black Cloud off in the distance, beautiful waterfall, and we stare in wonder, awe ahhhhh.
    Created in Her Image.
    She Rains, She Rains Blessings of Love.
    He REIGNS....He REIGNS over the land and sea, controlling all, hmmm

  16. Unknown says: restrictions, Let us be who we are

  17. Unknown says:

    Wonderful.graduation is very important,and expressing what you wish to wear, I think a great day.a great day,for Montana American Indian family's.thank you.

  18. Unknown says:

    I agree with no restrictions. Let every graduating student express their pride for a job well done. When we restrict things to the point that takes away from the celebration of a job well done, we demean their accomplishments. It should be their day. Of course, good taste and good manors should also become part of the ritual. I'm sure it can be a fine line, but it is worth working for.

  19. So glad to see the students can now wear their eagle feathers, beads. They certainly have been denied the right to be proud of their heritage for too long!!

  20. Let that pretty girl get fancy!

  21. Bobbi says:

    Robert Satiacum, I'm not sure what your problem is or what you are trying to say. You make no sense.

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