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. Wonderful

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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 B├╝rgerrechte ganz weit oben auf ihre Fahnen geheftet haben: "We the people ..." Forgotten?

  5. Judy says:

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

  6. Unknown says:

    My greetings. From Denmark

  7. Unknown says:

    Sounds like a thinking school board.

  8. Unknown says:

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

  9. 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!

  10. rod s 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

  11. 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.

  12. Unknown says:

    Awesome! One step toward acknowledging Native still exist.

  13. 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.

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