Education

High School Senior Wins Right to Wear Native American Regalia

She made the case to wear traditional attire to graduation, and the school board agreed.


High School Senior Tia Thompson saw something that needed to change at her school. Instead of complaining or throwing up her hands in frustration, she did something about it. When Tia graduates from Gowanda, NY, High School next spring, she -- and other students -- will now have the option to wear traditional Native American attire instead of a cap and gown.

Tia Thompson with her brother and his friend, who assisted her in her presentation.Seneca Media & Communications Center Facebook page

Tia made her argument to the Gowanda Board of Education, pointing out that, like her, 34% of the Gowanda class of 2020 have Native American Heritage, and that other neighboring school districts already allow native dress at graduation. She reminded them that Native Americans have a tradition of wearing special regalia to important life events, but many of these traditions were taken away when they were sent to the nearby Thomas Indian Boarding School decades ago.

Tia got emotional when she talked about the fact that she's not just doing this for herself:

(Gowanda Board of Education archives)

�By wearing traditional outfits to graduation, native students are honoring and remembering their living elders and ancestors."

"You can make this possible by approving the choice for Native American students to practice a timeless tradition, one that was taken from them but can be given back starting now," Tia told the board as she dabbed her eyes with a tissue.

The Board of Education unanimously approved Tia's proposal, so beginning with the 2020 graduation class, students will be permitted to wear Native American regalia to commencement.

Tia's presentation was full of facts to bolster her argument that traditional attire should be allowed.Seneca Media & Communications Center Facebook page


As for Tia she's already a standout in the district. She's a high honor roll student, two-year nursing student, and a four-year varsity lacrosse athlete. She plans to attend college for a career in nursing.

Is there something in your community that needs to change? Have the courage, like Tia did, to stand up and speak out. You might be surprised to find out that other people agree with you!

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