Native American Banned From Wearing Moccasins At High School Graduation (VIDEO)

Native American Banned From Wearing Moccasins At High School Graduation (VIDEO)

This is why one cannot “get over” racism: A Waldorf, Maryland, girl wants to receive her high school diploma dressed in a traditional Navajo ceremonial dress, with moccasins, but is being prohibited due to the school’s dress code.

Dylan McCabe said:

“I want to have that connection to my Navajo side as I walk across that stage.”

She wished to honor her Indigenous heritage, but was disappointed to find when she checked with her principal at North Point High School, in Charles County, that a dress code compelled a negative response. She is expected to wear black shoes.

McCabe said:

“He only approved the dress because it was not visible, but he didn’t approve the leggings and moccasins because they showed.”

The moccasins are not only part of McCabe’s culture, which she desires to honor, but they are also symbolic. She wore them throughout a “four-day coming-of-age ritual” at the age of 11. Describing the ritual, McCabe said:

“You run three times a day – at daybreak, noon and dusk – wearing those moccasins. When you run, you run farther and farther each time signifying that you can push yourself harder and harder each time with that personal strength and endurance.”

Obviously, the symbolism behind McCabe’s desired dress is entirely appropriate for the occasion, as well. Little did she know those moccasins would lead her to, and through, yet one more unfortunate coming of age experience for a young Native American girl: systemic racism.

McCabe said of the school’s rejection:

“I’m completely surprised by all this.”

Displeased with the school’s decision, McCabe started an online petition currently nearing 4,500 signatures. Perhaps, with enough signatures and enough pressure, she will be able to honor her culture after all. Her mother, Jacquetta Swift, is also scheduled to speak with the school’s superintendent, Tuesday, in the hope of appealing the decision. Graduation is set for Thursday.

Swift said:

“It shouldn’t have come to this. It should have been a no-brainer kind of thing.”

McCabe made it clear making up a majority of her school’s one-percent Native American population hasn’t been easy, especially since her family embraces their culture so fully. She said:

“I’ve had a ton of people come up to me and say, ‘I didn’t even know native people, Native Americans still existed.’”

The misconception that Native Americans are extinct does not come from nowhere, either. It is a result of steady genocide, theft, bloodshed, propaganda, ethnocide, co-optation and assimilation, not to mention indoctrination, over several generations. Settlers tend to believe that because they successfully stole the land they have also successfully erased the people. They are just part of the “Old West,” like dinosaurs are just ignorantly tied to cavemen–they are “back then.”

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But neither are true. Native Americans are no more “extinct” than cavemen lived with dinosaurs. In the case of Native Americans, however, in light of the honest, whole-hearted, “manifest destiny” attempt at exterminating Native Americans from this land, allowing McCabe to wear traditional Navajo dress is the right thing to do. It is absurd that the word “allow” should even become part of the discussion. McCabe earned that degree as a Navajo and she has every right to walk across that stage and take her degree as a Navajo. She said:

“It is part of our culture and part of who we are, so it’s very important to me.”

Until the Tuesday meeting between Swift and the school’s superintendent, a spokesperson for the school said offering a comment on the matter would be “premature.”

McCabe is not seeking to be flashy  for the sake of exhibitionism. She wishes, simply, for the school to allow her to be who she is and not deny her her Navajo identity, as this country has done for so long with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. McCabe’s mother is right: This should be a “no brainer.”

Here’s hoping the school does what’s right.

High School Denies graduation Moccasins:

H/T: Fox 5 | Featured image by Fox 5 video screen capture

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Dylan Hock is a writer, educator, and activist. He serves as a volunteer board member of The James Jackson Museum of African American History.