Frederick, Maryland – Linganore High School students were told to discontinue a long-standing tradition this week. They were told the Native American inspired headdress they’d presented to certain students, to be worn during athletic events, had been banned.
According to reports, dueling petitions are circulating the school, gathering signatures both for and against the ban. While the petition to ban the headdress has garnered over 1,500 signatures, as of Thursday the petition to bring it back has accumulated over 2,100 signatures. A majority of the signatures collected to end the ban came from community members and alumni.
“We want our school to be a welcoming environment to all students and we felt this was the best way to make sure all students felt welcome at school,” Principal Nancy Doll said of the ban placed Wednesday.
According to Doll, the ban is the result of complaints the school received about the headdress being offensive to Native Americans.
“After researching what [Native American] headdresses mean to this culture, we felt it was best to get rid of it,” Doll said.
The headdress is part of a tradition at the school. Students reportedly vote for an incoming senior, who becomes the “chief” of the student section for the year. The section, called “the tribe,” is a feature at football and basketball games. The chief wears the headdress as they cheer and celebrate at the sporting event.
“I understand that some people find it offensive,” said Jacob Garwood, a senior who was chosen to be this years chief. “We never meant to offend anyone, but we take a lot of pride in this tradition and it means a lot to us. I hope there is a way we can work something out so we can keep the tradition but allow everyone to feel welcome.”
As Juan Boston explains, it’s not just about offence – the headdress has great cultural significance.
“We see feathers as gifts from the Creator,” Boston, vice chairman of the board of directors at the Baltimore American Indian Center, told the Frederick News-Post. “I’m 58, and in my life, I have received one eagle feather. When you see some people wearing one, jumping around like a monkey, yelling like an idiot, it is disrespectful to our culture.”
According to Boston, the display is akin to someone making a mockery of an American general. He said that without behaving in a manner that was respectful of the uniform and station, it is not acceptable.
Former students say they understand why the tradition is offensive, but the practice has been passed down for years with no bad intentions behind it.
“It symbolizes the school as one,” said Harry Rasmussen, a school alumni and last year’s chief. “We are all one tribe at Linganore, and I think the headdress just sort of completes that.”
Rasmussen says the headdress is respected, and that students understand it means something.
The school is reportedly considering replacing the headdress with a spear, as their mascot is the “Lancers.” The leader could still be chosen, but they would not wear the “culturally insensitive” head piece.
The headdress would instead be placed in a case,where it could be put into context, and where its heritage could be described to the students and visitors.
— Frederick News-Post (@frednewspost) September 1, 2017
— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 2, 2017
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