“Preserving Heritage: Oklahoma Implements Tribal Regalia Protections”


"Preserving Heritage: Oklahoma Implements Tribal Regalia Protections"

As of Saturday, an Oklahoma law has gone into effect to safeguard the rights of Native American students to wear their tribal regalia during graduation ceremonies. This law was established following years of advocacy and a decisive vote by lawmakers to override the governor’s veto.

The new law ensures that public schools in Oklahoma are prohibited from preventing Native American students from wearing items such as eagle feathers, beaded caps, tribal stoles, and other forms of regalia during their commencement ceremonies.

While students were already allowed by law to freely express their religion, there was a need for clarity regarding the inclusion of tribal regalia, particularly eagle feathers, which hold sacred significance in many Native cultures.

Students and parents had faced resistance and confusion from district administrators, prompting the need for a dedicated law to provide clear protections.

Initially, the proposal faced challenges in gaining sufficient support in 2020 and 2021. However, this spring, it gained overwhelming backing in both chambers when it was narrowed down to focus solely on graduation ceremonies. Only one lawmaker voted against the measure, Senate Bill 429.

Despite the broad support, Governor Kevin Stitt vetoed the bill, expressing concerns that it might violate a state constitutional provision that restricts officials from passing special laws governing school districts. The governor also believed that decisions regarding dress codes should be left to district officials.

Nevertheless, lawmakers united and successfully passed the bill again with a significant majority, effectively defeating the governor’s veto.

With this development, Oklahoma joins at least 14 other states that have enacted protections for wearing tribal regalia.

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