Congratulations Class of 2017 – The First Graduates Post SB319

western native voice day of action SB319
Students standing with representatives of the American Indian Caucus

This year, Montana high school graduates were able to cross the stage and pick up their diplomas while wearing traditional regalia. This standardization of dress-code resulted from the hard work of Senator Jen Gross (SD-25) and Western Native Voice (which is how I got involved.) Even with all that hard work, the bill (SB319) would never have become law without the testimonies of several high school students making their way to the capitol and testifying during a committee hearing last winter.

beadwork on mortar boards and other traditional regalia was outlawed until SB319
Beadwork on mortar boards was outlawed by some Montana schools until SB319 was signed into law just days before graduation.

I had the opportunity to film that committee hearing in Helena and the subsequent bill signing here in Billings. The students spoke very eloquently about both how they wanted to honor their traditions, as well as their disappointment with the patchwork of different rules set by each school regarding traditional regalia. I believe their passion and professionalism changed minds in that committee meeting. These students are the next generation of leaders. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do next.

I hope to release a short film about these students’ push to have their traditions (as well as the traditions of other, non-native groups) recognized as meaningful.

 

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