Cherokee Nation considers cutting school funds over policies

November 8, 2019 GMT

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council is considering whether the tribe should cut funding to schools that ban Native American students from observing cultural practices during events such as graduations.

The council’s Rules Committee approved the proposal during a meeting on Oct. 31, the Tulsa World reported. The Tribal Council is scheduled to discuss it during a meeting next week.

Cherokee Nation Deputy Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo said the measure seeks to address a “recurring issue” of reports of schools trying to impose restrictions on students’ hair length or prohibiting students from wearing eagle feathers on their caps during graduations.

Native Americans use eagle feathers to symbolize noteworthy achievements and there are often “very significant cultural and religious implications” linked to hair treatment, she noted.

Nimmo added that the measure’s purpose is to give the Cherokee Nation a way to inform schools, “If you don’t change this policy, you’re not going to get next year the donation the Cherokee Nation annually makes to your school.”

The Cherokee Nation has dispensed a combined $5.7 million to 108 schools in 2019, she said, adding that the money schools get is based on the number of Cherokee students enrolled. The money comes from fees and taxes collected from the sale of the tribe’s vehicle tags.

Last year, Nimmo spoke to the Vian School Board in favor of a student who sought to wear a feather at her May 2019 graduation despite school officials previously denying her brother approval.

Then-Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., who is the current Cherokee Nation principal chief, wrote the school board a letter on the student’s behalf. Also, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter sent a letter saying he believed the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act required schools to allow the practice.

The district reversed its stance on the issue.


Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com