A (sa­cred) feather in his cap

Stu­dent wins fight to wear ea­gle’s plume at grad­u­a­tion

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Joseph Serna joseph.serna@la­times.com Twit­ter: @JosephSerna

A Na­tive Amer­i­can stu­dent de­clared vic­tory this week in a face­off with Clo­vis High School af­ter district of­fi­cials ini­tially barred him from wear­ing a cer­e­mo­nial ea­gle’s feather on his cap dur­ing grad­u­a­tion.

Chris­tian Tit­man, 18, a mem­ber of the Pit River Tribe, had asked the Clo­vis Uni­fied School District in April if he could wear an ea­gle’s feather that his fa­ther had given him; the feather is about 3 or 4 inches long.

The Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia district said no, cit­ing its dress code. Items such as rosaries are pro­hib­ited too, the district said in a let­ter.

“It’s re­ally sim­ple. They’re telling me, ‘Don’t be proud you’re In­dian. Don’t be proud of your her­itage. Don’t be proud of your ac­com­plish­ment,’ ” Tit­man told the Los An­ge­les Times on Tues­day, just hours be­fore an agree­ment was reached.

On Tues­day, with the back­ing of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, Tit­man sought a tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der that would bar Clo­vis Uni­fied’s dress code from be­ing en­forced at grad­u­a­tion — sched­uled for 7:30 p.m. Thurs­day.

But be­fore the judge could rule, the district and Tit­man reached an agree­ment. He may wear the feather in his hair dur­ing the cer­e­mony; when it is time to move the cap’s tassel to the other side, Tit­man may at­tach the feather to his cap.

“It has been our goal from the be­gin­ning to find a mu­tu­ally agree­able so­lu­tion that hon­ors and re­spects the cul­ture of our Na­tive Amer­i­can stu­dents while af­firm­ing the long­stand­ing tra­di­tions and stan­dards hon­or­ing ev­ery one of our grad­u­at­ing se­niors,” district Supt. Janet Young said in a state­ment. “We look for­ward to do­ing both at Thurs­day’s grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony.”

The ea­gle is con­sid­ered sa­cred be­cause it is seen as be­ing able to f ly up to the creators, Tit­man ex­plained. His fa­ther had given him the feather be­cause it hon­ored an im­por­tant tran­si­tion in his life.

The 18-year-old strug­gled in his first years in high school and was on a path to fall short of the cred­its needed to grad­u­ate, he said. He met with his guid­ance coun­selor reg­u­larly and took a class to make up cred­its. Tit­man en­rolled in a Re­gional Oc­cu­pa­tional Pro­gram class for car­pen­try and has an ap­pren­tice­ship lined up af­ter he grad­u­ates, he said.

“I climbed that lad­der so I could grad­u­ate,” he said.

“I want to wear this be­cause I ac­com­plished a great thing.”

Eric Paul Zamora

CHRIS­TIAN TIT­MAN dances at Fresno State First Na­tions Pow­wow in April; he ini­tially was for­bid­den to wear a feather at grad­u­a­tion.

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