Chamberlain School Board denies Graduation Honor Song - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Chamberlain School Board denies Graduation Honor Song; Tribal Leaders plan protest, boycott

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Crow Creek Tribal leaders are calling for boycott of Chamberlain businesses this week. 

This comes after the School Board turned down a student petition asking that a Native American honor song be played at graduation. 

The School's Superintendent says the school board did not want to change the traditional format of their graduation ceremony. 

 Several school board members said they were also told that some students felt pressured to sign the petition in the first place, saying they feared they would be labeled prejudice if they did not sign the petition. 

What began as a student petition has escalated into a standoff between members of the Crow Creek Tribe and the Chamberlain community; protest and boycotts are planned for this weekend's graduation and many are saying things have simply gotten out of hand. 

"Initially it was kind of a jaw dropper for me, I think things have gotten a little out of hand," said Marcel Felicia, an incoming member of the Chamberlain School Board.

Felicia was at the Chamberlain School Board meeting Monday night for the vote on the honor song. 

"Some of the statements said were really kind of shocking to me…when you start saying they, them, we, I, don't want, those are very different words," said Felicia. 

While the controversy surrounding the honor song has caused tension in town, many students who are actually graduating this weekend say it's really more of a problem for their parents. 

"Nobody really sees it as too big of a deal anyway; the honor song is not just for native Americans anyway, it's for the whole graduating class," said Chamberlain graduating senior James Huntley. 

Wayne Two Hawk, an honor song performer, says the three-minute song applies to all students, encouraging them to go out in the community and become the next generation of leaders. 

"The students in the school are a lot smarter than the parents and a lot of these grown ups think...and they're moving forward in their lives and I like that, and it's something I hope continues," said Felicia. 

Those against having an honor song played want the school's graduation ceremony to remain traditional. 

"If you're going to do it for one group you might open the door for everybody," said Huntley. 

But community members who want the song say other area schools like Rapid City and Pierre have played honor songs at graduation for more than a decade. 

"If you talk to individuals in those schools and in the communities, they really like it and they enjoy it and there's no big to-do about it," said Felicia. 

The Chamberlain School District hosted its first Feather Ceremony Friday night at Saint Joe's School to honor its Native American graduates. 

Huntley says he's disappointed to hear plans of protesters at Sunday's graduation ceremony.  He says for him and his classmates, Sunday's ceremony will simply be about celebrating their achievements together. 

"They say every generation is smarter than their parents and I think it's showing true…as we mature as a class and as I've seen overall, its getting less and less segregated," said Huntley.

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