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Old 06-13-2005, 08:50 PM   #1
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This Message Is Reprinted Under The Fair Use
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FROM: THE PLATTSBURGH PRESS-REPUBLICAN NEWSPAPER

http://www.pressrepublican.com/Archi.../061220053.htm

6/12/05

Heritage Honored

Native Salmon River Grads Will Wear Traditional Dress

By SUSAN TOBIAS Staff Writer

BOMBAY ó Native American graduates at Salmon River Central School have
administrative approval to wear clothing representing their culture to graduation
ceremonies on June 24.

Eight Native American members of last yearís graduating class surprised
teachers and administrators when they showed up for the ceremonies without cap and
gown but wearing ceremonial dress.

District Superintendent Glenn Bellinger said heís pleased to see the
graduates acknowledge their traditions, but the district requires graduating seniors
to speak with their adviser before graduation if they plan to wear something
other than the traditional cap and gown.

"This has been a trend in colleges for some time now for many cultures," said
Bellinger. "I guess weíre on the cutting edge as a high school."

Kyrie Ransom, whose Mohawk name is Katsiítsiakatste, is one of the dozen
seniors who intends to wear Native clothing at graduation.

Her four-piece ensemble includes a tunic top, long skirt to the knee with
leggings and a collar-type yoke.

It was made for her by Marie Thompson, who lives on the north side of the St.
Regis Mohawk Reservation and creates her own beadwork for her pieces.

"I am making my moccasins out of white leather," Ransom said, adding that her
brother, Beynan, purchased the special leather for her.

Two of her cousins were among those who wore their traditional Native
clothing to graduation last year, an action that stirred Ransomís interest and
encouraged her to act.

As a junior watching what was going on, she knew the School Board would be
taking up the issue when her senior year began.

She spoke to her classmates, circulated a petition among the new senior
class, then presented the signatures to the School Board for consideration.

"It was a tool for them to use to show them how seniors felt," Ransom said.
"Some people thought we should all be as one and wear the same thing. But thatí
s what wearing traditional clothes is all about."

District residents were asked to attend a board meeting earlier this year to
express their opinions.

"It was all favorable," Superintendent Bellinger said. "They are proud of
their heritage, and itís nice to celebrate with that in mind."

Some schools have restrictions on what graduates can wear so as not to take
away from the tone of the event or be embarrassing, he said.

Of the 1,600 students attending Salmon River, about 65 percent are Native
American.

The school has added courses in the Mohawk language, Native American cultural
events and a fashion show.

The district also offers Mohawk-immersion classes and a Native American film
class.

Senior-class adviser Robert Burnham said about 20 of the 70 graduates spoke
to him about wearing Native American dress to graduation.
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