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Native Salmon River Grads Will Wear Traditional Dress

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  • Native Salmon River Grads Will Wear Traditional Dress

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    Heritage Honored

    Native Salmon River Grads Will Wear Traditional Dress

    By SUSAN TOBIAS Staff Writer

    BOMBAY — 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 year’s 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 he’s 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 we’re on the cutting edge as a high school."

    Kyrie Ransom, whose Mohawk name is Katsi’tsiakatste, 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 Ransom’s 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 that’
    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 it’s 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

    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

    Senior-class adviser Robert Burnham said about 20 of the 70 graduates spoke
    to him about wearing Native American dress to graduation.
    Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

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