HIGH SCHOOL PROTEST: Native Song Barred From Graduation Ceremony

HINCKLEY, MN (trfnews.i234.me) – In a musical protest, over 50 students gathered outside Hinckley-Finlayson High School on Wednesday afternoon, demanding the reversal of a school board decision to remove a traditional Native song from this year’s graduation ceremony.

“It makes me happy that people actually care about what’s going on here,” said senior Kaiya Wilson.

The Ojibwe Traveling Song symbolizes the transition from high school to the next stage of life.

“It’s super important to have this at our ceremony because this is something we do as Native Americans in our culture. This song is meant to send off people with good energy, safety, and productivity,” Wilson explained. The decision to remove the song was made Monday at the district’s school board meeting. “After they voted it out, everybody was obviously outraged,” Wilson added.

An online petition to reinstate the song has garnered over 2,000 signatures.

In an email, Superintendent Brian Masterson explained that the decision was to eliminate all extracurricular student groups from the graduation ceremony to ensure inclusivity.

“The District’s goal at graduation is to make all seniors, and the families and community members who have supported them, feel celebrated,” Masterson wrote.

Although Masterson declined an on-camera interview, he stated that the drum ceremony could be held at the school’s Fine Arts Center after the graduation ceremony. Students, however, found this unacceptable.

“It’s disappointing because it seems like they’re shoving us back into a little room to do our things when we should be included,” said Wilson.

“This is our land, occupied since before this was a state, and there’s no reason that our ceremonies should not be included in the graduation ceremony,” said Niiyo Gonzalez, commissioner of education for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

Gonzalez found the district’s decision embarrassing, given that Native students make up one-third of the school’s enrollment.

“There should be no problem with this song being right next to ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and the Pledge of Allegiance. This is us,” Gonzalez stated.

Despite the decision, Wilson assured that the songs and drums would still be present on graduation day.

“People are going to show up with their drums anyway, whether they want it or not,” Wilson said.

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