As a new student at Bountiful High School in Utah, Lemiley Lane was excited to attend her first pep assembly. Such rallies are meant to pump up school spirit before big games. But the tenth grader’s excitement turned to sadness and anger when a White student dressed as the school’s mascot, “The Brave Man,” ran across the stage and started dancing.
The student was wearing a plastic feather headdress as part of his costume. Lemiley, who grew up on the Navajo Nation in Arizona and had just recently moved to Bountiful, had been raised to believe that feathers are sacred.
“Headdress feathers are a symbol of bravery and honor. They’re not just something you can buy online. You earn each feather,” says Lemiley, who’s now in 12th grade. Seeing a classmate wear a feather headdress without understanding its significance upset her. “I left the auditorium and never went to another assembly,” she says.