Wednesday, 07 March 2018 19:26

How about some good news? Kansas Democratic Representative advances bill for Native Peoples.

Written by Chris Reeves | Daily Kos

How about some good news? Kansas Democratic Representative advances bill for Native Peoples.

TOPEKA — A bill that would guarantee Native Americans in Kansas the right to wear their tribal regalia and other objects of cultural significance at government-sponsored public events is on its way to the full Senate.

The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee heard testimony Monday from several Native Americans, including some from Lawrence, who said they often face resistance when they try to wear their native outfits at events such as graduations or other kinds of public ceremonies.

Among those testifying was Georgia Blackwood, an eighth-grade student at South Middle School in Lawrence and a member of the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas.

Representative Victors made her case in front of state & federal committee today, arguing that her bill should be heard by the full body, allowing students to “be themselves” and wear formal native attire to state events and be recognized as valuing their culture.

House Bill 2498 cleared the House on Feb. 21 by a vote of 122-0. It is sponsored by Rep. Ponka-We Victors, D-Wichita, who is a member of both the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma and the Tohono O'odham Nation in Arizona.

Dressed in her own regalia made of deer skin, and wearing an eagle feather in her hair, Victors said Native Americans consider their traditional clothing as formal attire in the same way European-Americans view suits.

But she said it is common for Native Americans to be forbidden from wearing their traditional clothes at ceremonial events, and she suggested that kind of cultural bias contributes to a sense of isolation among Native American youths, who suffer from high rates of suicide and substance abuse.

"I don't want to discourage our students from trying to be who they are," Victors said. "Identity is a big part of that, so this bill will help them to be free to be proud of who they are as native people."

Unanimous consent of the bill in the house gives hope for a clean passage in the senate as well. 

Rep. Victors — today, your victory was the kind of “good news” that we need about what Democratic legislators are doing on behalf of our fellow citizens.

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