Evanston Township High School senior refuses to remove Native American badges from cap, denied march to graduation

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) — Nimkii Curley, a senior at Evanston Township High School, was looking forward to graduation on Sunday. And just when he was about to take the stage, his plans were cut short.

He was stopped just before walking on stage for his graduation, and told he wouldn’t be allowed to unless he changed his cap and removed an object from around his neck.

The 17-year-old had placed his Native American badges on his graduation cap. He refused to turn it off or remove it.

“It’s not just, like, a decorative thing,” he said. “It’s a religious belief to hold these sacred feathers.”

By refusing to hand over the sacred pen, he instead waived his participation in his graduation ceremony. He watched from the stands with his family, including his mother and sister.

“It’s awful and I’m so proud,” said Megan Bang, her mother.

“He was always a huge role model for me. He paved the way for change,” said sister and student Miigis Curley of Evanston Township High School.

The Evanston Township superintendent paid a visit to his home on Monday morning, presenting his diploma in person.

“He apologized for the situation, and I appreciate that,” Curley said.

Although they have told graduating students that additional clothing or adornment is not permitted, in a statement, school officials said they are “revising graduation guidelines, particularly as they relate to regarding the recognition of the history and stories of Indigenous students”.

While the family waits for official changes to be made, Nimkii said he will go to the University of Wisconsin at Madison to study environmental engineering.

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