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Feather Ceremony "More Than Just An Event"

May 2, 2024

Cumberland County Schools (CCS) Office of Indian Education hosted its annual Feather Ceremony this evening at Gray's Creek High School. Ninety-seven Native American high school seniors crossed the auditorium stage to proudly receive their feather.

"As we celebrate the Feather Ceremony's milestone fifth year in Cumberland County Schools, it's evident that it has evolved into more than just an event," said Candice Revels, the coordinator of CCS' Office of Indian Education. "It's a cherished tradition that embodies the spirit of unity, resilience, and cultural appreciation among our Native American graduates within our schools. It serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of honoring and preserving Indigenous heritage in our community."

The high school seniors, who represented 19 recognized American Indian Tribes, listened intently throughout the ceremony as the Cumberland County Culture Class drum group performed, along with a student flutist from John Griffin Middle School. Miss NC Indigenous Ambassador and Miss NCNAYO (North Carolina Native American Youth Organization)  were on hand to share their talents of performance.

After which time, the keynote speaker, Dr. Deirdra Blanks, who is a local otolaryngologist, facial plastic surgeon and member of the Waccamaw Siouan Tribe, imparted words of wisdom to the seniors about making a decision about their next step after graduation.

"In the future, when you are trying to decide what to major in or what job to take, stop, breathe, pray and don't expect perfection" said Dr. Blanks. "Know that if absolutely  everything seems that [like] it is falling apart, that is just the Lord strengthening your foundation for the next step. Because your next step is helping to clear the path for those behind you."

According to ceremony organizers, nearly 30 tribal, government and educational leaders from across the state were on hand to see a surprise feather presentation to Cumberland County Schools' Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr. Also, on behalf of the approximately 65,000 Lumbee People,  the Lumbee Tribe Chairman  presented him with the Pinecone Patchwork placard.

Following the presentation of feathers, representatives from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP) and the American Indian Society of North Carolina collectively presented 11 college scholarships to the graduating seniors. 

Family members were able to attend the evening in-person and the ceremony was live-streamed for the public on the district's YouTube channel.

To view a full album of high-resolution images from the event, click here.

To watch the recorded video of the live-streamed event, click here.

To learn more about CCS' Office of Indian Education and how the district is committed to providing equitable access to engaging learning for every student, visit the district's main website and OIE website