Leader of Yakama Nation Denied Entry to Supreme Court Hearing Over Headdress
On October 30, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a five-year-old case that questions the rights outlined in an 1855 treaty between the United States and Washington’s Yakama Nation, the leader of the Nation was denied entry into a hearing due to… his headdress.
Hoping to observe arguments in a case directly impacting his people’s rights, Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman JoDe Goudy was reportedly denied access to thea oral argument between his tribe and the government unless he removed the tribal regalia.
Goudy refused to do so. “I wasn’t going to be taking off my headdress,” Goudy told Indianz.com. “I think that’s a violation.”
“My First Amendment right was violated,” he said later in the afternoon and called his experience “dehumanizing.”
Live footage posted to Goudy’s Facebook page Tuesday shows Goudy talking to one of the security guards outside the hearing.
Goudy was told by a security guard that his headdress would not be allowed into the courtroom, but the rest of his regalia was permissible, as “his headdress would obstruct the view of others.”
“The main overall thing is that we do not want to draw attention to a particular case or a particular litigant in the case, so that the court is not influenced by that,” the official told Goudy. “You can go inside the courtroom without the headdress.”
“I wouldn’t say it was an outright show of disrespect,” Goudy later said. “I think there is probably some misinterpretation and misunderstanding with regard to what our traditional attire and regalia means to us, what it would mean to a person who wears a headdress to essentially ask them to remove it,” he added.
Goudy opted to peacefully exit the courtroom and pray outside, according to the local station.
The Supreme Court Public Information Office later defended its court official’s decision to deny Goudy entry to the courtroom in a statement to Bloomberg Law on Wednesday.
“Before Mr. Goudy came to the Court, representatives contacted the Court on behalf of Mr. Goudy and other members of the Yakama Indian Nation to inquire whether members of the tribe could wear traditional Indian clothing and headdresses in the Courtroom,” the Public Information Office said.
The court “informed Mr. Goudy’s representative that the Court prohibits hats and other head coverings in an effort to prevent obstructed views and for matters of Courtroom security,” the office continued, while adding that head coverings are only to be permitted if for religious or medical reasons.
The court also said it was informed that the tribal leader only wears the head covering for tribal ceremonies and meetings but not for “ordinary activities and that he would not be wearing it in the Courtroom as a matter of belief or religious requirement.”
However, Ethan Jones, the lead attorney representing the Yakama Nation, disputed the court’s account to Bloomberg Law, having found it “offensive that Goudy would be forced to submit to westernized standards of attire, particularly given the hearing to which Goudy was denied entry focused on an 1855 treaty that was supposed to preserve a traditional way of life for the tribe,” The Hill reported.
Goudy said tribal attorneys asked staff to reconsider their stance in order for him to watch the proceedings, but the request was turned down.
“It’s unfortunate,” he told Indianz.Com. “But that’s how it goes for us in Indian Country.”