Several  hundred South High School students walked out of the Corcoran neighborhood school this morning after students enrolled in the All Nations program for Indian students aired grievances.

The walkout occurred after at least 90 minutes of drumming, dancing and discussion that involved hundreds of students, first in the school’s spacious commons area and later in the 700-person auditorium, which was filled. The 1,800-student school is at 3131 19th Av. S.

Native students said they are concerned because they feel the school has restricted their ability to hold smudging ceremonies and drumming in the school. Smudging involves the burning of  sage in a ritual of purification.

 “We tried to bring this up multiple times,” said Cheyenne Mason, a senior who helped organize the event.  “I’m here to support my program because it needs attention and this is the only way to get attention,” said another All Nations  senior, Mahendra Jagnandan.

The event was peaceful, and there was no police intervention, according to district spokeswoman Rachel Hicks, unlike a Feb. 14 melee that involved several hundred students. Students from several cultures addressed the group, urging student to work harder to learn about the different ethnicities of the student body.  The walkout drew support from some of the school’s non-Indian students.

Several people involved said that students originally planned to walk out, but that administrators tried to accommodate them with an authorized event. The walkout occurred after leaders heard that some students were being prevented from attending; But Winona Vizenor, one of those who organized the event, said it was always the intent of students to walk out.. 

Hicks said that the auditorium was filled, but that students could watch the event through a video feed to classrooms. Principal Cecilia Sadler, Director of Indian Education Danielle Grant, and Associate Superintendent Stephen Flisk were called to the stage to hear student concerns, but Hicks said they didn’t respond to the substance of student concerns.

Students were warned before they left the building that their departure would constitute an unexcused absence and that they would not be allowed back without a parent, Hicks said.   She said they are welcome back today.