Leilani Thomas’s protest of the Pledge of Allegiance may be generating attention in light of similar recent protests by athletes around the United States, but the high school student has reportedly sat down for the pledge since she was in second grade.
Thomas and another Native American student are making headlines after their teacher at Lower Lake High School in California decided to lower their participation grade for not reciting the pledge.
“I’m not going to stand for the people who did this to my people,” Thomas told local TV outlet KSLA.
Americans systematically murdered Native Americans for decades across what is now the United States, forcibly removing Native Americans from their land and corralling them into reservations.
Thomas’s teacher wanted the student’s argument for protest in writing.
“If you really, really, really, really, really have an argument and feel so strongly about, then I need to see it written out,” her teacher said, according to the KSLA report. “Because here’s the real thing: Those people, they’re not alive anymore — your ancestors.”
Thomas reportedly recorded her teacher’s rant-y request and showed it to her dad. The two then took the recording to school officials, who have since put Thomas and the other protesting student in a different class.
Protests of the national anthem have gained widespread attention over the past several weeks after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat down for the national anthem during an NFL preseason game. Athletes across the NFL and other sports have followed suit.
Thomas said her teacher argued that the pledge represents “the military and that they risked their lives for us.”
But Thomas responded that “my people risked our lives for our freedom, for our land, for our rights.”