Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman JoDe Goudy was reportedly barred from entering a U.S. Supreme Court hearing on Tuesday for wearing a traditional tribal headdress.
According KOMO News, Goudy was denied access to an oral argument regarding a treaty between his tribe and the government unless he removed the tribal regalia, which he refused to do.
Live footage shared on Goudy’s Facebook page Tuesday shows the tribal leader speaking to a court official outside the hearing.
“The court is not to be subject to outside influence,” a court official can be heard telling Goudy in the video.
“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.”
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.
He told the publication that he 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, he argued, was supposed to preserve a traditional way of life for the tribe.
The case reportedly concerns whether the Yakama Treaty of 1855 exempts the tribe from a state fuel tax, according to Bloomberg Law.