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Girls basketball team proudly wears Navajo hairstyle during game

The Flagstaff Lady Eagles on the court on February 5, 2016. Photo by Shawn Williams via Navajo Nation OPVP Russell Begaye And Jonathan Nez / Facebook

A girls basketball team in Arizona sailed to another victory on Friday, proudly wearing their Navajo hairstyle on the court and inspiring players across the nation to do the same.

The Flagstaff Lady Eagles defeated Coconino High School by a score of 64 to 56. But the greater win was cultural -- players on both teams, as well as many spectators, wore the traditional "tsiiyeeł" hairstyle that drew controversy a few days earlier when the girls were forced to remove their hair ties and buns.

"Tonight's game showed overwhelming support on the side of the Lady Eagles and any other Native American team that wishes to wear their hair traditionally with relative respect to safety concern," President Russell Begaye of the Navajo Nation, who helped draw attention to the issue, said on Facebook.

In the last few days, the Facebook page of the Flagstaff Lady Eagles Booster Club and other social media sites have been filled with images of teams that donned the hairstyle in support of the Lady Eagles. Schools on and off reservations alike have shown solidarity.

Basketball players from Richfield Residential Hall in Utah showed their support by wearing their tsiiyeeł on the court. Photo from Facebook

"We never imagined that our Lady Eagles, after being made to take down their expression of culture, their Tsiyéél, would become the topic of discussion around the world," the boosters club said in a statement.

The club accepted an apology from the Arizona Interscholastic Association and urged the organization to follow its vow to implement cultural training. It was a referee who had told the Lady Eagles to remove their tsiiyeeł at a game on February 2.

"For the Diné our hair represents Nihi nit'séékes, our thoughts and intelligence," the boosters club said. "To tie ones hair up in a tsiyéél was meant to gather those thoughts in an orderly way so they are not scattered and helps us stay focused and stable."

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Apology offered to girls who were forced to change Navajo hairstyle (2/5)

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