Update: The school later apologized.
By Ryan Broderick
The blogger who posted the picture, fiftyfourfortyorfight, wrote that as of Sunday the school has not addressed it and that local media hasn’t covered either.
Last night, this sign went up at a McAdory High School football game.
I am absolutely disgusted that this sign was allowed to go up, and that it was not stopped by school administrators, and that after this, no one has mentioned it.
The school and the students have shown no remorse for the sign (as expected) and the students have claimed ignorance and/or that it was just a “joke”.
Sorry, but the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the death of thousands of Native Americans is not a joke.
By Travis Waldron
“This was not condoned by the school administration, the Jefferson County Board of Education or the community,” McAdory principal Tod Humphries said in the statement . “The person who would normally be responsible for approving such signs is out on maternity leave, and I take full responsibility that arrangements were not made to have the signs pre-approved before the ballgame. Please accept our sincere apologies to the Native American people and to anyone who was offended by the reference to an event that is a stain on our nation’s past forever.”
Humphries said the school’s social studies and history teachers would re-teach or review lessons on the 1830 Indian Removal Act that created the Trail of Tears.
This incident, though, is the epitome of the basic problem with the prevalence of Native American imagery in sports. When we turn Native Americans into mascots, we put them in a class with the Philly Phanatic or generic Bulldogs and Tigers rather than remembering that they are a people who have survived—and are still dealing with the effects of—real atrocities and terrible policies that aren’t in any way similar to the outcome of a high school football game.
By Vincent Schilling
“I knew when the sign popped up that it was a mistake. The woman that oversees this was on maternity leave, but I know this is not an excuse. I don’t know what else to say other than it was wrong,” Humphries said.
“That is not what we are. The adults in the audience and in the stands understood immediately when the sign went up that it was wrong. I know this perception is not out there right now, but it is not who we are.”
Humphries expressed concern that his school would be seen as a stereotypical Alabama “redneck” school that did not care about the history of Indians. Humphries says nothing could be further from the truth and that the school is extremely diverse.
“We are a very diverse school, with 40 percent African-American, 15 percent Hispanic, rich and poor and everybody gets along. We are probably the most diverse school in our district. Our school is also very family oriented,” Humphries said.
“Most people in the South are part Native American. If you asked our classes who has Native American ancestry, about half the class will raise their hands. The Creeks were here—the Cherokee and the Scots-Irish came in here and intermarried. Most of us here have Native American blood, however ignorance can still slip in about the history of us,” said Humphries.
Humphries also said the moment, though difficult, was an opportunity for teaching.
“We are going to take buses and travel Friday to Gadsden, Alabama to visit the Native American man who has a Indian Removal Act Museum,” Humphries said. “We will be taking the cheerleaders and the student government.”
Cherokee Nation responds to offensive Trail of Tears reference
Ironically, the Cherokee Nation is commemorating the 175th anniversary of the start of our Trail of Tears this year. About 16,000 Cherokees began the trek to Oklahoma from our homelands in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Kentucky, but only 12,000 lived through the harsh conditions that winter.
The Trail of Tears was arguably the most horrific period in the Cherokee Nation’s history and among the worst atrocities ever sanctioned by the United States government.
The legacy of that terrible era has had a profound effect on generations of tribal citizens, and still lingers today.
This unfortunate display shows how much improvement is still needed in the understanding of Native peoples, our triumphs and our challenges, both historical and modern.
We hope this becomes an opportunity for administrators at McAdory High School, and at schools all across the United States, to teach our young people not only the terrible history behind the Indian removal era, but also the resilience of tribes across the nation.
By Linda Sacks
Despite its form and despite the ignorance claimed, they directly praised and glorified the murdering of a people group that still exists…my family and all that comprise the Nations of Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole, and Creek. We, natives, are not something of the past and a history lesson.
McAdory, you say, “sorry” and “reteach?” What exactly are you teaching them?
When it comes to sports, political correctness is applied selectively. What if the words “rape” and “murder” were used? These terms are used to describe how awful the opponent suffered on the playing field or court, expressing the brutality of which one team “destroys” another. Anyone in the sports world can testify to this, as do I, therefore finding the cheerleaders’ actions not guilty of ignorance, but fully charged with the lack of conscience for Native American people.
By Danielle Miller
Why are all these administrators and educators ALLOWING this to happen? Clearly there must be institutional racism taking place. Schools also handle this situations terribly with apologies which put the blame on those victimized by racism. Their apologies are always something along the lines of: “We’re sorry YOU were offended. We will reteach about the Trail of Tears.” Great for you to emphasize that WE are offended, rather than taking responsibility. The acts of racism themselves are far more harmful than being “offended” or calling them out will ever be. Obviously repeating a lesson will not help the situation, if its colonized content was part of the reason this occurred in the first place.
It appears that America is harboring subconscious, engrained racism towards Native Americans; their actions are showing it. No matter what excuse or intentions they claim to have. If you act racist, you are perpetuating racism, period. The new racism is the denial of racism. People believe if they defend racism and deny that it is racist, it justifies them in whatever they do. That is completely absurd. If you are dehumanizing or marginalizing a race of people, congratulations--you are being racist! That is a fact, not an opinion!
This incident is a good example of what happens when we treat Indians as mascots and other stereotypical figures. No one treats the Jewish Holocaust lightly anymore, but Indians are still something of a national joke.
They're the silly savages who got in the way of progress. We smile at their antics: the leathers and feathers, the whoops and dances, the painted faces and birds on the heads. They're like Elmer Fudd against Bugs Bunny or the Coyote against the Roadrunner: potentially deadly but in reality hapless.
When Americans wear phony headdresses or laugh at a "Trail of Tears" sign, they're not taking Indians seriously. They're not recognizing the Indians' pain or even acknowledging their existence. Therefore, it's not surprising that Americans also ignore Native issues--whether it's climate change, the effects of sequestration, or violence against women. Why would anyone bother to care when the people affected are only cartoon characters?