Oklahoma news outlets report the sign, held Saturday at ESPN's College GameDay event, read: "Send 'em home #Trail_of_Tears #GoPokes."
OSU spokesman Gary Shutt says it is insensitive and the university does not condone it. The school's Twitter account says OSU "requested that it be removed." The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
The Trail of Tears refers to the relocation of Native Americans from the southeastern U.S. in the 19th century, including members of the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations now based in Oklahoma.
Cherokee Chief Responds To OSU Student 'Trail Of Tears' Game Day Sign
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker told News On 6 he'd seen the sign, but knows that their "good partners" at OSU will do their best to explain to students "how hurtful" the sign is in light of the tribe's heritage and history.
"It's not going to ruin our holiday," he said. "We're trying to at least educate our state and other states as well so they truly understand, and we've got more work to do."
He said, "It's particularly disappointing this unfortunate display happened the same weekend as Cherokee National Holiday, when we celebrate our resilience and ability to adapt and survive unimaginable circumstances. For months, we've also commemorated the 175th anniversary of the conclusion of the Trail of Tears. Since these students clearly don't understand the gravity of these events, this should be viewed as a teaching moment for these young people. We wish them well and hope they seek a more enlightened perspective."
The sign is concerning on a few levels. The Trail of Tears refers to the consequence of the Indian Removal Act of 1830: The forced relocation of American Indians from the southeastern United States to Indian Territory, a region which would later be known as Oklahoma. Between 1830 and 1837, some 46,000 Indians were removed, and many thousands died on the journey west. It's odd, to put it mildly, that Oklahoma State football fans in particular could create a sign (and it's not a small sign) that so casually treated a tragedy that is an integral part of their own state's history. According to 2010 statistics, Oklahoma State graduated the most Native American students of any college in the country, and its student body was 9.2% American Indian or Alaska Native.
There's also something ignorant about a sign that references the Trail of Tears and also says "Send 'Em Home." The Trail of Tears wasn't about sending anybody home--it was about driving Native people from their homes. And in a larger sense, the entire continent was Natives' "home" until certain uninvited guests showed up, beginning in 1492.
By Amelia Henderson
Snyder said it's important for students to understand the significance of the Trail of Tears and the cultural genocide of the Native American people.
"I feel this is a prime example of why Native American mascots should not be used for sports entertainment,” he said.
By Catherine Sweeney
Maybe if you are completely ignorant of the past. But guess what? These fans are students. In Oklahoma, American history is required in elementary school, in middle school, in high school and in college.
Oklahoma State’s American history classes are packed with hundreds of students at a time. Professors lift the veil and let students know how despicably Americans treated the Indians.
These people, smiling and holding up their pistols, don’t get to claim ignorance. No students at this school get to claim ignorance.
They are knowingly making fun of victims of genocide. Who is laughing?
OSU student apologizes for 'Trail of Tears' College GameDay banner
By Erik Horne
“Though we did not set out to hurt or offend anyone when we made our banner, I see that it did just that. Referencing the Trail of Tears in such a flippant and disrespectful manner was insensitive and wrong, and I make no defense for our having had such a lapse in judgment. I apologize for our mistake. I am truly sorry.
“To all Native Americans: I hope you can and will forgive me for diminishing a part of your history that should never be made light of. I pledge that I will invest diligent study reacquainting myself with the horrors of Trail of Tears so I don’t repeat the mistake I made today.
“To the entire OSU family of administrators, students, student athletes, alumni, and fans: I embarrassed us today. I am sorry, and I hope you, as well, can forgive me. I love OSU. I want to contribute to, rather than take from, OSU’s positive image in the world. Today I failed in that effort. I promise to do better in the future. While I can’t promise I won’t make more mistakes, I commit to learn from them, hopefully becoming a better person in the process.”
Trail of Tears’ sign on ESPN’S College GameDay Show sparks Faux-pology
By Johnnie Jae
He adds, “OSU needs to publicly identify each one of these students and deal with them in a harsh manner to send a message. Until they do, these kids are representatives of the school and its beliefs. To make a mockery of the Trail of Tears–especially on the anniversary of this genocide–is nothing but pure evil and an evil that must be extinguished.”
So the Natives saying Buchanan can't use ignorance as an excuse aren't quite hitting the mark. They're addressing a typical "faux-pology," not his actual apology.
In any case, I'd say his apology was sufficient. He didn't use the usual weasel words to excuse himself from blame. He took responsibility like he was supposed to.
Nobody says exactly what "consequences" the students should face. Maybe name the six or seven students holding the sign and publicly shame them? Give them or the entire student body a class on Native history. Send them to the Cherokee National Holiday at the school's expense?
I wouldn't do anything more severe. I generally favor giving offenders a second chance. If they do something like this again, then you can punish them harshly.
For more on the Trail of Tears, see Opponents Taunted with "Trail of Tears" Sign and Trail of Tears Basketball Tweet.