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Banner reading "Hey Indians, get ready to leave in a trail of tears round 2" on a football field Banner reading "Hey Indians, get ready to leave in a trail of tears round 2" on a football field

High School Cheerleaders Flaunt Racist Sign, Face Sanctions: But Who’s Really to Blame?

By Isabelle Nastasia

Banner reading

In McCalla, Ala., the McAdory High School cheerleading team thought it was a good idea to construct a bust-thru sign (pictured above) that read, in big rainbow lettering: “Hey Indians, get ready to leave in a Trail of Tears Round 2.″

The sign insensitively refers to the violent relocation of Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw peoples from their lands in 1831 as a result of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The cheerleading team claims that the sign was designed to taunt their school’s opposing football team, the Pinson Valley High School “Indians.”

The administration of McAdory High School was quick to denounce the actions of their school’s cheerleaders without taking any responsibility for the learning environment they created. Principal Tod Humphries released his own statement that closed with a formal apology to Native communities, “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 also claims to be taking steps to re-educate McAdory students about the Trail of Tears. “All social studies and history teachers will re-teach and/or review units concerning Native American displacement following the Indian Removal Act of 1830,” he wrote.

The superintendent for the school district, Dr. Stephen Nowlin, quickly followed with a letter directed to the surrounding community regarding the punishment the cheerleading team will face, as well as a public apology for its actions. “I want to personally apologize for this very sad incident which should never have happened,” Nez Calhoun, the school district’s director of public information, told Native News.

“We can use this unfortunate event as an important teachable moment,” wrote Superintendent Nowlin in his own message on the county school board website.

Here’s a tip, Nowlin et al.: don’t refer to instances of racism against Native peoples as a “teachable moment.” Take some responsibility for the fact that you are at least partially responsible for the creation of that bust-thru sign – and most importantly, the thinking behind it.

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Isabelle Nastasia

organizer, writer, queer. likes: rihanna, cats & beer. also: femme daniel desario. reps youngist and new york students rising.

Catch up with me @izzynastasia.

native rights


high school


November 19, 2013

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