Alabama principal apologizes for ‘Trail of Tears’ banner at high school football game (Participation)

Alabama principal apologizes for ‘Trail of Tears’ banner at high school football game

By Simon Moya-Smith, Staff Writer, NBC News

A principal at an Alabama high school apologized Monday for a racially insensitive banner his students used at a football game over the weekend.

Tod Humphries, the principal at McAdory High School in McCalla, Ala., said he takes “full responsibility” for the banner which read, “Hey Indians, get ready to leave in a Trail of Tears Round 2.”

The banner was directed at rival Pinson Valley High Indians.

Humphries emphatically apologized in a statement on the school’s website and noted that Native Americans suffered “horrific atrocities” on the Trail of Tears.

“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 wrote.

Humphries claimed that he did not approve of the banner before it was used at the game and said that “the person who would normally be responsible for approving such signs is out on maternity leave.”

Adrienne Keene, a Ph.D student at Harvard University and the author of Native Appropriations, a blog dedicated to combating the co-opting of Native American culture, told NBC News that she considered the banner nauseating.

“I definitely felt sick to my stomach to see something I consider such an atrocity in the past of my own family,” Keene said.

Keene is citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma whose family were systematically removed from their homelands by the U.S. government during what came to be known as the Trail of Tears between 1838 and 1839.

Thousands of Native Americans from numerous tribes died from exposure and exhaustion as they were marched for more than 230-miles after President Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

The act was passed to force assimilation among Native Americans and to open up millions of acres of land to mostly white settlers.

Keene said the banner is indicative of a failing school system and of how U.S. citizens view Native Americans.

“This is representative of the miseducation in our school systems, especially with regard to Native peoples,” she said. “This points to a lot of underlying issues about how Native Americans are perceived in American society.”

Chase Iron Eyes, a Standing Rock and Oglala Lakota and co-founder of Last Real Indians, a website devoted to providing a platform for Native American writers, told NBC News that the banner prompted “expected shock” throughout Indian country.

“When institutions and sports organizations have Indians as mascots or monikers the unavoidable result is racially or socio-politically driven offensive material,” he wrote in an email.

Humphries ended his apology with a commitment to teaching his students about the Trail of Tears.

“In response to the ‘bust thru’ sign used by McAdory High School during the Round 2 State Play-Off game versus Pinson Valley High School, 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.

Still, Keene felt the banner was a brazen comparison and said this form of insensitivity toward Native Americans is ubiquitous in American culture.

“Comparing the loss of a football game to the loss of over 5,000 Native Americans is not something I take lightly,” she said.

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6 thoughts on “Alabama principal apologizes for ‘Trail of Tears’ banner at high school football game (Participation)

  1. I think that all Indian mascots should be banned from the United States, or that there should be certain restrictions when choosing mascots. If they were banned, then nothing like this would ever happen to offend Native Americans in the first place. The Trail of Tears banner is the equivalent to writing on a banner, “Hey Jews, get ready to leave your homes and die”. Any mascot that is a specific race is extremely offensive, and it should be illegal for any teams to have mascots like that. The ending quote in this article sums it up perfectly, “Comparing the loss of a football game to the loss of over 5,000 Native Americans is not something I take lightly”.

  2. Reading about the trail of tears banner that the McAdory High School in McCalla ,Alabama put on for their football game is a disappointment to their school because putting up a banner that is probably a sore subjects to native Americans is racists in so many ways . We don’t know what it feels like to go through something like the trail of tears where someone is making you leave your home. Even though they are playing against a Native American school they should have thought it through before putting a degrading banner at the game that the Native American people did who attended would see and even for the ones who didn’t attend. Also reading about how the people who attend McAdory High School are learning about the subject again so they know that what they put on the banner is not okay. Maybe the reviewing of this topic can be a huge statement for them so they know that the Native Americans suffered “horrific atrocities” on the trail of tears. What I want to know if they knew about the trail of tears and read what the Native Americans went through during this period. Why put something like that on a banner that is public but even if It was not public it is still a problem. When PH.D student Adrienne Keene said that she considered the banner nauseating I would think that many Native Americans are thinking that. Especially the members of the Cherokee nation whose families were affect by the trail of tears. i think they are also affected by the mascots that some of the schools have how some of them are being mocked or made fun of and that not okay.

  3. I have to admit I was shocked when I read this article the first time. I could not believe that the sign touched a subject that was so sensitive and not only disrespectful but humiliating to both sides of the issue. Yet the more I thought about how students, younger than I was, could write something so horrific and be okay with themselves to release it in front of so many people lead me to an idea; an idea and thought that we have been covering all semester in class. They were ignorant. I do not believe this was a purposely harmful act. Yes they did know that it was a bash on their Indian mascot but I do not think (in classic teenager fashion) about the consequences beyond the school mascot, they did not think about the racial disrespect it would have again thousands of people in our country. When you have mascots such as the “Indians” or “red skins” it sets people up to deliver racists and extremely offensive material. There should be no mascots of references to any race because like we discuss in class, it doesn’t make a difference to any race except the one its targeting. As the principle apologized and stated that the one who usually checks off the signs was on maternity leave it only makes sense that they are doing a re-teaching of the Trail of Tears in their history classes. If the students would have been fully knowledgeable of this tragedy they would have not needed anyone to check it off because they wouldn’t have even considered it as a phrase in the first place. Like mentioned at the end of the article, comparing the loss of a football game to the loss of over 5,000 Native Americans is not something to be taken lightly.

  4. This article is really unfortunate because I really believe that the people who mad the sign meant no harm to Native Americans across the United States. Is it offensive? Yes. Is it wrong? Yes. But did the kids realize they were talking about a trail that killed the equivalent to their population? No because they would not have used the sign in the first place. But none the less the sign is a teaching point that proves that racism does not affect anyone besides the race that is the subject.
    I can relate to the high school that used the inappropriate banner. They probably have a lot of spirit and wanted to be cleaver just like my high school did and so many others still do. It just so happened that their opponent is a sore subject and using their name in the wrong way can really hurt people.
    So is that the other schools fault? If they did not have this name for a school mascot then this article would never of existed and no one would be offended at all by what a school put on a banner. That is why I think that race should be 100% out of sports. It has done nothing but cause problems for races and everyone involved. To me it seems like an easy solution to change mascots for schools. It cannot cost much money and it can make both sides happy. No one ever gets to pick their own mascot so maybe you could make it fun and have the student body vote on a variety of names. That way everyone is happy.

  5. When I first read the sign I was honestly shocked. It is not only degrading to the opposing school but also to the people who made the sign. The trail of tears is not something to be taken lightly and most certainly shouldn’t be compared to a football game. Although I would say the principal handled the situation pretty well. He acknowledged what was wrong and is trying to fix the issue by educating the students on a more in-depth level about the Native American displacement following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

  6. This article immediately caught my attention and reminded me of the time we were in class and looked at all of the sport mascots. We got a chance to see old inappropriate slogans used as well as the “look-alike” images of the Indian mascot face. It was honestly never something I even considered before I took this course. I never would have thought it could be so offensive, mostly because it has never happened to me. I think that understanding what it feels like could really change the perspective we take. I truly feel for those who are offended by these kinds of posters and images used in the sport world but people really are over attacking the intentions. These students I don’t believe were looking to get a roar from those offended by the Trail of Tears. As an experienced high school leadership activist, I know that making posters was supposed to be funny and a way to attack and get big attention from competitors. Rivalries are extremely common where people often take things out of conduct and way to far. It does become personal in almost every circumstance and that is what these students didn’t understand. This problem is so reoccurring. As a Cheney High School alumnae our mascot was the Indian tribe the Blackhawks. We didn’t have crazy illustrations, but rather real photos. We had no crazy guy in a costume running around with posters or fans with painted faces and feathers. It is just common courtesy by those who could be offended. I think that the principle did the right thing and have students be taught history that really hits home to a lot of peers. If a school were to put up a poster referring to a tragedy we had, like 9/11 in a comical perspective there would be a huge uproar. It was something we experienced and takes us back to a time we would never want to relive. That is what students need to understand.

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