A photo that made the rounds on Twitter Sunday evening has sparked backlash against a cheerleading squad from the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada.
The squad tweeted a photo taken during a practice event that showed 18 girls wearing cowboy costumes and “Indian” themed regalia. The squad members wore clothing that looked like pieced-together buckskin dresses, parted their hair and wore long braids, and put on headbands with feathers in their hair.
Valerie Timmons, the president of the university, said that the cheerleading coach has apologized for the team’s “culturally inappropriate themes and costumes.
"Further steps will require that the team's coaches and team members discuss this matter as a group with the university's Executive Lead on Indigenization and take cultural sensitivity training," Timmons's said in a statement. "Once these discussions have taken place, the university will determine whether further disciplinary actions are required."
A second photo of the squad was posted on Instagram with hashtags: CowboysAndIndians, BattleScene and cheerleading.
The photo was also posted on Instagram and received 44 likes before it was removed. U of R faculty, staff and students were outraged by the photo.
"I was disturbed by the image, and I thought that the team, like all of us who live in Saskatchewan, likely need formal education on the topic," Andrea Sterzuk, an associate professor, told CBC.ca, "because treating First Nations and Métis women as a costume objectifies them, and that behavior, I think, contributes to their dehumanization, which is a larger problem that I think all Canadians need to be concerned about."
Ryan Deschamps, a doctoral student at the university, toldCBC.ca, "I thought we were kind of past this issue. I think it was something that we've seen in the news that's obviously insensitive to certain people and I don't understand how that actually happened."
At least 10 percent of the students at the university are of aboriginal descent. It is also home to the First Nations University of Canada.
Someone using the @UofRCheer Twitter account responded to the backlash on Saturday: “We apologize for the photos, they have been removed from all of our social media. Our last intention was to disrespect anyone.”