Cedar High School in Cedar City, Utah, is under fire for a recent halftime performance at a basketball game in which the school’s drill team dressed up in faux Native American attire replete with feather headbands and braided wigs.
The performers danced to drum music while waving around feathered hoops and ribbon wands while an eagle cry can be heard in the background. The school’s mascot is the “Redmen,” allegedly meant to represent Native Americans in the area, according to the school’s website.
Teyawnna Sanden, a concerned mother of one of the basketball players, and a member of the Kaibab Paiute Tribe, recorded the performance and posted it to her Facebook page.
“I felt Cedar City ‘Redmen’s’ halftime performance was offensive!” she says in the post. “Honor our sovereignty, honor our treaties/executive, honor us by getting cultural diversity training! But please stop with this!” The post has since garnered over 20,000 views and has been shared 301 times as of Thursday afternoon.
ICTMN reached out to the Iron County School District, which Cedar High School belongs to, but Superintendent Shannon Dulaney was not available.
Teyawnna Sanden comments on the "offensive" halftime performance she witnessed. Image courtesy Facebook.com.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Dulaney said in a prepared statement that school administrators and local tribal leaders have long enjoyed a mutually respectful relationship. She stated that drill team leadership and the tribal council met a couple months ago and “drill team leadership came away from the meeting with the understanding that full support had been given to the dance.”
Dulaney also noted that the “costumes” as she calls them, “were intended to portray honor and respect for the Native American culture.”
The Paiute Tribal Council says otherwise.
The council asked that any routine be run by the tribe first before it was performed in public, and the team never followed up with them, Kiersten Nuñez of Fox 13 Salt Lake City reported.
Sanden notes that the school’s mascot may have contributed to the lack of awareness regarding Native American cultural appropriation. “When you have a mascot like Redmen, it is bound to bring that type of behavior again,” she told Fox 13. “It might stop now for the next year or month or two, but it will happen again because that's their mascot.”
The school district told Fox 13 the dance will not be performed again, and they will continue to work with the Paiute Tribe to create a relationship of respect and trust.
Meanwhile, an increased number of NFL fans agree that it’s time to change the name of the Washington team, according to a new poll.
Earlier this month, Public Policy Polling found in a national survey that young people and minorities are rapidly growing in favor of changing the name of the Washington NFL team, which is defined in the dictionary as “a contemptuous term used to refer to a North American Indian.”
Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation Representative and leader of the Change the Mascot campaign, said “more and more Americans want the National Football League to start respecting people of color and stop marketing a dictionary-defined racial slur.”
“The context of this trend is significant,” he said in a press release. “We are in the midst of an historic election in which we have seen deep generational and racial divides on the major issues of the day – and this poll about the Washington franchise proves that those divides go way beyond the electoral arena. Young people and communities of color are a major part of the future of this country – and they are making a strong statement that the future must be about civility, tolerance and respect, not about promoting racially charged epithets.”
In response to the poll, Tara Houska, Ojibwe, and an advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign, said that “it is unsurprising that young people and people of color recognize a racial slur.”
“No matter the intent, it is unacceptable,” she added. “Native Americans have fought this slur in the courts for almost a quarter of a century. We've fought them in the court of public opinion for decades. Young people are the progressive future, people of color tend to quickly recognize that redface and stereotypes are harmful.”
Historically, the term ‘redskin’ was used as an identifier for the bounty, that is buying and selling, of Native American scalps.
Culture Editor Simon Moya-Smith contributed to this report.