When McAdory High (McCalla, Ala.) used a pre-game run-through sign that featured a "Trail of Tears" reference to belittle an opponent with the nickname of Indians, the sign and cheerleaders who made it were attacked for their insensitivity and crass decision. It turns out that McAdory wasn’t alone. On the very same night a school one state to the north also used a sign painted with the words "Trail of Tears" to poke fun at an opposing Indians squad.
As first reported by the magazine Mother Jones, Dyersburg (Tenn.) High cheerleaders held up a large sign emblazoned with Trail of Tears and held it in the direction of the Northside High fans (Jackson, Tenn.). Like McAdory’s foe, Pinson Valley High, Northside’s teams play as the Indians.
While there was no press attention regarding the sign during its use, Mother Jones writer Tim Murphy first noticed the sign posted on the Dyersburg Facebook page in a gallery from Dyersburg's 37-14 victory against Northside. When Murphy reached out to Dyersburg principal Jon Frye, he said that officials were unaware of the posted picture, but that he would immediately have it removed.
The principal was good to his word and the photo was swiftly removed, though not before it could be captured off Facebook by onlookers.
For his part, Frye said that the school had acted quickly after being informed of the Trail of Tears sign. Frye spoke with students who were responsible for the sign and explained why their sign was so offensive.
"Largely I tried to draw a parallel between persecuted population groups," Frye told Mother Jones. "You would not take African Americans and try to draw a parallel to an event in which a lot of African American people had died."
That’s precisely what both Dyersburg and McAdory cheerleaders did, which has led to renewed calls for more education about the tragic events of the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of Native Americans from the American Southeast to Oklahoma. Meanwhile, the incidents have reinforced how nicknames like Indians and Redskins can lead to other culturally insensitive actions.
"I haven't given that one a ton of thought, I know, but I guess you could make the logical connection if they weren't named Indians then you couldn't have this particular situation," Frye told Mother Jones. "I suppose there's some truth to that."
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