Trails of Tears Lesson: Anti-Semitism, Gay Hatred, Native “Learning Opportunity?”

Inappropriate sign used in last Friday's football playoff game.

Inappropriate sign used in last Friday’s football playoff game.


Guest Commentary

I am Native, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. I also played three college sports successfully and I work for the public school system in Indian Education. I know the nature of the court, the field, and the classroom.

When I first saw the bust-thru sign that read “Hey Indians, get ready to leave in a Trail of Tears Round 2” used on a football field by the McAdory High football team as they ran out on to the field for a state playoff game against Pinson Valley Indians, I was outraged.

Being Native in today’s society, I also am aware of the full extent of McAdory High School’s actions…or lack thereof.

Sorry cheerleaders of McAdory, if by any chance you are the scapegoat, this could be the wake-up call you, your school, and school district may need. Consider this the lessoned learned:

McAdory, you say “sorry” and “re-teach,” but teach with the same incompetence that allowed your students to do this in the first place? This is unacceptable.

First of all, I do not see how any of this is different than a student threatening a teacher’s life or a peer’s life whom is still living? That student would go to jail, be kicked out of school, or go to a detention facility simply based on the gravity and magnitude of the words expressed. Today this fear of murder in our schools is greater than ever. How then was Friday night any different?  It is unbelievable to write off the genocide known as the Trail of Tears as a “learning opportunity.” This cheerleading squad glorified the horrific massacre of my ancestors for the sake of sports and the 2nd round of playoffs.

Despite its form and despite the ignorance claimed, they directly praised and glorified the murdering of a people group that still exists…my family and all that comprise the Nations of Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole, and Creek. We, natives, are not something of the past and a history lesson.

McAdory, you say, “sorry” and “reteach?” What exactly are you teaching them?

When it comes to sports, political correctness is applied selectively. What if the words “rape” and “murder” were used? These terms are used to describe how awful the opponent suffered on the playing field or court, expressing the brutality of which one team “destroys” another. Anyone in the sports world can testify to this, as do I, therefore finding the cheerleaders’ actions not guilty of ignorance, but fully charged with the lack of conscience for Native American people. Would these same cheerleaders make a banner with the words “rape” and “murder” on it? These cheerleaders knew what they were doing.

There are two kinds of criminals: those that commit the crime and those that stand by and watch as the crime is committed…and do nothing.

This action was clearly endorsed by both teams including “The Indians” of Pinson Valley High School, for simply indignifying the native community as a mascot to be taunted. Every single soul that watched and read that banner as it was being erected before the game last Friday night endorsed it by doing nothing.

Obviously, this lack of conscience goes beyond the squad and beyond the school.

In Wetumpka, Alabama the desecration of federally protected and historically sacred native land is being destroyed in the name of economic development. Maybe you’ve heard of Hickory Ground? Where the excavated remains of Creeks were dumped and discarded.

I believe that if any of these crimes were anti-Semitic, against the gay and lesbian community, or any other people group, that something much greater and more drastic would have been done to rectify the situation.

We are not a thing of the past. We are not a history lesson. There is no justice for the damage done and pain caused, what is lost is lost. But where’s the remorse and the repentance that brings change? I call for adequate and comparable change. Change equal to the measure of the offense of that now infamous Friday night football fiasco. We must be beyond certain that this will never happen again.

We will never grow as people until true sportsmanship, education, and victory is realized in standing up for what is right and being upright which is worth far more than tearing down an upright.

Linda Sacks is a tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. She is a contributing writer for the Native News Online.


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