Inappropriate “Trail of Tears” Sign Brings Discipline to Cheerleading Squad

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

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

MCCALLA, ALABAMA – An inappropriate bust-thru sign that read “Hey Indians, get ready to leave in a Trail of Tears Round 2” during a state football play-off game last Friday evening has resulted in an apology on Monday from school officials in McCalla, Alabama.

McCalla, a town with a population of just over 14,000, is located 21 miles from Birmingham, Alabama, Only 30 of the town’s citizens are American Indian.

The controversial sign was made by the cheerleader squad for McAdory High School  football players to break through it as they ran out onto the football field in a weekend football game versus the Pinson Valley Indians.

The mission of McAdory High School is to guide the development of all students so that they will become lifelong learners, prepared to function in an ever changing global society, according to the school’s website.

The Trail of Tears was where in 1831, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee Creek, and Seminole (sometimes collectively referred to as the Five Civilized Tribes) were living as autonomous nations in what is now known as the American South, were marched westward from the southeast portion of the United States to Oklahoma.

To American Indians, the history of the Trail of Tears is not a funny matter.

On the McAdory High School website, Principal Tod Humphries said he accepts “full responsibility that arrangements were not made to have the signs pre-approved before the ballgame.”

Here is a complete text of his apology:

Monday, November 18, 2013

To Whom It May Concern:

On 11/15/2013 at a football game at McAdory High School, a sign was displayed that made reference to the “Trail of Tears” in which Native Americans were subjected to horrific atrocities. This was not condoned by the school administration, the Jefferson County Board of Education or the community. The person who would normally be responsible for approving such signs is out on maternity leave, and I take full responsibility that arrangements were not made to have the signs pre-approved before the ballgame. 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.

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.


Tod Humphries

On the Jefferson County Schools website, Dr. Stephen Nowlin, superintendent, writes the following:

The cheerleading squad will be disciplined. The sponsor of the cheerleaders was on maternity leave and the sign was not approved in advance by the school administration. The principal is asking all social studies teachers to teach each grade a lesson about the real Trail of Tears. We can use this unfortunate event as an important teachable moment. We apologize to all Native Americans and to any person who  was offended. Our curriculum department will ensure that all students in the future will have a lesson on the Trail of Tears.

Superintendent Dr. Stephen Nowlin

“I want to personally apologize for this very sad incident which should never have happened,” commented Nez Calhoun, director of public information for the school district to the Native News Online Monday afternoon.

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