North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

November 18, 2013

Time for a history lesson: McAdory, JefCoEd apologize for "trail of tears" banner at Pinson Valley game

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

McCALLA, Ala. — The banners that cheerleaders make for high school football teams to run through before games usually have innocuous messages, or at worst just silly.

But the banner that McAdory supporters held up before their second-round playoff game against Pinson Valley has brought nationwide attention, and apologies from both the school and the Jefferson County superintendent, because of a play on words that turned out to be insensitive toward Native Americans.

The banner bore the message, "Hey Indians, get ready to leave in a trail of tears Round 2." (Pinson Valley's nickname is the Indians, and a student dressed as a Native American serves as a mascot.)

Photos of the banner shot before the Yellow Jackets broke through it quickly spread through online social media such as Tumblr, Buzzfeed and Facebook.

The original Trail of Tears was the forced removal of several Native American tribes from the eastern United States to territories in what is now Oklahoma during the 1830s. The forced march, which included many from the Cherokee and Creek nations in east and north Alabama, resulted in thousands of deaths along the journey.

On Monday, both McAdory Principal Tod Humphries and JefCoEd Superintendent Dr. Stephen Nowlin posted apologies on the system's website.

"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," Humphries' statement read.

"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," Nowlin's statement said.

The Yellow Jackets defeated the Indians 34-14 in their AHSAA Class 5A second round game.