Why this high-school apologized for their Pocahontas-themed homecoming float
Last Thursday, Copper Hills High School in West Jordan, Utah held its annual homecoming parade. This year’s theme was “Once Upon A Time,” so several floats were Disney-themed: students dressed up like Cinderella, Snow White, and the Pirates of the Caribbean. Unfortunately, one group of cheerleaders chose the theme Pocahontas, and proceeded to don inaccurate and cartoonish American Indian outfits and covered their float with tee-pees.
As Fox News reports, many Native American students and community members were vocal about how upset they were seeing their culture misrepresented in the parade. The president of Copper Hills High School’s American Indian Association, Shelby Snyder, created a petition against the Pocahontas-themed float that garnered almost 200 student signatures in 24 hours. “Our culture is not your costume,” the Copper Hills junior said in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune. “When people dress up as Pocahontas, it just makes it seem like they’re mocking our culture and making fun of our culture.”
Shelby had actually expressed apprehensions about the theme to the school’s administration a week before the parade. Blogger and Native American activist James Singer spoke to Fox News about the issue:
While parents of the cheerleaders under fire have insisted that the girls didn’t dress that way with the intent to make fun of anyone’s culture, it doesn’t mean these girls are off the hook. Just because you aren’t aware that an action could seriously upset a group of people doesn’t mean you are not responsible for the hurt you have caused.
Todd Quarnberg, principal of Copper Hills, released a public apology about the matter, urging students to have an open-hearted conversation about cultural appropriation, rather than attacking each other.
“We encourage civil dialogue, rather than negativity,” Quarnberg said in his statement. ” We don’t need threats, we need increased understanding.”
We co-sign this request, taking this hurtful situation and transforming it into a teachable moment seems like a solid way to enlighten students and ensure that this kind of thing won’t happen again in the future.