It has been 175 years since the "Trail of Tears" took place. But, the atrocities committed against Native Americans from then on still resonate with many people, including Charles Backus.
This past weekend cheerleaders at a McAdory High School football game in McAlla, Alabama held a 20-foot sign that read: "Hey Indians, Get Ready to Leave in a Trail of Tears, Round 2."
The sign has sparked outrage across the country. The Jefferson County school district has apologized for the sign, as well as the principal of McAdory High.
"Specifically, reading the words on the sign "Hey Indians prepare to leave in a Trail of Tears" that to me just screamed absolute ignorance and racism," Backus said. "These symbols instigate further stereotypes. These racial slurs continue to happen against Native Americans because we are seen as an idea instead of a people."
Backus said he called the Jefferson County Superintendent who told him they would institute a vigorous plan to teach the history of Native Americans to its students.
Backus said he wants the course to be rigorous, not just a pop quiz on the subject and that's it. If the district fails to provide an accurate in-depth historical account of the atrocities that plagued Native Americans during that time, he plans to protest outside the school.
"The youth of today are not educated in the true history, in much of the true history of Native American culture," Backus said. "And how the Indian Removal Act of 1830, has influenced, not only the people who walked the Trail of Tears, but Reservation life today.
McAdory Principal Tod Humphries said he accepts full responsibility for not having banners pre-approved before the game.
"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 said in a statement.
The person who typically approves signs is on maternity leave, he said.
According to an excerpt from the National Park Service, the Trail of Tears was a dark period in United States history:
"In 1838, the United States government forcibly removed more than 16,000 Cherokee Indian people from their homelands in Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Georgia, and sent them to Indian Territory (today known as Oklahoma).
The impact to the Cherokee was devastating. Hundreds of Cherokee died during their trip west, and thousands more perished from the consequences of relocation. This tragic chapter in American and Cherokee history became known as the Trail of Tears, and culminated the implementation of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which mandated the removal of all American Indian tribes east of the Mississippi River to lands in the West."
"We are in small towns, we are in big cities, we are on reservations and off reservations, we are around and we are still strong as a people," Backus said.
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