The Clarke High School “Indians” girls basketball team has a lot of explaining to do about a recent promotional poster, which has the girls—none of whom are of Native descent—dressed in headdresses, doing a war dance, and posing around a totem pole. Look, we know Coachella is popular, but the look was wrong there too.Deadspin reports that the idea for the shoot came from the company that took the photos, Shirk Photography, whose owner Ben Shirk said “the school mascots are selected by their honor and basically pride that it brings the school. If I was a Native American—I feel there was no disrespect intended. It was done to be a unique and fun poster.” However, commenters on the Facebook page for local news station KCCI are responding to that sentiment with a solid “nope.”
“My father played basketball in high school just like these ladies. But unlike most players, he was discriminated for being an Indian, not a mascot. He was always treated with racial slurs and warhoops at basketball games wherever he played. Does that happen to you?,” asked one commenter.The Iowa Commission for Native Affairs told KCCI "The poster misused symbols representing a Native culture and spirituality in a disrespectful way. This is a young team that probably did not intentionally mean to be disrespectful; they may not realize that portraying a racial minority group in a stereotypical manner is not appropriate. We hope that the school and other individuals recognize that this poster reinforces and perpetuates offensive imagery and stereotypes of our culture."
Clarke Community Schools has not commented on the poster on social media, but people have also taken directly to their Facebook page, which features their Indian mascot prominently as the banner image, to complain about the poster. As one commenter put it, “The Clarke Community School District Board of Education has adopted a policy stating that ‘the right of all students and staff to be treated with respect and to be protected from intimidation, discrimination, physical harm and harassment.’ Your mascot puts you in violation of your own policy.”