Viral TikTok Prompts School to Suspend Use of Native American Mascot

A high school's Native American–themed sports mascot has been suspended after a performance went viral on TikTok.

Anderson High School in Anderson, Indiana, recently discovered the viral clip, which was shared on TikTok late last year. In it, students can be seen performing in Native American garb prior to the start of a basketball game, WTHR 13 News reported.

The Anderson Community School District initially defended the mascot, describing it as an homage to Chief William Anderson, the Unalatchgo Lenape tribal leader after whom the town is named. After the Delaware Tribe of Indians urged the school to listen to its concerns, however, the decision was made to suspend the use of the mascot, whose design had been in use for 70 years.

"We are being portrayed by a 10-second TikTok video, without that context, without that understanding," Brad Meadows, a spokesman for the Anderson School District, told WTHR 13. "And so, what we want to be able to provide to the tribal leadership is a complete understanding, a complete history, everything we have done and continue to do to honor our Native American heritage. I think that's been the key message all along—is that we're not ignoring this. We're not brushing it under the rug. We really do want to have these difficult conversations."

indiana school high school mascot
An Indiana high school has suspended the use of its Native American sports mascot after it was the subject of a viral TikTok video last year. Above, a man hold a button at a protest against Native American imagery in sports mascots. Mark Simons/Getty Images

In response to Meadows' remarks, Chief Brad KillsCrow of the Delaware Tribe pointed out that the routines and outfits used by the mascots were not accurate to Anderson or the Lenape people. Furthermore, he suggested that the district needed more education about local Native American cultures and customs.

"The school system has uneducated themselves on this issue," KillsCrow told WTHR 13. "I think that's where the problem lies. We're not pointing the finger at Anderson. We would politely ask to stop using the mascot. I feel our voices haven't been heard. I've been told, 'We need to talk to our stakeholders first. We need to do this before we ever change,' and I'm sitting here telling you this is our culture, our people, our kids are seeing this on TikTok."

KillsCrow spoke further about the claims that the mascots "honored" the local Native American history. He suggested that the district instead erect a statue of Anderson, put up a painting or include more local Native history in its curriculum to honor Chief Anderson. By contrast, he described the mascot as "a mockery before a game."

Anderson is located roughly 40 miles northeast of Indianapolis.

Newsweek reached out to Anderson Community Schools for comment.