Woman Calls Out School's 'Racist' Routine During Sports Game in Viral Video

A viral video of a performance during a basketball game at an Indiana high school has viewers disgusted after two students dressed in traditional Native American clothing and danced.

Sarah Holba, who goes by the username @rradredgina, posted a video of the students culturally appropriating Native culture by having two students dress as the high school's official mascot "the Indian" and "the Maiden."

The video, titled "what in the #culturalappropriation" received more than 146,000 views and 3,800 comments since it was posted on February 22.

Cultural appropriation is the act of taking aspects of an oppressed or minority group's culture without permission. WeRNative, a health resource for Native youth, provides resources to youth struggling to fight Native cultural appropriation.

WeRNative recommends individuals who see individuals appropriating Native culture start a conversation about why what they are doing is harmful and disrespectful, although the conversations can be uncomfortable.

"I literally hate Indiana," the on-screen text read as Holba showed a student dressed in a reconstruction of a traditional Native American headdress running across the high school's basketball court.

Holba told Newsweek the incident occurred at Anderson High School in Anderson, Indiana, on February 22. Although Holba has no association with the school, she was attending a basketball game for the school's senior night when she started recording the school's mascot.

In the video, a male and female student stood in the middle of the basketball court dressed as Native Americans including war paint, feathers, and a large feathered headdress.

At one point during warm-ups for the basketball game, the two individuals stood in the middle of a group of cheerleaders as the male student pretended to blow a peace pipe.

"I have had several students at Anderson comment and reach out to me saying that this has gone on historically for years at the school," Holba said. "When students tried to speak up in the past, the staff/administration ignored it and they were harassed by other students."

The next part of the video shows the two individuals standing under a spotlight on the basketball court performing a choreographed dance mocking traditional Native American dance.

Che Jim, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, said he was completely appalled when he saw Holba's video. He told Newsweek that he lives just outside of Anderson and that he has seen many problems in the way people portray indigenous people.

"The halftime performance, with a mock 'ceremony' with a fake pipe, which they refer to as a 'peace pipe' and the fake feathers on a fake headdress was on a whole other level," Jim said.

He explained that up until 1978, indigenous spiritual ceremonial practices were considered illegal. Yet, Jim explained that Anderson High School and the "Indian and Maiden" mascots were founded in 1873.

"Meaning, that school and these extremely offensive and derogatory portrayals of native people had more legal right to exist than us real Indigenous did for 149 years," Jim said. "They claim they are honoring native people yet have no written permissions or consent from any local tribe in the state despite claims that they do."

Jim said he reached out to the school's administrators and received an email reply from the Director of District & Community Engagement Brad Meadows. Jim said the email stated they had explicit permission from a single family and that not all Indigenous groups agree with the removal of the school's name or performance.

According to Jim, Meadows stated in the email that the district "realize that some will remain offended" and that this is "unfortunate as we desire to promote understanding, appreciation of our diverse social and cultural history" through collaboration."

"They want to honor native people but don't want to listen when we speak, or when the actual tribal nations speak, or give us control over our image or name," Jim said.

More than 3,800 users commented on Holba's video, many were "disgusted" by the blatant cultural appropriation.

"As a Lenape person if you want to defend this I can tell you rn that this is extremely disrespectful and in no way honors us," one user commented.

"What's f***ed up is that there was a fully grown adult that okay'd this routine and went yup looks great let's go," another user wrote.

"As a native this hurt to watch, i can't believe i heard clapping while they were mocking our dances," another commenter wrote.

But other users defended the performance, stating that there is a deep history in the town and that the school was given "permission" to name the school after Chief Anderson and have their mascot be "The Indian."

"Educate yourself before judging a lifelong tradition from the natives who made Anderson what it is," one user wrote. "It's ok to not understand the tradition."

Many were quick to respond to the user stating that just because something was a tradition didn't mean it wasn't offensive or even racist.

As Holba explained to Newsweek, the performance is a school tradition at home games due to the history of the town. The town was named after Chief William Anderson of the Lenape-Delaware tribe, however, he died before Anderson High School was founded in 1873.

Jim said he has been in contact with the Potawatomi, Delaware and Shawnee tribal nations and all of them said they did not have knowledge about the high school's depiction of Indigenous Peoples. He said they have actually publicly made statements condoning the school's derogatory native imagery.

"You claim you want to honor Indigenous people, history, and dialog. However, you will not surrender our own image and titles back to us," Jim said. "What you're doing is proven to damage the mental well-being of indigenous children. The same indigenous children that you claim you're honoring. Yet you do not listen."

Newsweek reached out to the Anderson Community Schools District but did not hear back in time for publication.

High school pep rally
An Indiana high school is facing backlash after footage of a recent performance portraying the school's mascot "The Indian" at a basketball game went viral. JennyPPhoto/iStock