A miniature float designed for Coweta High School’s indoor homecoming parade has sparked outrage with Native Americans across the community that has spread to include a national audience.
A photo of the float appeared on social media Thursday afternoon. It was a covered wagon with the words “Scalp the Indians” on the side, with a mannequin of a Native American man hanging out from the back end.
The Coweta Tigers are hosting the Catoosa Indians in homecoming football action Friday night.
In a Facebook message to the Wagoner County American-Tribune, Sierra Bowen said she was “completely disgusted at the fact that Coweta High School has decorated this wagon for their homecoming.”
“I grew up in and graduated from Coweta and I was raised much better than this,” Bowen wrote. “I did not want to come home to my home school for homecoming and see something like this on the field. This is so disrespectful.”
Katrina Jacuk posted a similar sentiment on the Coweta American Facebook page.
“Leadership at Coweta High School has permitted this to be displayed at the high school. How ignorant are these educators and students as to the history of our town, Koweta, along with the genocide of Natives that have been murdered since 1491?” Jacuk wrote in her post. “This is disgraceful and morally repugnant and creates a hostile environment for Native students at our school.”
Friday morning, Coweta Superintendent Jeff Holmes told the newspaper the homecoming float issue was brought to his attention after school on Thursday.
“The high school principal (Gary Ellis) was notified via social media and he immediately took action to find out about the float and investigate,” Holmes told the American-Tribune in an exclusive interview. “He let me know that he immediately disassembled the float. As soon as he found about it, he was taking action.”
The superintendent said students have been making floats all week throughout the entire school. Investigation continues to determine who was involved in making the float and its theme.
Early Friday via internet and social media, Holmes released a statement addressed to Coweta Public School students, families, friends and neighbors.
“I am very sorry that this happened as there is no excuse for this in our school. Please know that this does not reflect the values of our school district,” Holmes wrote. “I offer my most sincere apology to all who were offended and want to assure that we will use this situation to educate our students regarding the importance of respecting all cultures.”
“We have been getting phone calls and emails from across the country. People are offended and rightfully so,” Holmes said. “The high school principal and I are visiting to make sure that everything is double and triple checked to make sure there are no negative meanings on any of the floats, that no signs that will be offensive at the ballgame or that our student section will be doing anything that will be offensive.”
“We have a lot of great kids. This is not a school-wide activity where everyone was trying to offend someone,” Holmes said. “This one particular float is very offensive. It was never part of a parade and we caught it before the parade happened. But we didn’t know about it until then, and we have no excuses. No excuses.”
The superintendent said there will be training for students and staff as needed, and “if disciplinary action is needed, that will take place as well.”
“It’s totally disrupted the school day for hundreds of students, and it’s been very offensive to the people inside Coweta and to people around the world and in our great state,” Holmes said.
The superintendent said he has reached out to leaders within the Muscogee (Creek) nation and the Cherokee Nation about the matter. As of 12 noon, he was still waiting to speak with them directly.
As Simon Moya-Smith said, It’s a putrid effigy of the dehumanization of Native Americans, the result of a ubiquitous colonial narrative. I’m glad the school has responded the way it did, but someone had this idea, someone put this float together, and there had to be an adult floating about somewhere, who saw and did not stop this. Seeing something like this is a bone deep shock, and this is not a matter of sniffy offense, it’s a matter of trauma. Think of the Native kids who saw this, think of what something like this does to their world, what it does to any sense of trust they may have had. Whoever was responsible for this, every person responsible, including those who turned a blind eye and kept silent, you should be shamed, loudly and openly. It’s of little moment that this float didn’t make their parade, because it did make the internet, and whatever damage the person responsible wanted to do was done. And no, this was not a fucking joke, of any kind, in any way, I don’t care if it had to do with precious sportsball. This is fucking poison. *spits*