'Pocahontas' float in high school parade sparks outrage

A group of American Indians who attended the Copper Hills High School homecoming parade were offended by a "Pocahontas" float that they say negatively portrayed their culture.

A group of Native American students who attended the Copper Hills High School homecoming parade in West Jordan, Utah were offended by a “Pocahontas” float that they say negatively portrayed their culture.

According to KSTU, the theme of the parade was Disney films, and there were floats that featured several Disney princesses, such as Mulan, Snow White and Cinderella. However, when a float came out that was supposed to represent Pocahontas, many in attendance were offended by the stereotypical clothing and teepees.

Shelby Snyder, President of the school’s American Indian Association, called the float disrespectful and demeaning and gathered 190 signatures from students to show to the principal.

The principal, Todd Quarnberg, for his part, has since apologized. He also issued a statement to KSTU publicly apologizing for the backlash. Quarnberg said, in part:

Copper Hills High is sorry for the insensitivity that caused our Native American brothers and sisters or anyone else to be offended.

In regard to sensitivity toward Native Americans, the school is taking action to ensure that no individual from any culture is singled out in a negative way.  We admit this was not culturally sensitive. Current online discussions can be unproductive. We encourage civil dialogue, rather than negativity.  We don’t need threats we need increased understanding.

There have been several public apologies, numerous meetings with students and parents who took offense and the school is speaking with Native American leaders in the community to help educate our students and staff.  Copper Hills High embraces diversity and we want an inclusive environment for every student.

We are in the business of education and will learn from this mistake and use it to educate our students and staff. We teach students to stand up for what they believe in but we also need to protect those students. We have a Native American club at Copper Hills High and we will work with them and include them as we move forward through this process.

“Racism today looks like this,” Native American activist and blogger James singer told KSTU. “This is 21st century racism. It’s different than looking at something like Chip and Dale or Mickey Mouse dressing up as that. It’s not the same as someone’s culture. We’re looking at all the natives throughout all the Americas and saying, ‘look we can boil you down and centralize you to this costume and make you look like a fool.'”