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HS Girls Basketball Team Poster Deemed ‘Disrespectful’

The Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs has called out an Iowa girls basketball team for appearing on a poster in headdresses and war paint.

Players from Clarke High School in Osceola, Iowa, appear as Native Americans on the poster titled “Tribal Family.” The collage includes the players in various Native American dance poses on the bottom of the poster above the team’s season schedule. The school’s mascot is the Indians.

Andy Garman, the sports director at Des Moines TV station KCCI, shared the poster on social media.

“The poster misused symbols representing a Native culture and spirituality in a disrespectful way,” the Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs said in a statement to KCCI. “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 Superintendent Steve Seid told the TV station the poster “is meant as a prideful demonstration of the school embracing its heritage.”

“Really out of total respect for not just the community, but the entire state in general with a Native American background,” Seid said. “No negativity intended at all. Just respecting a rich culture.”

None of the girls on the Clarke basketball team are of Native American descent, KCCI reported.

The owner of Shirk Photography, which was in charge of the photo shoot, told Deadspin that the ideas for the poster came from the company and not the high school. Ben Shirk said the project “seemed no different than a superhero- or samurai-themed poster,” and that “there’s nothing racist about totem poles and war dances,” Deadspin reported.

The poster has not been distributed and is being reviewed, according to KCCI.

“Everything that I saw on the poster does not in any manner depict Native American women, and that’s the sad part,” Vicky Apala-Cuevas of the Oglala Lakota tribe told KCCI. “Our women are very beautiful and to be respected.”

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