Trail of tears banner: Why it prompted apology to Native Americans

Trail of tears: A banner at an Alabama high school football game said "Get ready to leave in a Trail of Tears." School officials issued an apology.

A banner displayed during a high school football game in Alabama that recalled the Trail of Tears shows the need to better educate students nationwide about the Indian removal era, leaders of the Cherokee Nation said Tuesday.

Administrators of McAdory High School in McCalla and Jefferson County schools officials have apologized for a banner that was shown during a Friday night game which said McAdory's opponents, the Pinson Valley Indians, should "Get ready to leave in a Trail of Tears."

"Please accept our sincere apologies to the Native American people and to anyone who was offended by the reference to an event that is a stain on our nation'€™s past forever," wrote Tod Humphries, the principal at McAdory High School, on the school website. Jefferson County Board of Education Superintendent Stephen Nowlin posted his own apology on the county's web site, saying that the school cheerleaders involved in making the sign would face disciplinary action.

The sign recalled the U.S. government's forced removal of more than 15,000 Native Americans from ancestral homes in the Southeast to what is now Oklahoma in 1838 and 1839. Thousands died en route.

Cherokee Nation Principal Bill John Baker said in a statement that he hopes the incident becomes a lesson for educators to teach about the Indian removal era and the resilience of tribes across the country.

"Ironically, the Cherokee Nation is commemorating the 175th anniversary of the start of our Trail of Tears this year," he said. "About 16,000 Cherokees began the trek to Oklahoma from our homelands in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Kentucky, but only 12,000 lived through the harsh conditions that winter."

November is Native American Heritage Month. Baker said the banner's display shows that people need to be better educated about the historical and modern challenges faced by Native American people.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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