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'Racist, culturally insensitive': High school girls basketball team under fire over poster

A high school girls basketball team has been criticised over a poster promoting their upcoming season.

Featuring the girls of the 2016 Clarke basketball team wearing headdresses and war paint, the poster has since been described as 'racist' and 'culturally incorrect'.

According to KCCI, no members of the basketball team are Native American.

Based in Southern Iowa, Vicky Apala-Cuevas of the Oglala Lakota tribe told KCCI that "everything" shown on the poster was culturally incorrect, and painful to look at.

"Everything that I saw on the poster does not in any manner depict Native American women and that's the sad part," Apala-Cuevas said.

"Our women are very beautiful and to be respected."

She said the way the basketball players were dressed was "culturally insensitive."

The poster in full.
The poster in full.

Community members and parents of the players have since defended the poster.

Arminda Cosner, a mother of one team member, defended the poster.

"These girls are representing being ready for the season to come up, being ready and even nowadays it's an empowering message for women all over and these young women are doing it," said Ms Cosner.

Community members and parents of the players said the poster is meant to show how proud they are to be Clarke Indians.

"These girls are representing being ready for the season to come up, being ready and even nowadays it's an empowering message for women all over and these young women are doing it," said Arminda Cosner, who has a daughter on the team.

Apala-Cuevas said she wants people to be educated in order to avoid misinterpretations like those in the poster.

"The saddest part, the part that we feel is most overwhelming and overcoming, is that there's another generation depicting us in an offensive way," Apala-Cuevas said.

The poster has not been distributed yet and is in the process of being reviewed.

Seid said the district will take a further look at it, continue to listen to feedback and make changes if needed.

The photographer who created the poster was later forced to issue the following apology:

“We recently created a Native American themed poster for the Clarke HS Indians - using head dresses and a totem pole. Thank you to all that have let us know that it was offensive to them. At no point would we have created a poster to intentionally disrespect or offend anyone. The intention of each and every one of our images is to encourage the subjects to feel good about themselves and to inspire others through art. It was a mistake on our part to create a poster that offends other cultural practices, their dress and in general. We respectfully removed the image from our site yesterday. We are very sorry."

The Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs said the poster was an unwelcome example of people not understanding Native American culture.

"The poster misused symbols representing a Native culture and spirituality in a disrespectful way," they said in a statement.

"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."

Response on social media to the poster has been mixed.

"If you're offended, get a life," one commenter posted on Facebook.

"You have too much time on your hands. All this political correctness is just plain ridiculous. People and their claims of racism everywhere. Go find your safe place already."

Another commenter, Petra Reyna, disagreed.

"Ignorance at its finest," she wrote on Facebook.

"Education is solely lacking on all levels here. Thank you for a prime and perfect example to demonstrate cultural appropriation and cultural incompetency. This is at the level where people DON'T want to be at."

News break – September 20