ANDERSON, Ind. — The Anderson Community School Corporation is reviewing its use of an Indian as its mascot following backlash over a viral video posted to TikTok.
The video shows two students dressed up as an Indian chief and maiden performing a ceremony with a pipe and then a dance before a basketball game.
“It was disappointing, but not surprising that it was happening,” Sarah Holba, who shot the video, said.
Holba was attending the game and recorded the video. She posted it on TikTok where it’s been viewed nearly a million times.
“The Anderson student section got really into it. You had the pep band playing,” Holba said. “I asked some people around me who said ‘oh, Anderson has been doing this forever.'”
The video prompted backlash towards the school district. So much so that the district put the pre-game ritual on hold.
“We’re taking this very seriously,” Superintendent Joseph Cronk said. “You know it’s always our intent to honor our Native American tradition and maybe that was ignorant. Maybe we don’t know what we’re honoring. Maybe we’re not honoring at all.”
The district formed an internal committee to review the use of the Indian mascot on everything from buildings to letterhead.
The mascot originated from Chief William Anderson, who the city of Anderson is named for. The superintendent said the district has always used the mascot with the blessing of the chief’s ancestors.
“It really incites an environment that is hostile, that is dangerous and damaging,” said Rachel Thunder, director of the Indiana and Kentucky Chapter of the American Indian Movement.
Groups including the Delaware Tribe and the American Indian Movement have spoken out against the ritual and the Indian mascot. Thunder said it further exploits the culture of people who have been abused since the arrival of the early settlers.
“They teach non-native children that it’s acceptable to participate in culturally abusive behavior and perpetuate inaccurate misconceptions,” Thunder said.
The district said it will consult with Native American leaders before making a final decision.
On social media, Holba said some members of the Anderson community have spoken against changing the mascot.
Thunder said just because it’s tradition, doesn’t make it right.