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Native American Students Demanded An Apology Over A Pocahontas-Themed Homecoming Float

The administration was warned it was a bad idea.

Halloween is right around the corner, so maybe it's time for a refresher course on what costumes are okay and which ones are totally not. Like, for instance, when you get that urge to wear a Native American headdress just for fun? Not cool.

Also not cool? Packing your float for the high school homecoming parade with cheerleaders dressed as Pocahontas surrounded by teepees.

That's what reportedly happened last Thursday at Copper Hills High School in West Jordan, Utah. And it upset a number of American Indian students who attend the school and felt their culture was being misrepresented by their fellow Grizzlies, some of whom also lined the Disney-themed parade route dressed as other Disney characters such as Snow White, pirates, beasts, Mulan and Cinderella.

(MTV News is not posting images of the students on the float out of respect to the public wishes of some of their parents.)

'Disrespectful' Costumes Lead To Principal's Apology

Shelby Snyder, the president of the school's American Indian Association, called the costumes "disrespectful and demeaning toward Native American culture," according to Fox13 Salt Lake City. So, she gathered nearly 200 student signatures on a petition the next night at the school's homecoming football game and delivered them to principal Todd Quarnberg.

Snyder told the Salt Lake Tribune that she'd warned the administration a week before the parade that the float was a bad idea. Principal Quarnberg reportedly posted an apology on the school's Facebook page on Monday (which has since been removed) in which he acknowledged that the float was culturally insensitive.

"Our culture is not your costume," Copper Hills junior Snyder told the Tribune. "When people dress up as Pocahontas, it just makes it seem like they're mocking our culture and making fun of our culture."

'This Was Not Culturally Sensitive'

Fox13 posted a statement from Quarnberg in which he expressed regret over the float.

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

The homecoming parade had a Disney theme, which was 'Once Upon a Time.' There were approximately 20 floats that included Pirates of the Caribbean, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney Princesses, Mulan, Pocahontas, Peter Pan and others.

Administration, parents and staff involved were devastated to learn that others were offended and hurt by the Pocahontas float. I have offered several public and private apologies to those 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.

Quarnberg said the school will be working with the the Copper Hills Native American club in the future to make sure they are included in discussions on how the institution can be more inclusive going forward. MTV News has reached out to Quarnberg for additional comment, but had not heard back at press time.

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