A Disney-themed homecoming parade at Copper Hills High School in West Jordan, Utah, sparked a firestorm after one of the floats featured cheerleaders dressed as Pocahontas.
Offended by the display, the Copper Hills American Indian Student Association started a petition calling for cultural awareness and collected nearly 200 signatures, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
"Our culture is not your costume," said Copper Hills junior Shelby Snyder, the association's president. "When people dress up as Pocahontas, it just makes it seem like they're mocking our culture and making fun of our culture.”
"I informed the administration before [the parade] that I thought what they were doing was wrong," she added. Snyder was allegedly told there was not enough time to change the float.
Principal Todd Quarnberg has since apologized and admitted the float was insensitive to Native American culture.
“Administration, parents and staff involved were devastated to learn that others were offended and hurt by the Pocahontas float,” he wrote in a statement to FOX 13. "I have offered several public and private apologies to those offended."
Matt Hunsaker, father of one of the cheerleaders, said the costumes were a non-issue and that they didn’t get to pick them.
"These girls did not go out there with any intentions, whatsoever, to offend any culture," he said.
However, Utah blogger and Native American activist James Singer argued that the costumes were racist and hyper-sexualized versions of Native American culture.
"Racism today looks like this," he wrote in an article about the Pocahontas float, according to FOX 13. "This is 21st century racism. It’s different than looking at something like Chip and Dale or Mickey Mouse dressing up as that. It’s not the same as someone’s culture. We’re looking at all the natives throughout all the Americas and saying, ‘look we can boil you down and centralize you to this costume and make you look like a fool.’”
Jordan School District officials are reportedly working with the State Office of Education to bring sensitivity training to campus.