A South Dakota high school has canceled all its scheduled homecoming activities and forfeited its upcoming football game against another local school on a nearby Native American reservation after students were photographed participating in a stunt demanding their rivals “go back to the rez.”
In a statement released on Thursday, Meade School District Superintendent Don Kirkegaard wrote that he was “appalled and disgusted” by the racist message, which was spray painted on a car as part of an unsanctioned “car bash” activity ahead of Sturgis Brown High School’s homecoming game against the Pine Ridge School from the nearby Pine Ridge Reservation.
According to Kirkegaard, the picture was taken in the Sturgis Brown parking lot after school hours on October 11, but no teachers or school officials were aware of the incident until after the fact.
“We are a diverse district with many races and backgrounds,” Kirkegaard wrote. “Which is why this situation is so painful.”
On Thursday evening, the Meade School Board voted 8–0 to cancel Sturgis Brown’s remaining homecoming activities, including a scheduled dance, and parade. The school will also forfeit the homecoming game itself to the Pine Ridge School.
Speaking with the Rapid City Journal, Kirkegaard explained that “we didn’t want to potentially escalate anything.”
For Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Fraizer, though, the incident is just the latest in a long line of racist attacks on his community.
“How many times do we have to send our school children to our sacred Black Hills only to be verbally and physically abused with racism and bigotry by those who occupy such a sacred place?” Frazier asked in a statement released after the offensive pictures were made public.
We are well aware of the hatred and greed that killed so many of my people and forced us on this reservation. We have survived murder, rape, disease and starvation on this reservation. We need no reminder of where you want us to be. We suffer daily with hunger, cold, depression. Your attack dogs and mercenaries have left wounds when we leave our reservations to ask for wrongs to be righted. You were there. We saw the uniforms from all over South Dakota among the forces that that shot and killed only last year.
Early Thursday morning, the Sturgis Police Department acknowledged that they were aware of the racist graffiti, and urged patience while they and the school officials looked into the incident.
For Frazier, though, there are concrete steps that must be taken.
“Show us you are serious about the shameful act you are all trying to diminish,” he wrote. “Punish those who committed this offense. Take appropriate actions through the High School Athletic Association to ensure the safety of our children. Talk to the youth about racism.”
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