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Montana school under fire for video depicting Native Americans shown at pep rally

Reservation school was upcoming opponent
Posted: 6:29 PM, Oct 07, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-07 20:30:55-04
VALIER —

A video taken during a pep rally at Valier High School is causing some controversy for a depiction of Native Americans.

The video shows a female student wearing a red skirt, a well-known symbol of the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Woman movement, lying on the ground.

The video was shown during a pep rally at the school on Friday night.

The idea behind the videos, according to Superintendent Julie Gaffney, is to inspire enthusiasm before the homecoming game, which was against the Heart Butte Warriors on Friday night.



Some people affiliated with Heart Butte High School, which is on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, took offense to the student-made video.

Heart Butte school board member Nichole Aimsback interpreted the video as an attack on indigenous persons at the Heart Butte school.

A Blackfeet Reservation member and grandmother to a Heart Butte student, Aimsback felt threatened by the content covered in the video.  

"I just couldn't believe what I saw. Especially when I viewed it and I saw the girl with the red skirt, the one that was being murdered. And MMIW, there were all kinds of things going on about that this past weekend and it just totally shocked me," she said.

Gaffney said in a written statement:

  • As part of the pep assembly, freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors created videos as a means of inspiring enthusiasm for the homecoming game against Friday's opponent, the Heart Butte Warriors. Each class picked a holiday theme and created a video to be shown at the assembly. A portion of one of the videos was shared on social media. I understand there are concerns with one of the videos, with the holiday theme based on the 4th of July and its representation of Native Americans. Circumstances of the video are under review and all concerns are being taken seriously. My primary concern is the well being of our students and staff and I'd like to ask everyone to wait until the facts are revealed before drawing your conclusions.

Heart Butte superintendent Mike Tatsey also sent a statement which read, in part: "The Heart Butte School District does not condone the completely inappropriate content depicted in the video produced by the Valier High School students.  It is disappointing that the educators responsible for supervising those students did not recognize the blatant racial overtones and instruct the students properly." 

Monday night's scheduled volleyball game between the two schools has been canceled.