A high school girls basketball team has come under fire for after a poster promoting their upcoming season was deemed racist and offensive.

Iowa's Clarke High School uses "Indians" as their school mascot and the poster featured the players dressed up as Native Americans, complete with traditional headdresses and face paint.

The bottom section of the poster also features the girls performing a tribal dance in front of a totem pole. The pole has a basketball ring on the top.

According to KCCI.com, none of the girls is Native American. Vicky Apala-Cuevas of the Oglala Lakota tribe told the website everything depicted on the poster was culturally incorrect, and was painful to look at.


"Everything that I saw on the poster does not in any manner depict Native American women and that's the sad part," Apala-Cuevas told KCCI.
"Our women are very beautiful and to be respected."

Clarke Community Schools Superintendent Steve Seid said no harm was intended by the poster, but it was rather created "out of total respect for not just the community, but the entire state in general with a Native American background".

"No negativity intended at all. Just respecting a rich culture," Seid added.

Arminda Cosner, a parent of one of the girls on the team, argued the poster was intended to send an "empowering message".

"These girls are representing being ready for the season to come up, being ready and even nowadays it's an empowering message for women all over and these young women are doing it," Cosner said.

Apala-Cuevas said a lack of education on cultural sensitivities was to blame.

"The saddest part, the part that we feel is most overwhelming and overcoming, is that there's another generation depicting us in an offensive way," Apala-Cuevas said.

The Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs said: "The poster misused symbols representing a Native culture and spirituality in a disrespectful way. This is a young team that probably did not intentionally mean to be disrespectful; they may not realise that portraying a racial minority group in a stereotypical manner is not appropriate.

"We hope that the school and other individuals recognise that this poster reinforces and perpetuates offensive imagery and stereotypes of our culture."

The photographer who created the poster apologised in the wake of the backlash.

"Thank you to all that have let us know that it was offensive to them. At no point would we have created a poster to intentionally disrespect or offend anyone," the apology read.

"The intention of each and every one of our images is to encourage the subjects to feel good about themselves and to inspire others through art.

"It was a mistake on our part to create a poster that offends other cultural practices, their dress and in general. We respectfully removed the image from our site yesterday. We are very sorry."

The poster has not yet been distributed and was being reviewed, according to KCCI.
Seid said the poster would be looked at further and changed if needed.