Another ‘Trail of Tears’ Sign? And from Oklahoma State University? When will this stop?

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown September 2nd, 2014 Last Updated on: September 2nd, 2014

As a college football fan I love the Fall! However as a Native American I hate seeing all the idiots dressed up in redface and doing that wack tomahawk chop. Even worse are the insensitive banners such as the one displayed by Oklahoma State University (OSU) students over the weekend. Yes, folks, we have another “Trail of Tears” banner in our midst.


As Tulsa World reports, the “Trail of Tears” sign was among many at ESPN’s College GameDay show in Fort Worth, Texas, where OSU played No. 1 Florida State. The sign was posted on Instagram and read “SEND ‘EM HOME #TRAIL_OF_TEARS #GOPOKES.”

Lots of outrage from everyone after seeing this sign, especially from the administrators of the university. However the student did issue an apology and seems to be sincere. Here it is in its entirety.

“My name is Austin Buchanan. I am a junior at Oklahoma State University, having transferred last spring. Today was my first football game as an OSU Cowboy, so I am obviously new to OSU's game-day traditions. In my zeal to support the OSU Cowboys in their season opener against the Florida State Seminoles in Dallas today, my friends and I made a banner. I appeared in a picture with that banner, which I shared via my Twitter account. Included on our banner was a hashtag insensitively referencing the Trail of Tears. The Twitter post and picture were retweeted and shared by many, eventually going viral.

Though we did not set out to hurt or offend anyone when we made our banner, I see that it did just that. Referencing the Trail of Tears in such a flippant and disrespectful manner was insensitive and wrong, and I make no defense for our having had such a lapse in judgment. I apologize for our mistake. I am truly sorry.

To all Native Americans: I hope you can and will forgive me for diminishing a part of your history that should never be made light of. I pledge that I will invest diligent study reacquainting myself with the horrors of Trail of Tears so I don't repeat the mistake I made today.

To the entire OSU family of administrators, students, student athletes, alumni, and fans: I embarrassed us today. I am sorry, and I hope you, as well, can forgive me. I love OSU. I want to contribute to, rather than take from, OSU's positive image in the world. Today I failed in that effort. I promise to do better in the future. While I can't promise I won't make more mistakes, I commit to learn from them, hopefully becoming a better person in the process.

Further, in the aftermath of today's incident, the content of some of my social media accounts was called into question for various reasons. That is as it should be. As I look back on things I have shared online, I realize I've said hurtful, insensitive, and mean things that do not reflect the young man I want to be. I have deactivated my Twitter account so that I can give serious thought to how I can use all forms of communication more appropriately and positively in the future.

I hope today's mistake on my part serves as a reminder to all of us to put more thought into what we say, do, and share via social media. Words mean things, and statements have consequences. I have seen that very clearly today. To all who share part of themselves with the world via social media, please look to me as an example and a reminder that words can never be un-said and that what we share online can never, ever go away—though we might gladly give all we have to make it so.

Lastly, to the many who have attempted to contact me in many various ways. Thank you for holding me accountable to the higher standard I should maintain as a responsible young man. I have heard you, and I will work hard to make sure that I do not repeat these kinds of mistakes.

Words cannot fully express my sorrow and shame. While you certainly don't owe it to me, I ask for your forgiveness.”

Let's hope others can learn from these mistakes and stop being so damn insensitive. It also wouldn't hurt if these kids couldn't get their diplomas until they hand in a nice 50-page paper on the topic.

Home » Native American Articles » Native American Culture » Another ‘Trail of Tears' Sign? And from Oklahoma State University? When will this stop?

About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.

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Greg S

Well they have apologized, You still want to punish them. Why. That letter was sincere. I dont think that person will soon forget this mistake. Wanting to punish them farther looks like there is hate here but its not on the side that made the mistake.


Jim Radcliffe

I see nothing in any of the posts here that would indicate anyone wishes to continue to punish anyone. All responses appear to be positive in regard to the young man’s post and apology.


This is just so disheartening, the ongoing ignorance and disregard for past human suffering. Somehow, I don’t think I should expect to ever see a sign directed towards a Semite institution calling for a game loss to be referred to as a Holocaust, or a black university to be submitted to Slavery upon the loss of a game, so why this is considered to be ok is beyond me. Unfortunately I think it is an indication that the United States is still perfectly fine with the continued diminishing of Native American suffering in the past, and the denial of human rights violations that went on during those times. I still hear people saying “figures, he was probably drunk” when a Native person is involved in an accident, even when they are not at all at fault. I pray daily that America wakes up, and starts worrying about the treatment of her indigenous peoples just as much as she does for people in other parts of the world.

As to the young man’s letter regarding his involvement in the sign—I say he will be a great man in the most important way, which is in his heart. Anyone can make a stupid mistake, but to own it and do what he can to make it right takes a great man. He has my admiration and appreciation for this small deed. Thank you, young man, and please forgive yourself. You made a mistake and you of all those people can now move on unhindered, and with my good wishes.

Liz Anderson

It is time for all of us, as Americans, to sit down and talk about the actual events leading up to our founding, by whom we were founded, and how. Until all of us, as Americans, own up to our history and are able to discuss it, ALL of it, without hate and violence, then we will constantly be in the position of acting out of ignorance.

What this student did, he owned up to. To him I am able to say, ok, you apologized, you did the right thing. I hope you do educate yourself as to the plight of the Native Americans.

But while you’re at it, look into the plight of all persons of color in this country. In every region there are groups, Jack Whites, Melungeons, Lumbees, etc. They are a face of America that has NEVER been discussed and would truly lead to a greater understanding of our history instead of the half-truths that are the official history of our country.

Our country defined the worthiness of citizenship by the color of your skin and the money in your pocket. That was something that didn’t even begin to change until the 1960’s.

Isn’t it time to take another step forward?


Liz, I like the way you think, but I hold very little optimism for any kind of “coming to terms” about how “This country was founded”. Bear in mind, it was not “founded”. It was taken, by force. By deadly force. And now the ancestors of these white men and women “pioneers” are all up in arms because Mexicans are invading their pristine white borders. Nothing will change.

Jim Radcliffe

I enjoyed reading your article and appreciate your thoughts. I only wish others would realize how inappropriate such things can be, not to mention hurtful.

I am not a Native American but I have deep respect for all of the Native American People. I find all of the mascots, names and gestures used by commercial businesses, colleges and pro sports organizations that reference the Native Americans in any way to be offensive and to show lack of respect for indigenous people of this country.

The Native Americans knew how to live in harmony with the planet. We, as a nation, do not. There is much to be learned from the Native American people, both spiritually as well as how to live in harmony with our planet.

Mary Stump

Jim,I appreciate your view on the sign about the Trail of Tears.You are a native at heart.You don’t have to be blood.It comes from the heart and you have it.I,as a Cherokee wish that some of the whites could remember that had it not been for the Natives they would not have survived when they came to this land where we were,You do know that after all the help they were given that this same group of natives were killed.Thank you for having such a tender heart.I pray blessings from the Lord above for you and all those you love.Jesus bless you.You are a brother at heart.Thank you.Mary

Jim Radcliffe

Thank you, Mary. My first wife was Cherokee but she never had much interest in her heritage. I’ve always (since I was a kid) had interest and admiration for Native Americans. I grew up in Virginia and used to find arrowheads and spear points in the fields near my home which led me to read and study about how the people lived.

Recently I spent a week in the Monument Valley area doing photography and had the opportunity to talk to some of the men who still live in the valley itself. It took a while for them accept that I was really interested and not just a passing tourist who viewed them as a curiosity.

I have, for years, said that the biggest injustice “America” is responsible for is the treatment of the Native Americans. Reparations and apologies are long overdue.

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