Viral video of Rapid City Central wrestlers called ‘culturally insensitive’

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - A video featuring Central High School wrestlers dancing to Native American music and appearing to imitate a traditional dance is causing controversy.

School officials call it culturally insensitive and say it doesn't fit with school values.

And it's all on a social media video that the Rapid City School District says shows Central High School wrestlers engaging in "insensitive behaviors to Native Americans."

The video shows members of the Cobbler wrestling team in January apparently dancing to a Native American song in a way that appears to mimics traditional Indian dancing.

"It was a replication of a powwow and our dances, and so to the native community, the offense could be perceived as a mockery," said Sarah Pierce, the manager of Indian education for the Rapid City Area Schools.

The video clip was originally posted on Snapchat, a platform that deletes messages as soon as they are played. But one student recorded the Snapchat because she thought more people should see it.
She put it on Facebook Sunday.

"I knew my beliefs and what they did wasn't right in any way," said Central High School junior Katie Johnson. "And I knew that if I didn't come out with it nothing would ever happen and no one would ever see it and it would just get blown over like nothing ever did happen to it so that's why I came out with it."

On Monday the video came to the attention of administrators.
"We will work with the students involved and the entire wrestling team to help them really be accountable but also learn from this," said Assistant District Superintendent Dr. Matthew Seebaum.

Added Pierce: "Making them informed on why their action was wrong or hurtful to others is important."

While Johnson says she would like to see some strong punishment, the district is choosing to stress the teaching opportunity.

"I think in this instance, a severe punishment for the students does not fit what they've done," said Seebaum. "When students do something like this is not willful or intentional, the learning we believe as a district is a restorative process from this so we are taking steps to bring in native American Lakota culture here to actually work with students and parents."

And Johnson's mom? She says she's proud her Native American daughter followed her heart.

"Somebody has to start the change," said Kallie Johnson. "And if we get a lot of somebodies starting the change, it can make a big difference."

We reached out to the Central High wrestling coach and parents of wrestlers to get their thoughts on the video. None said they wanted to comment.