A California teacher was placed on leave after a viral video showed her mimicking Native Americans in a paper headdress

A school classroom, with desks, a blackboard, and bookshelves.
A California teacher was placed on leave after a video appeared to show her mimicking Native Americans. MILATAS/Getty Images
  • A California teacher was filmed dancing around her classroom while wearing a fake Native American headdress.
  • The video, first shared by Akalei Brown of @corn_maiden_designs on Instagram, went viral.
  • In a statement, the school district called the teacher’s behavior “completely unacceptable.”

A teacher at North High School in Riverside, California, has been placed on leave after video appearing to show her mimicking Native Americans while wearing a paper headdress went viral.

The clips were first shared by Akalei Brown of @corn_maiden_designs on Instagram. She wrote that the video was taken by a Native American student in the classroom, who “felt that violence was being committed against him and he had the right to record.”

In one clip, the teacher, whose name has not been released, stands at the front of the classroom wearing a paper headdress. She then chants the trigonometry mnemonic “SohCahToa” while dancing around the classroom and imitating Native American vocalizations in a high-pitched tone.

In another clip, she is seen sitting cross-legged on her desk, appearing to pray to a “water goddess” while stifling laughter.

The Riverside Unified School District Administration released a statement on Thursday condemning the teacher’s actions and stating that she had been put on leave.

“A recording of one of our teachers has been widely circulated on social media. These behaviors are completely unacceptable and an offensive depiction of the vast and expansive Native American cultures and practices,” it said. “Her actions do not represent the values of our district. The teacher has been placed on leave while the District conducts an investigation. The Riverside Unified School District values diversity, equity and inclusion, and does not condone behavior against these values.”

The statement continued: “We are deeply committed to implementing inclusive practices and policies that honor the rich diversity of our district and the greater region. We will be working with our students, families, staff and community to regain your trust.”

Lance Tsosie, a Native American activist and TikTok creator with 2 million followers, responded to the student’s video, calling the teacher’s display “very, very racist, ignorant, and disgusting.”

“I understand wholeheartedly what it feels like to be in that situation where the power dynamics do not weigh in your favor,” Tsosie said in his TikTok, which garnered 940,000 views. “I understand how it feels to stop and freeze and wonder to yourself, like, ‘Is this really happening?’ Because in those situations, it’s the most difficult to stand up and say stop. And so now, this is where I step in.”

North High School and the Riverside Unified School District Administration did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

North High School is located on Cahuilla, Kizh, Payómkawichum (Luiseño), and Tongva land, according to the open source project Code for Anchorage.