The Riverside Unified School District teacher, reportedly named Candice Reed, can be seen dancing around the class wearing feathers on her head and imitating tomahawk motions while chanting "soh-cah-toa," the footage which hit social media Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 20, and blew up on the internet, shows.
As the video begins, the teacher asks students: “I don’t know? Tomahawks? Is that right?” while moving both arms up and down, as if she were chopping something. She dances across the front of the classroom, as some students laugh, repeatedly chanting “SohCahToa.”
As the video closes, the teacher pretends to be exhausted and says: “I get to go home and I get all of my feathers,” before touching the faux feathers on her headwear.
The chant is a mnemonic device often used to learn the trigonometric functions sine, cosine, and tangent.
“SohCahToa” is a mnemonic device to help remember three basic trigonometry ratios “used to solve for missing sides and angles in a right triangle,” according to Calcworkshop.com.
Fenelon, a Lakota-Dakota scholar, and a professor, said the teacher might have been trying to help kids remember something, but that doesn’t excuse how the lesson was presented.
The footage was captured by a student in the class. The John W. North High School teacher was placed on leave by the district following its circulation.
"These behaviors are completely unacceptable and an offensive depiction of the vast and expansive Native American cultures and practices," the Riverside Unified School District administration said in a statement. "Her actions do not represent the values of our district. The teacher has been placed on leave while the district conducts an investigation."
Despite the district's allegation that the teacher's performance does not express its values, someone who claimed to be a former student of Reed posted several images on Twitter of the teacher demonstrating the routine as early as 2012.
The dance, headdress and all, was even written about in that year's yearbook, according to the student's Twitter post.
"We are deeply committed to implementing inclusive practices and policies that honor the rich diversity of our district and the greater region," the district stated. "We will be working with our students, families, staff, and community to regain your trust."
Riverside Unified School District did not immediately respond to the request for comment.
Community leaders, educators, and former North High students blasted the teacher’s behavior as racially insensitive.
“It’s essentially mockery is what it is — racial mockery,” said James Fenelon, director of the Center for Indigenous Peoples Studies at Cal State San Bernardino.