Actress Bojana Novakovic, an actress who plays on the CBS television series 'Instinct' has told Indian Country Today that she was horrified and sickened that she fake-cried in front of a Cherokee Trail of Tears marker and uploaded a video to Facebook.
In the video, which originally was posted to her Facebook account and made its way to Twitter, has received almost 18,000 views in 12 hours. The video shows Novakovic and her sister fake-crying in front of the marker.
After a plethora of angry comments were forwarded toward Novakovic, she apologized and removed the video from Facebook.
In an exclusive interview with Indian Country Today, Novakovic said that had she known the meaning of the Trail of Tears, she would never had posted a video of that sort.
“We were on a cross country motorcycle trip with my sister and I am not even certain where this sign was. There was not any story or description near this sign, we thought it was a really beautiful name for a sign. We pulled over our bikes to take a photo of it. I had never heard of the Trail of Tears and we were just acting in a way we thought was innocent at the moment. I assumed it was because it rained a lot there and there was water flowing everywhere.
“I cannot even comprehend how someone could make a video of that if they knew what the Trail of Tears was about,” she said. “It devastates me that I did this with the knowledge that I now have. It would not make any sense to me in the world to make a video like this, in front of a sign like that, if i knew what it was about.”
Novakovic, who was born in Serbia and who had been raised in Australia since the age of seven, said she had never learned about the Trail of Tears in her school years. “I never went to school here. I have also found out a lot of people in America have not been taught that part of history either.”
In the 12 hours since the video has began to gain attention, Novakovic said she has willingly apologized publicly for her ignorance. She wrote on Twitter,"Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Ignorantly I didn't know what the Trail of Tears is. Now that I do, I intend to educate myself on its history & hope to be part of the solution. I apologize to those it insulted & assure you this is a foreigner's mistake & nothing else."
“It is hard to put in words, how do I apologize enough is the question. I want to apologize for not knowing, I want to apologize for doing it, I want to apologize for not knowing something that important. I don’t even want to quantify my own feelings about this. This is simply foreign ignorance. The only thing I can even say to the Native community is that I am willing to learn. I would love to have this be a teachable moment. This has been a horrible experience, but I have to say this is justified anger.”
Novakovic also told Indian Country Today that she has long posted on her social media accounts about social injustices, and has at times been intolerant that other people were ignorant.
“I have been known to say to people intolerant things. A woman asked where I was from and I told her Serbia, she asked if it was bad and I said ‘Yes, America bombed us in 1999.’ I have been known to criticize people’s ignorance, and now … I am the ignorant one.”
“I don’t think I will ever speak to someone the same again that I think is ignorant.”
Novakovic said she was willing to learn and grow from the incident.
The Cherokee Nation responded to Indian Country Today after learning about the video and the apology by Novakovic.
“The Trail of Tears is the darkest chapter in our history. It forced our tribe in 1838-39 out of our original homelands in the Southeast where more than 4,000 of our people died. Many children and elders were lost from starvation, sickness and the harsh winter conditions,” said Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. “We appreciate the apology from actress Bojana Novakovic and hope this is a learning moment for her or those who don’t always know the history of the Cherokee people, or that of the 573 other federally recognized tribes in this country.
“The Cherokee Nation is always happy to educate and share our rich culture and traditions with the public and ways that we still honor today all those ancestors we lost on the Trail, such as our Remember the Removal Bike Ride. https://remembertheremoval.cherokee.org/
"Cultural understanding for all people is essential in order to create unity and build strength in today’s climate.”