Walt Disney World has apologized for allowing a routine performed by the “Indianettes” cheer team that included the chant “scalp ‘em Indian, scalp’ em,” at the Florida theme park earlier this week.
Video shared to Twitter by Tara Houska, an Ojibwe tribal attorney and former advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders, shows the the Port Neches-Groves high school team dressed in fringed outfits as they march down Main Street. They would also have been wearing headdresses — which can be seen in this performance from 2020 — except they were asked to remove them before their performance, Forbes reports.
An enraged Houska wrote, “Cuz a bunch of kids in fringe chanting “scalp ‘em Indians, scalp ‘em” is honor, right? And any Natives who attend @pngisd should prolly just accept their classmates dehumanizing them cuz “tradition”, right? Shame on @DisneyParks hosting this. Nostalgic racism is RACISM.”
A representative from the school did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment. However, Houska tweeted that the school has now blocked her on Twitter.
Disney spokesperson Jacquee Wahler said in a statement that was shared with media outlets: “The live performance in our park did not reflect our core values, and we regret it took place. It was not consistent with the audition tape the school provided and we have immediately put measures in place so this is not repeated.”
For Houska, that apology was insufficient. She shared a link to Walt Disney World News Today, which stated that Disney approved the routine, including the offensive chant, and only objected to the headdresses.
As Houska told Forbes, “Disney didn’t even mention the overt racism and ignorance they uplifted.” She pointed out that the school’s routine is far from their only offensive Native American reference, noting their “War Whoop Yearbook.” “I find it hard to believe Disney had no clue who they were giving a platform to.”
Several professional and college teams have recently dropped their Native American sports mascots, with the Washington Redskins becoming the Washington Commanders last month and Cleveland’s squad ditching “Indians” for “Guardians.” The Atlanta Braves have kept their name so far, and fans still use the “tomahawk chop,” which may have originated at Florida State University. FSU’s team ditched mascot Sammy Seminole in 1972, but are still called the Seminoles.
The Port-Neches and Groves football team dates back to 1925, according to the school’s website. The Cherokee Nation, which had previously supported the school, withdrew their backing in July 2020 and called for the district to reconsider its use of “harmful stereotypes.”
Disney is already having a rough month dealing with controversy over its handling of Florida’s divisive “Don’t Say Gay” bill, with CEO Bob Chapek finally affirming his support of the company’s LGBTQ employees and supporters, and pausing political donations in the state. Employees are still staging walkouts and Imagineers in California are protesting a forced move to Florida.
Both Disney World and Disneyland have redesigned their “Jungle Cruise” rides to scrub “negative depictions of native people,” and will also re-do its Splash Mountain rides to remove references to its locked-away and much-condemned 1946 film, “Song of the South.” Disney+ has also added several warnings to several classic animated films, including “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo,” about the racial stereotypes that “were wrong then and are wrong now.”