There is always something exciting happening at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Disney loves to bring in high schools from around the country and have their marching bands play down Main Street, U.S.A. Sometimes Guests will also see cheer teams, and there will even be drill teams, singing and performing. It’s a great way to feature America’s school and the hard work the kids put in. It is one of those drill teams that is drawing the attention (and the ire) of many.
The Port Neches-Groves Independent School District sent its drill team to represent the Texas school district. The girl dressed in their school colors — purple and white — and sang and danced down Main Street, U.S.A. Their team is known as The Indianettes and their costumes are designed to have Native American designs and fringe. However, it is the chant that the teen girls did that is causing a big problem. During their dance, the girls chant “Scalp ’em Indians, scalp ’em”. They also do a stereotypical Native American dance and place one hand over their mouth to pretend to make Native American sounds.
While some may think that this video must have been taken years ago, it was actually taken some time on March 15, 2022. Many were shocked to see such a display put on in Disney, especially in this day and age. The video was shared by Tara Houska, a member of the Bear Tribe.
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.
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?
— tara houska ᔖᐳᐌᑴ (@zhaabowekwe) March 18, 2022
Ms. Houska reached out to the Port Neches School District who told her that they were proud of the association they have with Native Americans, who used to have tribes that lived on the land 1,500 years ago. The letter from the school also stated that they were disappointed with the way the girls were treated in Florida. However, they then revealed that the support they used to receive from Cherokee Nation — including the tribe’s seal — had been revoked.
We have also learned that it appears Disney knew what the chant and the dance were. According to several people, the Indianettes costumes typically include Native American headdresses. Disney saw these headdresses and told the team that they were not allowed to wear them. The girls were, however, permitted to wear them behind the scenes and take photos with them. One such photo was shared by Jenny Nicholson.
According to a post by a parent in the school district, disney world wouldn’t allow the cheerleaders to wear the full war bonnet they usually wear for routines, meaning what appears in the video was actually seen by park officials and approved
They were also still allowed to wear them backstage and pose with official Disney signage
They were also still allowed to wear them backstage and pose with official Disney signage pic.twitter.com/ImBxFpMTn8
— Jenny Nicholson ???? (@JennyENicholson) March 18, 2022
Such headdresses are not typically worn by all members of a tribe and are reserved for tribe elders who earn them. Disney has responded to the outrage, claiming the tape that got the team approved to perform there did not contain the offensive chant that was actually performed. Disney spokesperson Jacquee Whaler made the following statement:
We regret this performance took place as it did not reflect the audition tape that was submitted. We have immediately put measures in place to ensure performances reflect the auditions.
This offensive dance is only the latest issue to be piled on top of the company. Disney has been dealing with anger among its thousands of Cast Members over its response to Florida’s Parental Rights In Education Bill. Disney has paused its political contributions to Florida politicians, but a lot of the damage has already been done.
While Disney cannot take the dance back and make it, so it never happened, it seems they are working hard to ensure that this sort of thing does not happen again.