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Walt Disney World has reportedly denounced a routine by a high school drill team that was accused of “racism” and borrowing from Native American stereotypes during a recent performance there.
Video shot March 15 of the Port Neches-Groves High School Indianettes from Texas shows the all-women squad dressed in purple with white fringe as they march and dance — seemingly borrowing from Native culture — while also chanting, “Scalp ’em, Indians, scalp ’em.”
The footage of the group, who were invited to perform in Orlando, sparked a backlash by Native American officials who called their act “dehumanizing.”
“The live performance in our park did not reflect our core values, and we regret it took place,” Disney spokesperson Jacquee Wahler told Deadline in a statement. “It was not consistent with the audition tape the school provided, and we have immediately put measures in place, so this is not repeated.”
The Post also has reached out to Disney representatives for comment.
Ojibwe tribal attorney Tara Houska was among those offering takedowns of the performance via social media, writing on Twitter: “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.”
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Her complaint on Thursday attracted more than 11,000 supporters who called out the “racist” performance, including other tribal community leaders — such as Kansas State Rep. Christina Haswood, who identifies as Diné and implored Disney to “do better,” adding, “It’s ignorance at this point.”
Kelly Lynne D’Angelo, a writer on TNT’s “Miracle Workers” and a Tongva, slammed the lack of urgency to recognize racism against Native people.
“99% percent of the people sharing their outrage about this are Native people. Can’t you see that’s the problem too?” she wrote. “Why must WE be the ones to speak up of all the blatant racism against us? Of our constant mistreatment? Why must we fight, tooth and nail, for you to understand we are human and alive and thriving too?”
D’Angelo went on to condemn the “savage” stereotype encouraged by the “scalp ’em” chant. “The thing is: our ways were right and always have been,” she said. “We know how to make bounty on this earth. How to live EASILY. Our relational practices with each other and the earth are a FUNDAMENTAL CORE to a healthy and harmonious human experience.”
Houska, who was an advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders during his 2016 campaign, continued her dig in a tweet thread, suggesting that Disney may have green-lit the routine on just one condition.
“@pnghsndns cheerleaders weren’t allowed to wear the fake headdresses as they usually do, but the scalp ‘em chant was approved,” she shared with an article published Wednesday on Disney Parks fan site WDW News Today.
In recent years Disney Parks has pledged to operate and develop new attractions with one guiding principle in mind: “Inclusion.” To that end, they’ve made several changes to demonstrate their dedication to the cause, such as scrapping the phrase “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls” during the “Happily Ever After” fireworks show at Magic Kingdom.
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Last year, they also updated their “jaw-dropping” Jungle Cruise ride, first opened in 1955, by removing problematic depictions of religious symbols and references to indigenous societies as headhunting “savages.”
“The exciting changes we’re making to one of @Disney’s most popular classic attractions, Jungle Cruise, reflect our commitment to creating unparalleled experiences that reflect, not only the best in storytelling, but also the values and rich diversity of our world,” Disney President Bob Iger tweeted at the time.
Disney’s good-faith inclusion campaign was most recently compromised by their CEO Bob Chapek, who found himself embroiled in Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill debate after fans and employees — many of whom are part of the LGBTQ+ community — decried the company’s public silence on the issue.
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Chapek later apologized. “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down,” he said. “I am sorry.”