Walt Disney World apologized after a Texas high school drill team performing at the entertainment giant’s Florida theme park wore fringed outfits and chanted: “Scalp ’em, Indians, scalp’ em.”
“The live performance in our park did not reflect our core values and we regret it took place,” a spokesperson, Jacquee Wahler, said in a statement.
Native American advocates criticized Disney and Port Neches-Groves high school after video of the performance to Twitter.
“Any Natives who attend [Port Neches-Groves high school] should prolly just accept their classmates dehumanising them cuz ‘tradition’, right? ” wrote Tara Houska, an Ojibwe tribal attorney and founder of the Giniw Collective and Not Your Mascots.
“Shame on [Disney] hosting this, ”she said. “Nostalgic racism is RACISM.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, a Disney employee asked the troupe to remove headdresses prior to their performance.
Wahler, the Disney spokesperson, said the performance that followed was “not consistent with the audition tape the school provided and we have immediately put measures in place so this is not repeated”.
It has been a tough month for Disney, which faced backlash over its response to Florida’s controversial Parental Rights in Education act, a measure known by critics as “Don’t Say Gay” and branded as anti-LGBTQ + rights.
According to screenshots posted by Houska, Port Neches-Groves high school, whose band performed the Cherokee fight song, said it was “terribly disheartened by the disrespect with which they were treated at Walt Disney World in Florida”.
Houska protested a “special kind of death-grip on obviously racist bullshit”, and pointed out that the school proclaims “Welcome to the Reservation” on its student activities office Twitter account.
The activist wrote: “Emailing the school generates a response calling Cherokee Nation ‘extremely dishonorable’ for revoking use of their seal. ‘Welcome to the Reservation’, ‘Pow Wow News’ and ‘War Whoop Year Book’. Srsly wtf. “
In recent years, Disney has added disclaimers to some of its older material. It now warns, for instance, that the 1953 film Peter Pan shows indigenous people “in a stereotypical manner”. Other films are flagged for featuring “negative depictions and / or mistreatment of people or cultures”. New material is filtered through a diversity and inclusion initiative.
Houska told the Orlando Sentinel: “It would be a lot more believable that [Disney] are willing to carry out these values if they unequivocally condemn [the Texas school band’s] behavior, acknowledge their mistake and continue to try to not only increase representation, but prevent something like this from happening again. “
According to the National Congress of American Indians, 1,929 schools in the US, from kindergarten to high school, use “Native ‘themed’ school mascots”.