Disney World officials say they ‘regret’ allowing a Texas high school drill team to parade in their park Tuesday with a performance that featured American Indian stereotypes including repeated chants of ‘scalp them.’
The performance by the all-female 50-member squad saw the Port Neches-Groves High School ‘Indianettes’ march and dance in fringed outfits along Main Street USA in the park’s Magic Kingdom to Native American-inspired music, with moves taken from said cultures.
In the footage, members can be seen tapping their hands over their mouths and whooping as a drum rhythmically pounds in the background, mimicking what is stereotypically called a Native American ‘war cry.’
‘The live performance in our park did not reflect our core values, and we regret it took place,’ reps for the Florida park said in a statement Friday, after video of the park-approved performance surfaced online.
‘It was not consistent with the audition tape the school provided and we have immediately put measures in place so this is not repeated,’ theme park officials added.
Students also marched with the arms raised in a fashion that seemingly drew on Western interpretations of indigenous people’s dances.
Cheers by the students included the words ‘scalp ’em Indians, scalp ’em,’ which was repeated as they performed, the footage shows. The chant is part of the Texas school’s ‘Cherokee’ fight song.
Scroll down for video:
Disney World officials say they ‘regret’ allowing a Texas high school drill team to parade in their park Tuesday, in a performance that featured American Indian stereotypes including repeated chants of ‘scalp them’
In the footage, Port Neches-Groves High School ‘Indianettes’ members can be seen tapping their hands over their mouths and whooping as a drum pounds rhythmically in the background, mimicking what is stereotypically called a Native-American ‘war cry’
An audition tape the school provided in order to be selected to perform at the theme park resort was inconsistent with the actual performance, park reps said in Friday’s statement.
According to a school staffer who spoke to KBMT in Beaumont, Texas, shortly after the incident, this is the eighth time the team performed the routine at Disney World.
The spokesperson told the outlet that Disney never asked ahead of time about the planned performance.
Members of the team also reportedly entered the park wearing full Native American headdresses – ‘war bonnets,’ as they called them – until asked to remove them by Disney staffers.
The school’s mascot is a Native American. Its website asserts that the ‘Indianettes’ drill team – which the school says has 54 members – has been a ‘tradition for more than 50 years.’
The school refers to their football stadium as ‘The Reservation’ and has its own school news update titled ‘The Pow Wow’ news. Its yearbook is called ‘The War Whoop.’
The performance by the all-female, at least 50-strong squad saw the high-schoolers march and dance in fringed outfits along Main Street, USA, in the park’s Magic Kingdom to Native-inspired music, with moves taken from Native American cultures
The school’s website asserts that the ‘Indianettes’ drill team – which currently has 54 members, according to the site – has been a ‘tradition for more than 50 years.’ Pictured is an undated image of a previous Indianettes drill team, donning headdresses. The current team reportedly tried to wear headdresses for Tuesday’s performance but were asked to remove them by staff
Footage of the Indianettes’ performance quickly went viral online, putting pressure on the park with many deeming the drill team’s chants and dances to be racist.
Tara Houska, an Ojibwe tribal attorney and former advisor to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, called the act ‘dehumanizing.’
‘Cuz a bunch of kids in fringe chanting “scalp ‘em Indians, scalp ‘em” is honor, right?’ Houska tweeted Thursday along with the now-viral clip, referring to the school’s assertions that the drill team has been a fixture for years.
‘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,’ added Houska, also the founder ‘Not Your Mascots,’ an organization ‘dedicated to fighting against stereotypical native representation in sports.’
Kelly Lynne D’Angelo, a Native American writer for TNT’s Miracle Workers – a show set in the 19th Century Wild West – retweeted Houska’s post and added: ‘99% percent of the people sharing their outrage about this are Native people. Can’t you see that’s the problem too?
She went on: ‘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?
‘Stop this and grow up,’ D’Angelo added.
Houska’s complaint similarly spurred more than 11,000 others to slam the performance as racist, including other tribal community leaders like Kansas State Rep. Christina Haswood, also Native American, who implored Disney to ‘do better’ in a Friday tweet.
‘It’s ignorance at this point,’ the Navajo official said.
As part of the backlash, Port Neches-Groves High School’s social media accounts were flooded with photos and videos of the performance.
News outlets that have reached out to the school for comment regarding the incident – including DailyMail.com – have, for the most part, received no response.
The school district, however, issued a statement to KFDM-TV in Beaumont, Texas, in which district officials said they are ‘aware of the concern regarding the performance of our band and Indianettes at Disney World.’
‘We are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our school district. Our district is nearing 100 years old, and our Board of Trustees is committed to always making the best decisions for our students, staff, and the communities of Port Neches and Groves,’ the district stated.
The school has faced pushback in recent years over the racial connotations of its mascot, but has doubled down through the years – despite many deeming the references racist.
The school has faced pushback in recent years over the racial connotations of its mascot, a Native American, but has doubled down through the years – despite many deeming it racist
Last year, Disney brass announced sprawling changes to the country’s Disney properties and parks, in hopes of ‘creating a place where everyone is welcome’
Tuesday’s Disney World performance was reportedly live-streamed by the school’s journalism club, seemingly showing pride in the drill team.
Last year, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro announced sprawling changes to the country’s Disney properties and parks, in hopes of ‘creating a place where everyone is welcome.’
In the campaign, D’Amaro emphasized ‘inclusion’ and non-offensive representation for all races on Disney properties.
The campaign saw the company nix the phrases ‘ladies and gentleman, boys and girls’ during the ‘Happily Ever After’ fireworks show at Magic Kingdom, in an effort at inclusion.
Early last year, prior to the campaign, the Jungle Cruise, a staple of Disney’s theme parks for nearly 70 years, got an overhaul to address years of complaints that it offered a racist view of indigenous people as uncivilized ‘savages.’
Earlier this month, new Disney CEO Bob Chapek, who only took over in January, was criticized for not condemning a Florida bill passed on Tuesday limiting LGBTQ discussion in schools.
In a memo to staff on Monday, Chapek tried to quell the anger, reiterating the park’s new policies on inclusion: ‘I want to be crystal clear: I and the entire leadership team unequivocally stand in support of our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities.
‘We are committed to creating a more inclusive company – and world.’
Disney World staffers did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment Saturday morning.