Disney World now “regrets” featuring a racist dance routine at its Orlando theme park by the “Indianettes” high school troupe from Texas.
At one point, drill team dancers — wearing short fringed costumes and feathers in their hair — chanted: “Scalp ’em, Indians, scalp ’em.” The performance, which also featured “war whoops,” took place last Tuesday on Disney World’s Main Street USA, which is supposed to evoke an ideal, pleasant community of small-town America.
The shocking routine by students from Port Neches-Groves High School in southern Texas triggered outrage after a video of it posted on Twitter Thursday by Ojibwe attorney Tara Houska attracted thousands of views and furious comments.
“To see everybody in the crowd, and everybody working there cheer, and clap like nothing bad is happening — that is the absolute worst feeling,” Shyanne Begay of the Indigenous People’s Movement told New Channel 6-TV. (See the video above.)
Disney spokesperson Jacquee Wahler issued regrets Friday for the routine, and claimed the performance was unexpected. But a school official said it was the eighth time the troupe performed the same routine at Disney World with no complaints.
Disney clearly had some inkling about what was coming after a representative asked the troupe to remove their headdresses just before the performance.
“The live performance in our park did not reflect our core values, and we regret this performance took place as it did not reflect the audition tape that was submitted,” Wahler insisted in a statement provided to HuffPost. “We have immediately put measures in place to ensure performances reflect the auditions,” she added, but no details were provided.
The Port Neches-Groves Independent School District issued a statement to KFDM-TV in Beaumont, Texas, saying that the district was “aware of the concern regarding the performance of our band and Indianettes at Disney World.”
It added: “We are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our school district ... 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 Indianettes have been a fixture at the school for more than 70 years, according to its website. The school’s mascot is a Native American.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. issued a statement saying that tribal leaders have reached out to the school for years demanding they stop presenting the demeaning routine.
“We have written to the Port Neches superintendent and school board, asking them to cease using this offensive imagery, symbolism and other practices in their school traditions as this does nothing but dishonor us and all Native American tribes who are making great strides in this country,” he stated. “School leaders ... should apologize ... and need to make swift changes to correct these offensive displays.”
The controversy follows criticism of Disney for another diversity fail by refusing to speak out against Florida’s new “Don’t Say Gay” measure, which prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Disney CEO Bob Chapek issued a staff memo early this month claiming that the company supports the LGBTQ community, but added that it will issue no statement or criticism about the “Don’t Say Gay” measure. He has since apologized and halted donations related to Florida politics.