Who are the Indianettes? Disney World apologizes after ‘racist’ routine by high school team
Theme park forced to issue an apology after March 15 performance borrowing from Native culture
Disney World Orlando was forced to issue an apology on March 16, after footage of a "racist" performance by a high school group at its park the day before. A now-viral video shows the group, knowns as the Indianettes, performing at the theme park with a routine "borrowed" from Native culture. After widespread condemnation, including from one tribal attorney, Disney was forced to distance itself from the Indianettes' performance.
The scandal is just the latest to hit Disney in March. On March 9, a letter from employees claimed corporate executives demand cuts to "nearly every moment of overtly gay affection" at Pixar. That came as CEO Bob Chapek was widely criticized for not condemning Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill. Chapek eventually came out against the bill, but only after it was reported he met with Governor Ron DeSantis, and reports Disney has been funding the GOP.
Chapek has claimed the company is committed to being more diverse and inclusive, but the scandals say otherwise. As if things couldn't get worse for Chapek and Disney, the Orlando theme park was caught up in the storm around the Indianette's performance.
Who are The Indianettes?
The all-women squad comes from the Port Neches-Groves High School, in Port Neches, Texas. The drill team has not only adopted the nickname 'The Indianettes' but also incorporated several aspects of Native American culture into its uniform. That includes the Native American war bonnets, commonly known as headdresses. Reportedly, Disney banned the use of those bonnets during their performance in Orlando, but for many, that didn't go far enough.
12 News Now reported that the school has also adopted other aspects of the Native American culture, including calling its football stadium 'The Reservation' and the yearbook as 'The War Whoop'. Since 1925, the school has also used an Indian as its mascot. PNG Assistant Superintendent Julie Gauthier noted that the group had performed several times at Disney World in the past, without issue.
However, it appeared that this time, the performance was extremely offensive to many attendees. Not only were the performers seen in purple dresses with fringes, adopting traditional Native American styles, but they also performed to a song with the lyrics "Scalp 'em, Indians, scalp 'em." The performance also included drum beats and moves co-opted from Native American culture, as seen in this video shared by Ojibwe tribal attorney Tara Houska.
Cuz a bunch of kids in fringe chanting “scalp ‘em Indians, scalp ‘em” is honor, right?— tara houska ᔖᐳᐌᑴ (@zhaabowekwe) March 18, 2022
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. pic.twitter.com/ELsJHRgJlw
'We regret it took place'
Houska was one of the many people to condemn the routine, as videos went viral almost overnight. In response, the school took down all its social media profiles but has not yet apologized for the performance. It did, however, send the audition tape that it sent to Disney to 12 News Now, where the Indianettes could not be seen. Reportedly, the tape only featured the band, of which only the drum majors were wearing headdresses.
In contrast, Disney was quick to distance itself from The Indianettes. In a statement to Deadline, the company said, "the live performance in our park did not reflect our core values, and we regret it took place. It was not consistent with the audition tape the school provided and we have immediately put measures in place so this is not repeated." However, that statement has done little to calm the storm.
"Disney knew that this team is calling itself the Indianettes," slammed Houska in comments to 12 News Now. The criticism has also continued to mount online, giving the company more reasons to worry. So far Chapek has not weighed in on the controversy, but it may only be a matter of time before he is forced to.