A TikTok user recently posted a video that sparked an online debate about Native American representation at Disneyland.
User John Barbachano posted this video calling out Disney for seeing its “people on display at Disneyland”. The comments section is full of debate from many self-identified Native Americans who are appalled at the idea of their cultural heritage being presented as an attraction. On the other side of the argument, other self-proclaimed Native Americans defended it as an appropriate representation of Native American lifestyles and a welcome representation in the park. A popular comment suggested that Barbachano should change the audio to a quote from “Euphoria”, which he did.
Disneyland has a complicated history with Native American representation in the park, and this debate goes back even to the early days of Disneyland’s opening. When the park opened in 1955, it featured an Indian village area on the outskirts of Frontierland where, according to The Disneyland News, “you can actually meet pure-blooded American Indians and hear stories from the Wild West.” . Native Americans were recruited as interpreters and consultants to design the plot and programming both at the opening in 1955 in a position roughly where the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance would later be located, and then in 1956 when she was moved to her permanent residence below. the river near where Splash Mountain would one day be.
In the summer 1957 edition of Disneyland Holiday, it was noted that “one of the founding principles on which Disneyland was built was the preservation of our American heritage”. And on top of that, the Indian Village was a way to preserve and share Indian traditions and customs in a way that Disneyland’s many guests could participate in and benefit from. The teepees of the Plains tribes, the longhouses of the Iroquois, the artistic styles of the Southwestern tribes, the basketwork of the Californian tribes, were all presented and combined into a single amalgamation of all Native Americans as a shared cultural heritage. This has been met with contempt in recent years, as much like at many roadside attractions and souvenir shops, many Native Americans have expressed disgust that their cultural heritage is being marketed and sold as a gimmick to tourists. Even then, the debate was between the preservation side and the exploitation side, albeit with much less communicative power and less input from the community as a whole in the pre-Internet era. And even though the Indian village of old was filled with live performers and today’s village is filled with characters and animatronics, the core of the problem remains the same and has only intensified. in his discussion over time.
The Indian Village was closed in 1971 to make way for Critter Country, the only remnants being the Indian War Canoes, now called Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes, and the Indian Trading Post, now called The Briar Patch. After 16 years of operation, the Indian Village has been closed and the debate has largely come to an end. It is still unclear which side of the debate will prevail in the current context, although it will probably be a faster outcome than the 16 years that Indian Village has lasted.
Disney has recently come under scrutiny after being accused of lying about consulting with the Indigenous communities it claims to represent at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa’s Tenaya Stone Spa. Additionally, the company came under fire when a drill crew called “The Indianettes” was allowed to sing “scalp ’em” at the Magic Kingdom.
For more Disneyland Resort news and information, follow Disneyland News Today at Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. For news from Disney Parks around the world, visit WDWNT.