Native American man calls out Disney for teepee theme park display

‘I still don’t understand why Disney thinks it’s okay’, said viewer of viral video

Gino Spocchia
Monday 16 May 2022 10:48
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Native American TikToker calls out Disney for teepee display

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The portrayal of Native American people and culture by Disney has again been called into question after a TikTok user asked why “my people” were featured in a ride display.

John Barbachano, the TikTok user and a Native American man, filmed the Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes ride at Disneyland California on Monday.

His video showed teepees and models of Native Americans as scenery on the water-based ride, which riders experience from a canoe.

As the Disneyland website describes it on its website, the scenery is of “an idyllic Native American village”, and is among multiple locations that “sharp-eyed explores can spot.”

“I was confused on why my people were put up on display at Disneyland lol”, wrote Mr Barbachano as a video overlay. “The guy in front of me looked at me like he’s never seen a Native American in the flesh before lol,” he added in the caption.

The comments on the video, which appeared to criticise Disney for appropriating Native American culture for a ride display, generated heated discussion on TikTok.

“I’m just accustomed to it since early childhood. I never thought it out,” wrote one user of the use of Native American imagery.

“I still don’t understand why Disney thinks it’s okay,” argued another.

Many also suggested the display was informative, with a TikTok user writing: “You know I find it actually kind of beautiful to know my culture is being shared with the world and being taught to young kids”.

While the ride has been at Disneyland California since 1956, questions over Disney’s use of Native American culture in other parks and in films have been raised in recent years.

An incident at Disney World Florida last month see dancers from Texas-based Port Neches-Groves Independent School District performing a routine that appeared to mimic a Native American dance and involved the chant “scalp ‘em.”

Disney said in a following statement the “Indianettes” performance was “not consistent with the audition tape the school provided” and that it has “immediately put measures in place so this is not repeated.”

“The live performance in our park did not reflect our core values, and we regret it took place,” an emailed statement to USA Today read,

The Independent has approached Disney for comment.

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