Health and Fitness

Port Neches-Grove High School faces backlash following controversial Disney World performance

PORT NECHES, Texas — A efficiency by the Port Neches-Grove Excessive Faculty drill group at Walt Disney World final week is making headlines and turning into the speak of social media.

In a video posted on Twitter with greater than 1.6 million views as of Wednesday, the dancers, who’re generally known as the “Indianettes,” may very well be seen sporting Native American costumes and chanting racist phrases at Magic Kingdom throughout Spring Break. Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. of Cherokee Nation stated the highschool additionally calls its soccer stadium, the “Reservation.”

“I can tell you no Chief of the Cherokee Nation, whether it’s me or whether it dates back to Chief Swimmer who served in the late 70s to the early 80s would condone the kind of imagery or depiction of Native peoples that we see PNG not only do, but stubbornly refuse to even consider that those displays are offensive,” he stated. “They’re not authentic. They have no connection to the Cherokee people, in fact, in many ways make a mockery of our wonderful and beautiful traditions.”

Nita Battise, vice chair of tribal council for the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, held up a photograph of her nice uncle, Chief Kina Robert Fulton Battise sporting a headdress throughout her Zoom interview with ABC13. Though the dancers weren’t seen within the Twitter video with them, she and Chief Hoskin talked about how the drill group have been seen donning headdresses in different photographs and movies. They defined that usually solely these in management or extremely revered roles are allowed to put on them.

“For this to continue to this present day … unbelievable and then there was anger,” stated Nita Battise. “It’s as if we don’t exist as a tribal sovereign nation or we don’t exist as a thriving community that participates in everyday life. It’s as if we never existed.”

“The depictions they (the Indianettes) have in their photos show ornate headdresses that are actually more akin to some Plains Indian tribes. So much of that is not even rooted in Cherokee tradition,” stated Chief Hoskin. “I think it goes to show that there’s a lot of misinformation out there and a lack of understanding in the country about Native traditions. We’re not a monolith. Each tribe is different.”

Because the fallout, Disney launched an announcement that claims, “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.” Disney can also be the guardian firm of ABC13.

Individuals dwelling within the space who help utilizing the “Indians” as the college’s mascot instructed ABC13 it is meant to be a respectful tribute and a strategy to honor Native American communities. One Port Neches resident and highschool alum, who declined to offer his title, stated their college spirit is a manner to take pride for the realm’s Indigenous historical past and tradition.

“Cancel culture got started. Cancel culture needs to be canceled. Quit trying to cancel everybody for something that you don’t think is right. Understand everything before you try to cancel anyone out,” he stated.

The city is split over the controversy. Yonausdi, who requested to be recognized solely by his first title, is an alum of PNG Excessive with Cherokee heritage. He stated he hopes district officers will be aware of different faculties and athletic groups throughout the nation who’ve retired their Native American mascots. He and dozens of different group members took half in a peaceable protest outdoors of PNGISD’s board assembly Monday night.

“When it comes down to it, it dehumanizes Indigenous people,” he stated. “They say they’re all about honoring Indigenous people. In order to honor Indigenous people, you need to not speak over them. The Indigenous community is speaking and that’s where you need to listen.”

READ: Letter to Port Neches-Groves college leaders from the Cherokee Nation

Chief Hoskin tells ABC13 they’ve despatched a number of letters to PNGISD over the previous couple of years, urging the highschool to vary its Native American mascot. However he claims district officers refused. He additionally stated the tribe revoked an Ambassador of Goodwill certificates issued to the college in 1979.

“When the Chief of Cherokee Nation reaches out in 2022 and says that and is met with really, just a dismissive attitude and then we see what happened at Disney, I think it sends a message that they’re not concerned about what Cherokee Nation thinks,” he stated. “I think they are clinging to their traditions, which are traditions that frankly, don’t have any roots in actual culture.”

He defined using Native American mascots in faculties perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes about Indigenous individuals, corresponding to the thought of savagery.

“Generations of young Indigenous people were forced through boarding schools through federal Indian policies, even state policies that suppressed expressions of their culture. They lost their identity in large measure and our identity means so much,” stated Chief Hoskin. “To see our identity just completely mischaracterized, made almost cartoonish and buffoonish, it does something to young Natives.”

Almost the entire Port Neches-Groves Excessive Faculty’s social media accounts have been both deleted or made personal and district officers haven’t disclosed why. They despatched ABC13 a generic assertion that writes, “We are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our school district.” However they declined to reply our follow-up questions on whether or not they would contemplate a mascot change.

“I want PNG High School’s students to know that I don’t have any ill will against them. But I want officials to know you can’t honor tribes by making us mascots or even naming your team after us,” stated Chief Hoskin. “But it could be in deepening students’ understanding of Native culture and there’s lots of ways to do that. Imagine if Cherokee historians or cultural experts were invited to a school to talk about real Cherokee culture and identity. Students would be so much better off. They would lead fuller lives.”

Battise, who’s a part of the chief committee for the Nationwide Congress of American Indians, stated the group which represents a unified voice of all 574 tribal nations is working to eradicate Native American-themed mascots “once and for all.”

“We must start the process to educate our students, because this is something that should no longer be acceptable,” stated Battise. “This is an opportunity to engage in a dialogue, a much-needed overdue dialogue.”

The Walt Disney Firm is the guardian firm of Walt Disney World and this station.

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