Port Neches-Grove High School is facing backlash after a controversial appearance at Disney World

PORT NECHES, Texas (KTRK) – A performance by the drill team from Port Neches-Grove High School at Walt Disney World last week made headlines and became a talking point on social media.

in one Video posted on Twitter With more than 1.6 million views on Wednesday, the dancers, known as the “Indianettes,” dressed up in costumes inspired by Native American attire and sang racist phrases during Spring Break at the Magic Kingdom. Principal Chuck Hoskin Jr. of the Cherokee Nation said the high school also calls its football stadium “Reservation.”

“I can tell you that no Chief of the Cherokee Nation, whether it be me or whether it harks back to Chief Swimmer who served in the late ’70s-early ’80s, would condone the kind of imagery or depictions of Native Americans that we just don’t.” in PNG but stubbornly refuse to even consider that these depictions are offensive,” he said. “They are not authentic. They have no connection to the Cherokee Indians, in fact they make our wonderful ones and beautiful traditions in many ways a laughing stock.”


Nita Battise, vice chair of the tribal council for the Alabama Coushatta tribe in Texas, held up a photo of her great-uncle Chief Kina Robert Fulton Battise with a headdress during her Zoom interview with ABC13. Though the dancers weren’t seen with them in the Twitter video, she and Chief Hoskin spoke about how the drill team wore headgear in other photos and videos. They explained that they are normally only allowed to be worn by people in positions of leadership or high standing.

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

“The representations that they (the Indianettes) have in their photographs show ornate headgear actually more like some Plains Indian tribes. So much of it isn’t even rooted in Cherokee tradition,” Chief Hoskin said. “I think it shows that there is a lot of misinformation and a lack of understanding of Aboriginal traditions in the country. We are not a monolith. Every tribe is different.”

Since the fallout, Disney released a statement stating, “The live performance at our park did not reflect our core values ​​and we regret that it took place. It did not match the audition tape provided by the school and we took immediate action on site so this will not be repeated.” Disney is also ABC13’s parent company.

People who live in the area and support the use of the “Native Americans” as the school’s mascot told ABC13 it was a respectful tribute and a way to honor Native American communities. A Port Neches resident and high school alum, who declined to be named, said their school spirit is a way of showing pride in the area’s Indigenous history and culture.

“The cancel culture has started. The Cancel culture must be aborted. Stop canceling everyone out for something you don’t think is right. Understand everything before you try to strike someone out,” he said.

The city is divided over the controversy. Yonausdi, who asked to be identified by his first name only, is a PNG High graduate of Cherokee heritage. He said he hopes county officials will take note of other schools and athletic teams across the country that have retired their Native American mascots. He and dozens of other community members took part in a peaceful protest outside PNGISD’s board meeting Monday night.

“Ultimately, it dehumanizes the indigenous people,” he said. “They say they only care about honoring the indigenous people. To honor the indigenous people, one must not talk about them. The indigenous community speaks and here you have to listen.”

READ: Letter to Port Neches-Groves School Principals of the Cherokee Nation

Chief Hoskin told ABC13 that they have sent several letters to PNGISD over the past few years, urging the high school to change its Native American mascot. But he claims county officials refused. He also said the tribe revoked a 1979 Goodwill Ambassador certificate issued to the school.

“If the Chief of Cherokee Nation reaches out in 2022 and says that and it’s met with really just a dismissive attitude, and then we see what happened at Disney, I think that sends a message that they don’t care what Cherokee Nation thinks,” he said. “I think they hold onto their traditions that honestly have no roots in actual culture.”

He stated that the use of Native American mascots in schools perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes about Indigenous peoples, such as the idea of ​​savagery.

“Generations of young Indigenous peoples have been forced to go through boarding schools by federal Indian policies, even by state policies that suppressed the expression of their culture. They’ve lost their identity in a big way, and our identity means so much,” Chief Hoskin said. “To see our identities being completely mischaracterized, almost caricatured and made goofy, does something to young natives.”

Virtually all of Port Neches-Groves High School’s social media accounts have either been deleted or privatized, and county officials have not disclosed why. They sent ABC13 a general statement saying, “We are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in our school district.” But they declined to answer our follow-up questions about whether they would consider a mascot change.

“I want PNG High School students to know that I have no ill will towards them. But I want officers to know that you cannot honor tribes by making us mascots or even naming your team after us,” Chief Hoskin said. “But it could serve to increase students’ understanding of Aboriginal culture, and there are many ways to do that. Imagine Cherokee historians or cultural experts invited to a school to speak about real Cherokee culture and identity. Students would be so much better off. You would live a fuller life.”

Battise, who is part of the Executive Committee of the National Congress of American Indians, said the organization, which represents a unified voice from all 574 tribal nations, is working to eradicate Native American-themed mascots “once and for all.”

“We must start the process of educating our students because that should no longer be tolerated,” Battise said. “This is an opportunity to have a dialogue, a much-needed, overdue dialogue.”

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of Walt Disney World and this station.

Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All rights reserved. Port Neches-Grove High School is facing backlash after a controversial appearance at Disney World

Dais Johnston

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