Members of the Port Neches-Groves Indians Marching Band, Indianettes, Twirlers and other student groups stand with their parents during Parents' Night ceremonies before the start of Wednesday's game with the Lumberton Raiders at Indian Stadium in Port Neches. (Mike Tobias/The Enterprise)

‘Indianettes’ Drill Team Not Allowed to Wear War Bonnets, But Are Allowed to Chant ‘Scalp ‘Em’ During Magic Kingdom Performance

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A Facebook user shared in the Disney Campers group that a drill team known as the “Indianettes” was not allowed to wear the headdresses included in their uniform when performing at Magic Kingdom.

Terry and Pernell Spillers posted, “What is Disney doing not allowing a high school drill team, the Indianettes not wear a part of their uniform in the parades… Indians from years past have always worn headdresses. How is this offensive????”

Members of the Port Neches-Groves Indians Marching Band, Indianettes, Twirlers and other student groups stand with their parents during Parents’ Night ceremonies before the start of Wednesday’s game with the Lumberton Raiders at Indian Stadium in Port Neches. (Mike Tobias/The Enterprise)

Above is an example of one of the headdresses the twirlers and captains of the drill team — which is from Port Neches-Groves High School in Texas — wear, via Beaumont Enterprise.

Spillers indicated that members of the Indians Marching Band had worn headdresses at Disney Parks in the past, but that they were now barred from wearing them.

Headdresses, or war bonnets, are traditionally worn by Native American chiefs and warriors. It is generally considered offensive when anyone who hasn’t earned the honor of the war bonnet wears them.

Simon Moya-Smith, a journalist and citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation, told MTV in 2014, “The headdress is reserved for our revered elders who, through their selflessness and leadership, have earned the right to wear one. It’s a spiritual garb, not just cultural; it’s not merely an addition to one’s attire. Wearing one, even an imitation headdress, belittles what our elders have spent a lifetime to earn.”

The marching band performed at Magic Kingdom yesterday, March 15. The original YouTube video was deleted but Tara Houska, a co-founder of Not Your Mascots, shared a clip of the drill team on Twitter.

Though they are not wearing headdresses, the dancers do have feathers in their hair, and their fringed uniforms are reminiscent of traditional Native American clothing. They perform a dance and song that parodies Native American ceremonies, including chanting “scalp ’em.”

Houska wrote, “And any Natives who attend [Port Neches-Groves] should prolly just accept their classmates dehumanizing them cuz ‘tradition’, right? Shame on [Disney Parks] hosting this. Nostalgic racism is RACISM.”

Houska also shared that the school is currently responding to emails about the incident with a form letter that calls the Cherokee Nation “extremely dishonorable” for revoking their seal of approval. The school also blocked Houska on Twitter.

Despite some failures, The Walt Disney Company has been making a greater effort to be inclusive in recent years, including covering a Native American caricature on a logo at the Main Street Confectionery.

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    1. I’m not of Native American descent, but are you? I really highly doubt it, because “Drew” is surely a traditional Native American name, and I looked up “Stagno” on Behind the Name Surnames, literally no origin comes up. So yeah…

    2. Says the white person who thinks they speak for all POC as if they aren’t individuals and are incapable of speaking for themselves

    1. Really? Woke? The fact that stupid white people think this is OK is the story. Why don’t you post your real name so everyone knows what a racist you really are?!!!

    1. You’re the only joke, just because you don’t have culture doesn’t mean you need to steal others.

  1. Our area’s heritage and mascot is of the Cherokee tribe, not the Oglala Lakota tribe. We honor the Cherokee who are buried in our city by remembering their heritage and keeping their spirit alive. It is sad to see people who have no connection with our area and have no general understanding of our mascot and name tell us that we are dishonoring Native Americans by our school support and spirit of the Cherokee Indians.

    1. You are leaving out the fact that Cherokee Nation has sent letters in 2020 and 2021 stating in no uncertain terms that they do not feel PNGISD’s traditions “honor” them and would like them to stop appropriating their culture.

      The narrative quickly changed from “We honor their culture” to “We don’t need their permission”.

      Also, the statue in the front of the school that the mascot is based on is Geronimo, an Apache, while the fight song that chants “scalp em” is Cherokee.

      The school does not provide any education on the cultural differences between tribes or any education on Native American culture at all, for that matter.

      1. If you don’t understand why dressing up as another ethnic group is bad or why when you claim to ‘honor’ a group and the group tells you it’s definitely not honoring them and to stop, you probably aren’t actually ‘honoring’ anybody but yourself and your backwards traditions, I would suggest therapy.

        Jesus, I feel like a school could walk down Main Street in blackface and ‘Twirl Mom’ would happily explain that they earn the black paint and work hard to get them, and rednecks would complain about the ‘woke police.’

    2. Let me give you and the other people who don’t seem to understand some perspective. A specific group of people should not be a mascot. Plain and simple. This would be akin to a school in Germany using a stereotype of a Jewish person as a mascot. Not cool right? Pretty horrific right? There are literally thousands of mascots to choose from. Society progresses and it’s time to move from using specific people groups as mascots. The headress is a sacred item worn by those who have earned it. Again, it would be like a team wearing purple hearts for fun. Makes no sense right?

    3. So… “scalp em, Indians, scalp em” is honoring them? What a joke. The reason they are buried in your city is because, I dunno… they were killed by white people?

    4. The letter from the school district explicitly states “the Cherokee had not resided in the Southeast Texas region” so clearly you don’t even understand heritage you’re attempting to claim.

    5. You are dishonoring them. Not the other way around. Women never wore headdresses, that wan an HONOR bestowed upon tribal elders, that spent their entire LIFE TIME to earn. Each time you put on one you are dishonoring each and every Native American, as well as making a mockery out of our spiritual and cultural beliefs. Your little dances you do, all very VERY disrespectful. How would you like a mascot called Whitey, that was depicted going around raping indigenous women, killing babies and the elderly, and distributing blankets infected with smallpox?? After all. That is precisely what you’re ancestors have done to mine, and millions of other Natives, and now you sit here on some high horse, acting ignorant to the core as to exactly why and how you and your Indianettes are a racist troupe?!?!? Oh well it IS tradition……. Germany had a tradition of killing Jews, should we honor that OBVIOUSLY EVIL tradition? You probably think so. I cannot wait for the day ignorant, little minded individuals like you go and meet your Maker. Lmfao, hope your ready for the deep south. And I do not mean Texas, I mean Hell, because ignorant racist people do not get into Heaven.

  2. These headdress are not given to anyone and aren’t just added to the “costume”. Our senior leaders earn them. These leaders earn them after 12 years of schooling, earning them for their leadership qualities, citizenship, hard work, and good grades. There are probably less than 20 a year that get a headdress. It is a great honor to get one.

    1. So in those 12 years of schooling they don’t learn about the trail of tears? Or any of the other struggles of the indigenous people? It’s racist cultural appropriation. Hard stop.

    2. I can TOTALLY see how going through school to earn a headdress is on the same level of what a warrior or a chief went through. Too bad this path wasn’t available at the time. Thanks for the explanation.

    3. We ALL go through 12 years of school. Your kid is not special and has not “earned” anything but a diploma.

  3. Not that I expect those rednecks to understand, but “scalp ’em” and a mocking dance is still incredibly offensive. I’m amazed Disney allowed that at all.

    1. That reminds me, Disneyland in it’s earlier years used to have real Native American tribes come out and share their culture with the guests. While now it seems awkward, it was pretty progressive for 1950s standards.

    2. They literally turned down free design and rebranding that was offered to them by Adidas. One look at the demographic statistics if the city really tells you everything you need to know…..

  4. “Look at how inclusive we are! We’re banning the offensive costume, but still allowing their racist performance!

  5. The drill team does not wear headdresses. Those who wear headdresses are the frontline twirlers who lead the band, and the captains (leaders) of the drill team. These girls work hard to gain their positions and to “earn” their feathers. They take pride in making them by hand…one feather at a time. It is a great honor to wear a headdress for the PNG Indians. It is part of their heritage. As you can imagine, these girls were disappointed…but as you can see, they put on their best smiles, heads held high, and performed beautifully with great composure! Good job ladies! 💜

    1. Yes heads held high as they chanted scalp em.

      Your school’s racist heritage is still racist; you as a parent should care more about the girls knowing right from wrong instead of crying over not being able to wear racist trinkets.

      I am sure that you would be on Fox News complaining about a drill team named the Joettes wearing service dress uniforms decorated with ribbons, medals, and purple hearts.

    2. Week. This isn’t it. When Natives tell you that headdresses are sacred, and that elders earn them, the proper response is NOT that these girls “earn” them too.

      They CAN’T earn what isn’t theirs to win.

      Natives are people, not mascots, and by stealing their culture, symbols, and words, you continue the harm we’ve caused Natives since we stole their land.

      Racist stereotypes are NOT tribute. You should know that, as Natives have told the school on several occasions and continue to.

      Please stop treating this as a pretty costume. As another said – would you have these girls wear purple hearts? No, because that dishonors veterans and steals their honor. Same thing with allowing girls to wear headdresses.

    3. I think it’s pretty obvious that no one has a problem with the kids, it’s the fact that all of the adults around them are telling them that these “traditions” at their school are more important than the opinions of the very peoples they parody. That embracing these costumes, these chants, these symbols is more important than being empathetic to indigenous persons and their rights and opinions.

      “But our use of their culture as our school culture honors them!”

      Indigenous person: ‘no it doesn’t, it’s insulting.’

      ‘That’s ridiculous you should be honored! You can’t tell us what to do. We will just keep doing what we’ve always done because changing would be admitting that it was wrong and that hurts and it’s just too hard.’

      Using an ethnic group as a mascot is problematic, but also continuing to use that ethnics group as your own personal emblem after the group specifically asks you not to, is egregious.

      It’s willfully ignorant, and these kids who are just doing the best they can with what’s given to them, will be better served when the adults around them swallow their pride and accept that using an ethnicity and culture as their mascot is a TERRIBLE TRADITION TO ENABLE.

    4. How about the heritage of the indigenous people these traditions have been stolen from? This is flat out racism. Chanting “scalp em?” As well?? Get right on out of here. It’s racist, you know it, but don’t want to actually open a history book to learn why.

    5. It’s an outdated tradition that you folks are bitterly hanging on to. I understand that change is hard for you but you should really hope your kids move on and leave the area so they can understand that the world is very different than their small community.

    6. I can not believe you are teaching your children this is okay. Listen I’m glad your kids are working hard, but they are completely disrespecting a culture that is not “historic” – it’s current. Consent is not a one off, and it doesn’t matter if it was given in the past. If the band is telling you to stop? You stop.

      Imagine thinking you had any kind of “right” to a spiritual practice from a culture that isn’t yours. 🙄

    7. Twirl Mom showing how gross she is: “Yes, our privileged white kids were rewarded for bettering themselves by being encouraged to actively be disrespectful to another culture.” This isn’t ‘heritage,’ this is old and dated racism that’s been left unchecked. Every adult (parents AND employees of the school) in your ISD that participated in any of this at any level of these kids’ education is an awful human being and a racist. Another example of one loud group of Texans looking like uneducated white trash.

    8. And everybody is ashamed of those girls and there school except for the people in your town. It’s racist and you need to listen to the Indigenous people. You think Jesus would be okay with this? It is not okay and it’s never been okay.

    9. It’s not part of your daughters “heritage” it’s part of the NATIVE AMERICANS heritage. For your daughters it’s just a costume and a culturally appropriated one at that and deeply, deeply offensive. Especially while they’re wearing them as they chant “scalp ’em!”. I can imagine how horrified you’d be if another drill team put a crucifix or cross on their heads and danced around chanting “Crucify them, Jesus!” during some secular entertainment show! So please, spare us with how disappointed your girls are. Instead use this moment to teach them (and yourself apparently) how to show respect for the solemnity of these sacred Native American traditions instead of using them for their own self glorification.

    10. Yeah, how about you just give them a trophy or a pat on the back. Justifying this behavior is disgusting and in no way did they “earn” an appropriated headdress. My DNA says I am about the whitest white woman ever from a tiny uber-conservative small southern town and even I understand the issue here.

  6. You’ve got to be kidding me! Disney keep putting your foot in your mouth. Nothing has gone right for you this Jubilee year! I don’t see it getting any better either.

  7. Heritage.

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    What is heritage?
    – something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth.
    – something which is inherited from one’s ancestors.

    What is tradition?
    – tradition is the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice.

    Twirl Mom, Wouldn’t the ‘girls’ (your word not mine) learn more if what they saw and heard from their parents was a little more cultural sensitivity? I can’t begin to say how disgusted I am with your whole program pretending that you are Native Americans.
    Be forward thinking instead of bigoted and start a new tradition to recognize the young women who hold positions of leadership. If these seniors go to college anywhere besides the schools in the rural south they will learn that world does not revolve around Texas.

  8. People actually thinking they should be able to wear cheap costume headdress need to take a history class. Not surprised since most of y’all are just dumb rednecks who likes to pick and choose what history they look at. Natives were banned from using their culture for many years. Many were killed and forced to forget their cultures at a young age by the church. So why should these white people be able to wear it after all the years natives were put down over it. Also, Disney should have never allowed that racist school to preform PERIOD.

  9. It is not okay. It has never been okay. The people at that school district have zero respect for the culture and religion it represents. It doesn’t matter how hard any student worked at earning the right to wear something offensive. They will continue to turn a blind eye to how disrespectful it is. The tribes in the last two year said it’s offensive, and that the school does not have their blessing. The bottom line is the majority of them are not people of color. They would rather sit atop their ivory towers yelling about how it’s a “local tradition” rather that admit they are in the wrong.

  10. All of the defensive replies here are clearly put by equally racist defenders if not attendees of that school. The Sioux band was mentioned because that is one of the many tribes that wear headdresses. All equally ignorant and care more about the racist roots and occurrence of their school over the fact that their school is only party to an old narrative that natives are not human, and work on devaluing our ways by making fun of native livelihood. (Look up the context of the saying ‘kill the Indian to save the man.’) and some of them even have claimed that ‘native people are conquered so their culture is ours to do with what we want’ which isn’t true beginning to end.
    Don’t forget that indigenouspeoplesmovement’s Instagram also posted a video of the fact the school is even worse at being racist by indoctrination of their kids at a young age to be racist against native Americans. Unacceptable. No matter what.

  11. They should refuse to perform. Here the far left is taking away freedoms again. You don’t like the headdresses? Then don’t watch. Whatever happened to imitation being the sincerest form of flattery?

  12. If the information provided here is correct, the headdress is not only a sign of accomplishment and service, but also has religious significance. Since it tends to be white “Christians” (quotes implying that I question their genuine Christianity), maybe you can imagine someone using the cross or a priest’s religious clothing as a sign of accomplishment for a high schooler, and people openly making a mockery of your beliefs. I’m guessing you might appreciate an organization’s right, in a capitalist society, to choose not to allow someone to do that at their business. They should not have been allowed to wear the bonnets, OR do the chant.

    1. But yet Disney Wilderness Lodge depicts Native American blankets on coke machines, Tee Pee chandeliers, and let’s not forget a totem pole with Mickey Mouse and other Disney Characters on it. Oh, and the artifacts( real or replicas) displayed have no description to educate on their heritage. So isn’t Disney profiting off of Native America’s???

  13. I kind of can’t believe that people can’t figure out this is, in fact, racist, and not okay, but may I make a suggestion?

    There’s a legitimate way for the senior girls to earn feathers. Beyond Buckskin dedicates itself to promoting Native art and design. Everything they sell is appropriate for non-indigenous people to use and wear, and the company founder has created beautiful, hand-beaded feather pendants. She stated explicitly in a newsletter that she hoped people would use her “feathers” to thank and honor their friends and family. This preserves the sacred nature of traditional feathers, but allows the rest of us to appreciate a beautiful custom in an appropriate way. I would love for this school to purchase some Miigwan pendants and reserve them for their seniors every year.

    Also, please, change the chant. It’s not okay.

  14. As usual, lots of intolerant people here. I absolutely see nothing wrong with it and the headdress is very pretty. It is akin to a fight song. Cultural appropriation is nonsense since it is done every day all over the USA.

  15. This is shameful and anyone that supports this racism should be ashamed. Isn’t the right’s whole reasoning about the “Dont Say Gay” that they don’t want their kids to learn about being gay? But you are OK with your children being taught racism, racist slogans, and racist costumes? Right needs to get their story straight because they are all across the board on what is “muh freedom” and what should be legislated against.

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