Friday, September 22, 2006

Hey Paw! Circle The Waguns!!! Thar's Injuns In Frontierland!!!

Yes, that's right kiddies! Once upon a time, Frontierland was chock full of Indians!

And just like Manifest Destiny of the Old West, we chased them outta Anaheim too!

Honestly, I can't think of a better way to get kids involved with American history than theme parks. Disney knew he could teach kids better while they had fun. Frontierland did this in spades with the 1950s-1970s Indian Village.

Guests were treated to a full environmental experience in a romantic and dare I say, politically correct display of various American Indian cultures. When I say this, Disney used tribal consultants to create displays and practice rituals that were passed down through individual tribal customs.

The Indian Village was to represent not just a television writer's fanciful amalgamation of Indian life, but a fair cross section of many tribes across the West and their differences.

One of the best examples of these hands-on learning experiences was the Indian Dance Circle.

Several tribes were represented and they would 'trade off' for six month period runs at the park. Very much like EPCOT's World Showcase exchange program, tribal performers were invited for a periodic contract with housing for the duration of their run at the park. Within six months, another tribe would be represented with slightly different performances of their
tribal customs.

Kids were invited to participate during these performances and get hands on with people who were represented for the most part as "the enemy" on TV. I don't think you have to guess the positive impact of a 1950s kid meeting an actual Indian and seeing how great Indian culture was. Especially when you consider how small the chances were for kids of the era to travel through the West and Southwest and visit the various tribal visiting centers.

As usual, Disney took a sample of something from the world, cleaned it up, packaged it and tried to keep it a fairly authentic presentation within his theme park...

It's a part of the park that I think was underestimated for the good it did while giving kids an experience they just won't have access to as easily.

The Village itself consisted of several areas. Some of which were meant more for travelers on the Rivers of America than for pedestrians in the Village itself. The river village was mainly for the Columbia and Mark Twain passengers to experience from their ships.

Another good view of this was from the Indian War Canoes which embarked just yards away from the sectioned off river village.

I've been lucky enough to acquire some original design paintings done for the original 1955 Indian Village. These tribal symbols are seen throughout the area on shields, tepees and ground areas.

If you look closely cowboys and cowgirls, you will see some of these in the field!

These were created for the Disneyland Scenic Department to apply to the sets. Sam McKim told me he designed most of them using books on tribal symbols from the studio library.

Let's all write our Congressmen to pressure Disneyland to bring back them Indians!!


Blogger Major Pepperidge said...

ZOIKS, wow what a ton of cool stuff. Those tribal symbols are amazing.

I had been led to believe that the Indian performers were unhappy for various reasons. During the 60's and 70's there was a lot of activism on the part of American Indians, with all kinds of protests and demonstrations. Maybe Disneyland had received some heat based on their "exploitation" of the native people??

1:28 PM  
Blogger Chris Merritt said...

Ooooooo - pretty damn cool Jordan.

Nice writing too - you really nailed it on the head today.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Dominic said...

I still have my circa 1965 Disneyland Indian Village Souvenir Scalp®.

11:14 AM  

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