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Below are opinions and discussion most of which took place over a private EMAIL list whose subscribers include only Indian people, many enrolled, some not but thoroughly involved in Indian communities, work, issues, and knowledgeable of their own tribal history, culture. The list has a rule forbidding use of postings by its members elsewhere without permission of the original author, which I sought. (I also asked if they would be willing to email-correspond with Indian youth who may be interested in what they have to say.) In all the discussions I found on the InterNet about Pocahontas--many of which are linked to via search-engines on the main page--none of the non-Indian people, not even the intelligent Chinese youth whose long review/essay is included on the opinion page, considered the points raised here. Here, too, I found thoughtful open-mindedness: an intention to respond to what is really there, rather than a closed belief that it would necessarily be bad. Without exception, the spin-off product merchandising was found to be offensive for various reasons.

There is not a single "Indian viewpoint" on the movie, but there is a kind of overview, and it is different from the variety of views non-Indian people have expressed. Most striking to me was thoughtfulness and a sense of responsibility to find out actual facts, not react to preconceived opinions or ideas.

A generalization is possible: much of the discussion and opinion expressed here is in a way not really about Pocahontas-the-current-Disney-cartoon. It is about media and marketing, about cultural and historical exploitation, the Disney cartoon being a current item focusing such consideration.

This Opinions page is one document, although there are anchors placed to use as jumps from the Opinion Page Menu, but you can scroll this page continuously and read to the end, then use the usual page-end navigation buttons.

A Tsalagi (Cherokee) mother's -- she writes using the name Freedom Spirit Rising -- views of Pocahontas were touched off by a magazine her daughter subscribes to:

My daughter receives a publication every month, that is geared to children her age. (Almost 12). I cannot think of what it is, and it is in her room, so I'll have to fill that in another time. Anyway, they focused this whole months issue on "Pocahontas"...the film, and the "real" story. She was appalled when she saw the cover, and said "Mom, this _whole_ thing is about that movie!" Both of my children find it offensive, the way it has been marketed, and knowing full-well that it is not being done by Indians, folks! I nodded sympathetically, and she said "Why did they have to go and waste a whole issue on this crud"? I said, "But Green, it says it has the 'real story'." (Sarcasm there!) She looks at me, and says "Right, Mom. Well, this is one kid who does not believe their 'stories'", threw it on the kitchen counter in disgust, and walked away! See, there is still hope for the future. :)

That, and my children can now speak full, clear sentences, albeit short ones, in Tsalagi, which none of us could do very long ago. :) This pleases us all immensely. We need to learn and claim our languages. I feel this is very important. My son said hello, and asked me how I was, in Tsalagi, as I walked to the front door, and he was riding up on his bike to greet me. A friend was with him...(we are the only Indians around here, believe me)...and his friend looked at him quizzically. My son waited for my answer, and I then asked him how he was doing, in Tsalagi. He answered, and as they were riding off again, his friend said something, and my son shrugged his shoulders, and said, "Tsalagi. It's our language...", and rode off! Left me smiling!   :)

That's all. Thanks for "listening."

Later, after she had read an interview in which Russell Means (voice of Powhatan) pronounced the film not just politically correct but revolutionary, she looked again and considered more facts. Her ideas began to change. Freedom Spirit now writes:

You know, I don't know quite what to think of Pocahontas, actually. I have 2 children, as most of you know. My son Majik is soon to be 11, and my daughter Green, soon to be 12. We have all sat and groaned every time we hear of some new thing being marketed from Pocahontas, or at the adverts, whatever. But then I was looking at that magazine my daughter got. I started thinking last night, that it really is unfair to judge what the magazine says, or even what the movie is like, until I have read and seen them. And I really feel this to be true. I do not like the idea of Disney getting my money, for the fare to the movie, but we would not see it when they were still charging top prices for it, anyway, so they would not get as much. :) And how can I tell people what is wrong with it, if I do not know myself.

For example: I did not know that the voice of Pocahontas was done by Irene Bedard, who played Mary Crow Dog, in Lakota Woman. Or that the voice of the father, Chief Powhatan, is done by Russell Means. So, that is 2 Indians that they used, for 2 of the main Indian characters.

Irene Bedard says that she was allowed to make some script changes, if something did not sound "right or authentic", and when Russell Means was asked what he thought of the movie...if it portrayed American Indian history...he was quoted as saying, among other things.."This film is the finest feature film ever done about American Indians in the history of Hollywood. It's so revolutionary, it _shocked_ me when they showed it to me. The first thing that _shocked_ me was the truth. The Eurocentric males are admitting why they came here---to kill Indians and to rob and pillage." (Used without permission).

This comes from Disney Adventures magazine, though, which usually does not focus entirely on Disney stuff, or my kids would not read it. But I do not think Disney would see it as necessarily complimentary to have Russell Means talking about Eurocentric males coming here to kill Indians, and rob and pillage..yet it was printed as a quote.

I also read another thing about the movie this week...I think it was in "Esquire", that said at least this movie does not have the animals talking to the people, like most Disney films. No bunnies bursting into song! :) None-the-less, she is constantly accompanied by a hummingbird and a raccoon, which I doubt is "historically accurate".

It is very difficult to come up with a fair opinion, unless you find out the facts. I do not have all the facts yet. Or at least not all the ones that will be available to me. But it has taught me something...that it is easy for me to jump, and think that our People are being exploited, and have a "Oh, dear God, here we go again", attitude, wondering what horrendous thing they will come up with next, before I really even know anything about it.

So: we will see Pocahontas eventually, if only to be able to say, "That is a bunch of lies." And there will be _no_ toys, happy meals, games, or anything else being marketed and generated from this movie, in our house.

I will not have a hard time enforcing this, as my children are appalled by this, all by theirselves...for which I feel proud of them.

So: That's what I have been thinking, and what I have learned. Any other comments or opinions?

Old Jim (Jim Oyler), a 62-year-old Shawnee who has been very active in seeking Indian legal land rights, responded about friendly animals:

I don't go to movies but!

My humming birds let me squirt (very fine spray) water on them on hot summer days. So do the robins. I also had a raccoon that would follow me up to the spring as I would feed him grapes. This lasted about 4 years. He is gone now.

old jim

PG Note: Flit-the hummingbird there in Pocahontas's hand isn't getting squirted by Old Jim's hose, he's recovering from drowning. This digression about birds and racoons was included on this page solely so I could use these DisPix which are so cute!

Freedom responded that her point about the animals had been to indicate it isn't possible the film is accurate about that, so perhaps inaccurate about other things::

Hi, Old Jim: My point was not that it was impossible. My point was that one person was making a comment about it being historically accurate...(That being Russell Means)...and for some reason, I doubt that it says _anywhere_ that she was accompanied by a hummingbird and a raccoon. That was all.

Actually, your hummingbirds sound cool! (No pun intended!) Most will bolt if a human is in sight. That's because most humans do not show respect, and of course, we as Indians do! :) (No generalizations there, folks!) But if you are _very_ quiet, they will not bolt, is what I have found.

Also, we had a raccoon in our garage last year...he was looking for a home, as it got colder. I immediately named him Rocky, (original, aren't I) :) and we took photo's of him. He was really sweet, but we could not just leave him there, so he was on his way, looking for better and bigger garages! I am sorry your raccoon is gone now. After 4 years, I'll bet you miss him.


Darren Renville, Sisseton-Wahpeton and Assininboine maintains the informative Sisseton-Wahpeton Lake Traverse tribal homepage (see SCHOOLS page here). He teaches a course on Images of Indians in Film and Literature replies to Freedom on Pocahontas still not in release:

I think this (seeing the movie before forming a judgement about it) is fair: In all honesty, Disney has an atrocious record in its portrayals of Indians, and there was no reason to think Pocahontas was going to make up for it. Nevertheless, I very clearly remember the fundamentalist reaction to The Last Temptation of Christ, which virtually no one bothered to see, but everyone had an opinion on.

(Re Russell Means's comments    ):

Russell Means said about the same thing about The Last of the Mohicans, and in many ways, that movie was the same as it ever was, so I'd be hesitant to go by anything he has to say about his appearance in this film, which is undoubtedly an incredible boon to his career.

And as far as the raccoon business goes, this is a cartoon, after all, not a historical record, and a musical to boot - taking it to task for those things is unfair, I think.

I guess I'm cynical whenever a new movie comes out and will continue to be until I see a film directed or at least written by an Indian...But it's important to be able to say you saw the movie, otherwise you're just another Bob Dole, jumping on a bandwagon with other people's opinions.

Others began to express opinions, mostly along the lines of "Yet another exploitation of Indian people/history by Hollywood." Freedom Spirit responded:

I am glad to see that other people are posting their opinions, and thoughts about the movie, and about what I wrote. However, I would like to say that I wrote about something that I myself, learned about me! Which was that I automatically tend to jump to the conclusion that our People are being exploited, before I even know the facts...and it was not something that I was particularly comfortable learning. Which means it was a good lesson.

I did not say that Russell Means' quote meant anything in par- ticular...I was not using it as an endorsement of the film, 'cause good ole' Russell said it's fine! :) I was just giving little bits of information that I had gleaned from a quick scan of my daughter's magazine. I was pleased that there were 2 Indians playing the major Indian characters...doing the voices.

Whether or not it is furthering Russell's career is really not my least he is not someone who is from another culture, and has no idea what it is to be Indian. That mattered to me. If his track record in acting is not really good, then I just gleaned another piece of info. to work with. But I was not saying it was gospel. I was just giving you what was before me. More of "something to think about".

Also, Irene Bedard said that she was allowed to make script changes concerning dialog! I found this interesting, so we will have to see how Pocahontas sounds.

What I wrote was to give you something to think about, and obviously, it has done that. And I learned something from it.

I am so used to Indians being treated so poorly, in almost all cases, that it seemed to be beyond my scope of thought, at the initial point, that maybe they had tried to do the best they could, at least with the movie aspect of it, and still make it a cartoon, and entertaining. It may turn out that it _is_ horrendous. But I cannot know that, until I see it. I am smart enough to know that Disney's first concern is going to be making money, and the fact that they have marketed everything that they can think of, off of this movie, is really disgusting. But I can do something about that. I can not buy any of it, and I can let people know that I disapprove. I cannot do a thing about the fact that rather I like it or not, this film is going to be shown to literally millions of people.

So--if I am going to oppose it, I better know why I am doing so. I cannot go around saying, "This movie is exploiting the Indian people, the story they are showing is not true, and it is insulting to me and to my People", and then when someone asks why, say: "I don't know. I refuse to see it." Makes me look more ignorant than Disney ever could.

(And Darren, I did see "The Last Temptation of Christ". Also have the book! I tend to be one of those people that if I am interested, the fact that it is controversial and is getting panned, just makes me want to go and see why. I am writing to you privately about "Last Temptation...." Just want to know what you thought of it...)

Darren Renville responds:

Just read your last post about Pocahontas...Forgot to thank you for passing along the Russell Means and Irene Bedard quotes - I teach a class called "Images of Indians in Literature and Film", so anything about Indians in movies is helpful to me...Plus I just plain love reading about movies...

Anyway, I guess my main thing is that I think all judgements with regard to art should be reserved until you've actually experienced the art...I remember vividly the response to "The Last Temptation of Christ" -it eventually evolved (or devolved) into the ugliest, most unChristian displays you can imagine, and the infuriating thing was that most people had not only not seen the film, but tried to prevent others from seeing it, which was a silly tactic, because more people than would've ended seeing up it saw the film, just to see what the hubbub was about...No publicity is bad publicity in Hollywood! (I was going to see "Last Temptation..." anyway, because I'm nuts for Martin Scorcese movies, but after the controversy fired up, I REALLY wanted to see it!) Anyway, I just think people should hold off judgements on Pocahontas until they see it - if it sucks, then it sucks, but at least you'll be able to say exactly why.


--a Stockbridge-Munsey Mohican, who plays the voice of Kocoum in the film, writes:

Okay Freedom, you've prompted me to "come out" to all you folks on the list.

I am the voice of "Kocoum" in Disney's Pocahontas, and with the dialog on this project opened now on the list, I'll add my $.02.

(Freedom has said: I started thinking last night, that it really is unfair to judge what the magazine says, or even what the movie is like, until I have read and seen them. And I really feel this to be true. I do not like the idea of Disney getting my money, for the fare to the movie, but we would not see it when they were still charging top prices for it, anyway, so they would not get as much. :) And how can I tell people what is wrong with it, if I do not know myself.)

I think this is a good viewpoint. A lot of people have judged the film, and judged it harshly, before seeing it. Heck, when I was cast I groaned, rolled my eyes and thought, 'how can I take this part?' and at the same time, 'How could I turn it down?'

Well, I met with the creative people involved. I talked with the producer, the two directors, and the composer and lyricist. I got good vibes from all of these people (all non-indian, by the way) and three of them are not only good people, but exceptional people with beautiful hearts. As an actor, we are constantly dealing with non-indian originated projects, and we turn a lot of them down, but I felt and still feel like this one is in fairly good hands.

Here are some details:

No talking animals. (Yes, there are cute sidekicks, but they're very funny and incorporate some indian humor! You didn't really expect there to be nothing cute about this movie, did you?)

Evil white men. Yeah, they really are depicted as people who came here to dig for gold, and kill indians. They make no bones about it.

Pocahontas is beautiful and looks more like a Lakota than a Powhatan. She has a silly, one shoulder-strap dress that's too short. But Irene makes her Indian.

I play Kocoum, a provider/protector who is very stoic. But I'm the only one. The other characters show other sides, including humor. The film does not show a lot about Indian culture, but what is shown is pretty darn authentic.

Some of it is not strictly Powhatan culture, as a lot of that is completely lost, but details were lifted from other Algonquian cul- tures.

I don't think Indian people are going to *love* this movie, but, other than not sticking to the history, there's not a lot to criticize. Instead of trying to tell the historical story of Pocahontas, it tells a story about respecting other cultures and people who are "different" from yourself.

There are four major indian roles in the movie, and all are played by Indian actors. Irene plays Poca, Russell plays her fathers, I play Kocoum, and Michelle St. John (you might remember her from the Canadian produced tv movie "Where the Spirit Lives") plays Nakoma. Gordon Tootoosis plays a medicine man and Michael Horse does some of the other voices. All natives in the film were played by natives.

Irene, Russell, Michelle and I all suggested line changes -- and they were almost always changed the way we wanted.

Jimmy quotes from Freedom's comments about Russell Means saying the film is revolutionary.

Russell Means is quite a complex character. His judgement may be influenced by vanity -- the other movie he thinks is terrific about indians is "Last of the Mohicans," which he starred in! But he has done great things for Indian people -- and much of that is still true in him. And Disney not only doesn't mind that he's talking about Eurocentric males killing Indians etc. They love it! That's the point they make in the movie!

(Jimmy quotes Freedom saying she doesn't want toys and exploitation products in her house nor do her kids.)

The marketing of this thing is really disgusting -- we all get pretty upset about it. The merchandising etc. is handled by a different department -- and they obviously did not acquire the degree of sen- sitivity that the creative team on the movie reached. There are exceptions, however -- the press release from Mattel referred to my character as a protector, not a warrior...things like that.

But they are putting out a lot of gross stuff, and at the premiere in the park, after showing this movie about how the land does not belong to anyone and how these white people came with the intention of taking our land and killing indians, they had a fireworks display and played "This Land is My Land..," Neil Diamond's "America" and "America" from West Side Story (I like to be in America, Okay by me in America). Not real bright of someone on the song choices!

I'd be thrilled to hear any comments or answer any questions about the film, before or after you see it. By no means am I begging you all to like it. Some of you won't. And there are things about it that I go back and forth on. But the bottom line of how I feel is that it delivers a good message for kids that I think should come from our culture.


Maria Montour, Mohawk from Kahnawake in Canada, said:

About the dialogue about the upcoming Pocahontas that I've seen...Of course, it isn't good to judge a movie before it's seen, but I don't think it's wrong to be apprehensive. A lot of the big screen movies that are supposed to be more historically accurate, culturally sensitive towards Native people often turn out to be at best movies where Natives are peripheral characters. _Last of the Mohicans_ is an excellent example of that.

On Saturday, I was at a mall in Denver and passed by the Disney store. Lots of items pertaining to the movie being promoted, as many of you may have seen already. I glanced at the storybook, just to see the storyline being presented, so I do know how the movie version should end, if anyone wants to know. Of course, by Friday, everyone will know. :-)

On the downside though, the Disney store is selling a polyester fake-velour type material version of the off-the-shoulder dress that Pocahontas wears in the Disney film in addition to a multitude of other things. So, although Disney may be trying to promote its attempt to be more culturally sensitive or accurate than in the past, they are definitely not concerned about any stereotypes that they are perpetuating (and willing to sell to people). I saw a post on either NATCHAT or NATIVE-L where someone made the comment about the opening of Pocahontas - "start watching for blond little Indian princesses soon thanks to Disney". After seeing the merchandise, I can't even imagine this Halloween!

Bracing myself.


Karen Buller, Comanche, is Executive Director of Electronic Pathways, a service funded by the National Science Foundation to provide InterNet access for Indian people. She was the first to actually see Pocahontas and report on her and her family's reactions:

Let me be the first to report the actual viewing of disney's the company of many comanches....mostly my from their view....

my 10 year old daughter loved it....i had reported jimmy fall's note about the characters being voiced by real indians....she was thrilled otherwise she was considering not seeing it even though she was adying to.

the good points for her:

pocohontas ran faster than john smith
she was strong and athletic
she was brown...browner than john smith....apparently the barbie version is not darker than john smith and this bothers em.

my seventeen year old son who was sort of dragged along said it was better than he had expected.....which as any of you parents of teenagers know is high praise indeed.

my cousin who was also there said she almost fell asleep were it not for a three year old who talked continuously thru the movie and almost lost life and limb....the rest of us held my cousin back.

as for can not be denied that the animation was gorgeous....some of the best i have ever seen. some movie review had forewarned that it was the longest disney kiss ever.....but em didn't say eweeeeeee as she usually does....i'm not sure what that means.

questions: why did pocohontas's best girl friend sport a pueblo hairdo.

confessions: i wished the white people were even meaner and dumber
the love story was not developed enough for anyone over 10 to believe...and probably leads to false impressions about love for the very young and impressionable.
Russell Means ain't the best singer.
the best morals came from the lyrics of the song.

we all wondered how pocahontas could suddenly speak english....the power of love?

historical accuracy is hard to judge........the indian village had incredibly straight rows of corn....and the cleanest buckskin clothing dust allowed.

as the credits rolled....em said "hey mom that guy on your list died." it's hard to say what the effect will be on the kids who see it...trying to listen on the way out...there was much talk of buying, buying buying on the parts of little consumers...we are still discussing whether we should support the merchandising at our house.

i guess my mood was favorable as i left the theatre.


if i get the funny nose, glasses and moustache can i be gene shallit?


Here's a Premiere interview with Russell Means that expresses his views for those who can't or don't want to download the long soundbytes from the previous Pocahontas page:

Hi All,  This is an interview (below) I found on CompuServe
taken from the NY premiere (copied without permission),
 for your review.  If anyone was interested in it.
 -- (Member of the private Indian email-list)

PG Note: Evidently this was conducted through a radio 
call-in show.

Interviewer -- Now it is a great honor to have Russell Means on line with us. RUSSELL MEANS (Chief Powhatan) brings the perfect blend of strength and tenderness to his portrayal of the mighty Indian chief. A respected political activist whom The Los Angeles Times once called "the most famous American Indian since Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse," Means was impressed with the film's representation of his people and found his role to be a richly rewarding one. Here is Russell Means.

Mr. Means just whistled as we told him about our coverage. You were so eloquent talking about the transitions in Lion King and Pocahon- tas...could you expand on that please?

Russell -- Disney has a record of giving children an environmental message, and Pocahontas falling on the heels of the Lion King - the Lion King taught children of the world that animals have personalities, they have feelings. Pocahontas not only includes that message, but it expands on that by including the forest, in Grandmother Willow, it incorporates fire and smoke, the wind is definitely a part, and with them all interacting with the human being, the message children have is nothing but wholesome. They leave the theater knowing that in history good triumphs over evil.

     And, of course, they are introduced to my people through the woman and that is just and right because up and down this entire hemisphere, we are matriarchal societies. And Pocahontas proves out to be wiser than the wise man, wiser than her father, and stops a war. In the process of stopping the war, she teaches children that pigmentation and bone structure haven't any place in human relationships. You can't improve on the messages this film imparts, and it is all based on historical fact, so the children will include this in their real world, not their fantasy world. Well, they'll include it in both. And now when they play cowboys and indians, we're going to be the good guys!

Interviewer -- We're using the premiere of Pocahontas to look at the stories of American Indians -- how important is this?

Russell -- I think it is a belated recognition by Hollywood of the sophistication of their audiences, and Disney is entrusting children with the truth, something Hollywood has never done with the adults. This will prove that the audience isn't "Dumb and Dumber".

Interviewer -- How have you balanced the types of work traditionally offered to American Indians with something that is so positive?

Russell -- My concern is the audience and what they take away from the theater. If they leave the theater after having viewed a movie I have been in and feel good about my people, that's all I care about. Secondly, that they know my people are more than two dimensional. For instance, I refuse to accept "grunt" roles, like a two dimensional character.

Interviewer -- We hope that Pocahontas will create more 3 dimensional roles because it will show Hollywood that there is room for that - do you think it will?

Russell -- In Hollywood nothing emulates success like success, and I'm sure that Hollywood will be able to get closer to the truth of my people, much easier, than before the advent of Pocahontas.

Interviewer -- How long did you train/rehearse for the part?

Russell -- Actually, it took a year and a half to complete the role. I did virtually no rehearsal. Well, all I care about is children because they are the future, and children will know that the strength of the woman results in good.

Interviewer -- How do you expect the next few months to be - will you use this movie as a platform?

Russell -- I have already started. (smile)

Interviewer -- Is there any other message that you would like to have received by a global audience as we witness the birth of this film tonight?

Russell -- Just that indigenous people everywhere share the same world view that American Indian peoples possess, and we all deserve respect.

Interviewer -- How do you feel about the use of the term "Native American" versus the term "American Indian"

Russell -- " American" is a US Government term, born in the year 1970, to describe all the prisoners of the United States Government, those who live on trust territory, trust land. That's American Samoans, Micronesians, original Hawaiians, aliens, Eskimos, and us. I am not a generic person, and I do not allow any government to define who I am. On top of that, the word "Indian" is an English bastardization of two Spanish words, "En," "Dio" -- "in with God." So I am an American in with God.

Interviewer -- That was the astonishing Russell Means who plays Powhatan in the movie.

This last bit from the Means interview -- the "En Dio" business itself started some discussion. Jim Clearwater, Onondaga-Mohawk, thought:

always the nit picker, I think Russell should brush up on his Spanish. The word is "indio", meaning a male from the country India. a lofty notion that we are en dio, or in god (the word for "with" is missing....)

Interviewer -- That was the astonishing Russell Means who plays Powhatan in the movie.

...and speaks spanish reeeeeally bad.... )


Some responded that there was no India at the time, it was Hindustan, and other remarks of general historical and linguistic ignorance I am not gonna preserve here.


NAT-CHAT is an email list that is one of a family of "native" maillists the majority of whose participants appear to be non-Indian people interested in or believing they are supporters of various Indian causes, interested in Indian spirituality, and this and that. A "closed and private" list of actual Indian people was formed because many of us found much of the correspondence of this list irrelevant. NAT-CHAT has a "Native Stereotypes" project which has not defined what a stereotype is and seems to consist of pretty much random and thoughtless dumping on anything these people come across that seems vaguely Indian to them that they don't like for random or no reasons.

The Open letter below was signed by many people--including a few genuine Indians--most of whom obviously did not see the movie before assenting to this opinion prepared for them. One part of it -- idiotically dumping on the evil racist Ratcliffe's evil racist song -- has so annoyed me that I will express an opinion -- not my 2-cents worth but my $10 million worth -- on the "Why this Pocahontas Page?" --right after where I say my opinion is not important. Anyway, here's the letter. After it, a genuine Indian man states why he refused to sign it:

************************************************ An Open Letter To: Parents Of Young Children Regarding: The Disney Film Pocahontas From: Members of the NatChat Internet-based Mailing List (An electronic community of Native and non-Native people interested in issues pertaining to the world's aboriginal peoples.) ****************************************************************** Many people, including some members of this electronic community, are deeply offended by Disney's new movie, "Pocahontas". Children who view this movie may obtain a distorted image of a living people and their culture. The film contains historical inaccuracies and prejudicial lyrics. The historical truth is that Pocahontas was no more than ten years old and John Smith was at least 22 when they met. (Some accounts state he was 42, others that he was in his sixties.) An entry in Smith's later memoirs suggests he may have forced himself upon her. If there was any "romance" between John Smith and Pocahontas, he would be considered a child molester today. Also, the movie doesn't mention the fact that Pocahontas was later taken prisoner by the English and held for ransom. The movie contains scenes and lyrics that promote racist and sexist stereotypes. The most disturbing of these are the following lyrics, from the song, "Savages": "What can you expect from filthy little heathens? Their whole disgusting race is like a curse. Their skin's a hellish red. They're only good when they are dead!" Regardless of the context of these lyrics, they are just as offensive to members of this community as "nigger" is to African-Americans and Nazi propaganda is to the Jewish community. Worst of all, no child and few adults can easily "undo" a catchy, Disney song once it's in their head. If your child was of Native descent, imagine how you would feel if your son came home in tears to tell you that his schoolmates sang "Savages" to him? Or if your daughter told you she wanted to be like the Disney Pocahontas, a non-Indian featured Barbie doll wearing barely any clothes, instead of a member of the culture that you, your parents and grandparents, worked so hard to preserve? Although some of us were excited when we first heard that Disney was going to tell the story of Pocahontas, we now feel betrayed. Unfortunately, Disney has let us down in a cruel, irresponsible manner. Like the real Pocahontas, there have been many people in the past 100 years, both white and Native, who have worked hard to form a bridge of communication and understanding between the cultures. Please don't threaten their work by supporting Disney's version of this story. Please read the following suggestions instead, choose an alternative and discuss with your child your reasons for doing so. (If your child has already viewed the film, please take the time to discuss his/her reaction to it and consider these alternatives as a followup activity.) WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP: 1. Do NOT purchase any Disney Pocahontas tickets or merchandise. 2. Voice your opinion to Disney at 3. Encourage your child to learn about other cultures, not as cartoon figures, but as real, living people. 4. Inform your child that more than half of Native Americans live off of reservations. There is a Native population in every state. 5. Encourage your child to recognize not all Native peoples are alike. Their cultures, languages and beliefs vary more than European countries. 6. Encourage your child's school to invite Native speakers from the local community. 7. Send copies of this letter to other parents that you know. Feel free to distribute it at your child's softball games, at church, at the beach club, playground, play groups, etc. 8. Consider donating to a non-profit organization that assists Native children. ALTERNATIVES TO PURCHASING DISNEY POCAHONTAS PRODUCTS: INSTEAD OF PURCHASING DISNEY POCAHONTAS COLORING BOOKS - CONSIDER: 1. Dover Publications Coloring Books, including "Pocahontas Coloring Book", "Indian Tribes of North America" and other titles. 2. "A Coloring Book of American Indians" and other titles, Bellerophon Books, 36 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara CA 93101 INSTEAD OF PURCHASING DISNEY POCAHONTAS PICTURE/STORY BOOKS - CONSIDER: 1. "Eagle Drum" by Robert Crum. Four Winds Press. 2. "Powwow" by George Ancona. Harcourt Brace &Co. 3. "North American Native Author's Distribution Project", a catalog of children's literature. 1-518-584-1728. Greenfield, N.Y. 4. "Finding One's Own Way". 1-518-584-1728. Greenfield, N.Y. 5. "Morning Girl" by Michael Dorris. Univ. of Oklahoma Press. 6. "Dancing Teepees" Selected by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneeve.Holiday House. 7. "Raven" by Gerald McDermott. Harcourt Brace. 8. "Dream Catcher" by Audrey Osopby. Orchard Books. 9. "Mama Do You Love Me", by Barbara M. Joosse, Illustrated by Barbara Lavallee. 10. "King Island Christmas", "Runaway Mittens", by Jean Rogers. 11. "A Coyote Columbus Story" by Thomas King. 12. "Spirit of the White Bison" by Beatrice Culleton, illustrated by Robert Kakaygeesick, Jr. 13. "The Princess and the Sea-Bear and Other Tsimishian Stories" by Joan Skogan, illustrated by Claudia Stewart. 14. "Crow and Weasel" by Bary Lopez. 15. "Seya's Song" by Ron Hirschi, illustrated by Constance R. Bergum. Sasquatch Books. 16. "Ten Little Rabbits" by Virginia Grossman & Sylvia Long. Chronicle Books. 17. "Did you Hear Wind Sing Your Name? (An Oneida Song of Spring)" by Sandra De Coreau Orie; illustrations by Christopher Canyon. Walker and Co. INSTEAD OF PURCHASING DISNEY POCAHONTAS MOVIE TICKETS - CONSIDER: 1. Attending a local POW-WOW. Most states have several Pow-Wows during the summer months. Share with your child the beat of the drum, the taste of fry bread and honey and the sight of dancers and friendly faces. 2. Donating the purchase price of Pocahontas tickets to one of the following non-profit organizations. a) Wounded Knee District School, Box 350, Manderson, South Dakota 57756 b) American Indian College Fund, 21 W. 68th St., Suite 1F, NY,NY 10023 c) Lost Bird Society, Stockmen's National Bank, Rushville, Nebraska d) The Dine Bi Mission, c/o Claudell Potter, PO Box 1330, Shiprock, NM 87416 For More Information on the NatChat Community, send email to with "get nn-intro intro native-l" in the body. For More Information on Native organizations in your area, contact Kwenitewk Native Resource, Network of Ndakinna, P.O. Box 382, Meriden, NH 037700. For More Information on Pocahontas, see the video "Biography of Pocahontas", A&E Biography Series, 1-800-423-1212. For More Information on the true history of America, start with "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown. Thank You For Showing Your Support To Pocahontas and All Her Relations, By Not Purchasing Disney Pocahontas Merchandise! *********


Charles White (WhiteDog) is an Ojibwe whose ancestry is from White Earth Indian reservation in Minnesota. He works as a computer network manager at California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He's the author of the widely net-reproduced "10 Rules for Attending Your First Powwow." He explains why he won't sign the "NAT-CHAT Open Letter." He actually appologises to these NAT-CHAT folk about all the actual research he did, rather than jumping to conclusions as they typically do. Of course he has no reason to appologise, and one wishes those non-Indian supporters would always follow the same methods of careful examination and balanced reasoning that this Indian man does:

The following is very hard for me. I send it only to this list for now because I don't feel too good about it. It's rather long to describe my position on Pocahontas. Maybe some feel like I do, maybe I'm in left field. Let me know privately how you feel, maybe that will help me feel better, even if what you say may seem harsh. But alas here it is. --Whitedog

Why I didn't sign the Pocahontas Stereotype letter.

As a supporter of the Indian Stereotype Awareness Project, it was hard for me to make the decision not to sign the letter concerning Pocahon- tas.

I went to the movie. I purchased the CD sound track so I could read and listened to the words. I tried to listen with an extended ear. I did all this to make up my own mind about the animated film Pocahon- tas.

What I've learned I will share with you.

First off... to understand my position, you must understand how it is framed within my culture, or at least with how I was raised. There are something's in life I take a firm stand on. There are others that I just don't care about. There are even a few things in life I don't understand. And yet, there are a few things in life I so fully understand, that I can see the "black" and "white" of both sides.

Understanding those positions, the Disney film Pocahontas is one of those things in life I think I understand fully. I see both the negative and the positive and for me I see the "gray" between the black & white. It's not a comfortable position, but here I am. How did I get to this gray zone?

Being gray is very bad position, because both the "black camps", and the "white camps", see me as an enemy of their side and thus can't be trusted. So be it, but it is my position. A position of understanding.

1st) I respect Russell Means. As one of the first founders of the American Indian Movement, a traditionalist, activist, and all around gnarly guy, I have heard his words both in song (other than Disney) and in speech. I respect him. He stated in his email, "How can this be historically accurate, there's a talking squirrel in it." I could see, laugh, and admire the Indian humor in that statement. Yet, I'm still torn that whole story of Pocahontas was not told by Disney. Also, in a television interview, Russell Means stated, "Those that nit-pick this film to pieces, have lost the innocence of being a child. We (Indian people) are for once are the good guys." While I watched the film in the darkened theater, I remembered what he said and I tried to regain the child's eye, but alas I could not... or at least not totally.

2nd) A non-Indian friend of mine said, "I don't like all this Indian mumbo-jumbo. Willow trees don't talk." I'm always amazed at the things he says so I told him, "What are you talking about. Willow trees DO talk to me. Maybe you need to learn how to listen." This is not just a mute point of humor. There is a way of thinking about nature and listening to it. Yet many of us take life so seriously that maybe nature does stop talking to those folks. What a tragedy it must be to live in such silence.

3rd) I went to Toys-R-Us and almost fell off my feet when I saw an entire row filled with hundreds of Pocahontas toys and trinkets and gimmicks. There was so many items I won't even list them here. They were out of the "Barbie looking" Pocahontas doll (I wanted to buy one as a prop for my "Indian Stereotypes" talks). Kids with Mom in tow were grabbing stuff off the shelves and I just stood there for about a half hour trying to get a feeling for what I was seeing. Again, I was plagued with both a good and bad taste. Not like sweet & sour (because I like sweet & sour), this was more like uncomfortable & understanding.

4th) When I was in the theater watching the film, there was a Mother and Daughter sitting in the row behind me. During the movie, Mom would tell the girl little factoids about what is known about the real story Pocahontas.. At the end of the movie she told her daughter how John Smith returned and Pocahontas went with him to England, had a son and died there. She told her that she is buried there today. I could not help but wonder how Mom knew this. Did she know this before all the HYPE began? Did she learn this from the news magazines, the protests, or her own research? I could not help but think that maybe Disney was wrong about Pocahontas but in being wrong, more people learned more about Pocahontas through the controversy. Disney failed, but Pocahontas is remembered and that wouldn't have been if Disney had not failed. Vicious circle of catch 22.

5th) I also began to wonder how to tell a story without a villain. It seems, the better the villain the better the story. In my Ojibway legends and tales there are many MANY villains and monsters that torment the Anishinabe. Darth Vader (not an Ojibway tale) is one of my favorites and I have been known to say, "The force is strong with this one" and "You do not yet know the power of the Darkside Luke!" Does that mean I'm a Darth Vader wannabe? No.

In the lyrics of "Mine, Mine, Mine" and "Savages" there are dark undertones of racism and greed. But are not these undertones real in life? Yes they are!!! I remember being stabbed in the 7th grade due to racial tension, so don't talk to me about protecting children from racism because YOU FAILED TO PROTECT ME! Maybe we should not ignore the racism by running from it but learn to teach what it looks like, how it sounds, and what it really is instead of hiding from it. The words, "What can you expect from filthy little heathens? Their whole disgusting race is like a curse. Their skin's a hellish red, they're only good when dead, they're vermin, as I said, and worse." Well folks... that is racism.

I'll play that song for my children and tell them that they will meet people in their lives that talk and act that way. Some will do this from behind a smile. I will tell them that those people are ignorant of the Creator's laws, and have no respect for themselves. I will tell them to avoid those people and to take pity on them. I will tell my children to teach their children that these people will exist in their time too. If we remain aware of racism, then and only then does racism have a chance to die. In the other songs, "Steady as the beating drum", "Just Around the riverbend", "Colors of the wind", and even, "Listen with your heart", are words that do have meaning and inspiration. I would not mind my children to hear these songs and sing them too.

6th) Disney's exploitation makes me sick. Once they have the mighty dollar sign in their eyes they will prostitute anything to death. Are they teaching racial harmony with all the toys and trinkets? No. In fact, if there is any danger of nurturing the stereotypes is in the little toys of sailors and Indians, just another cut on the cowboys and Indians. The toys are not shown with the models sitting at the dinner table of two distinctly different people sharing food and stories, just little dolls holding guns and arrows. The true story is, the new settlers needed the help of the Indian people and it was freely given. But that too is missing from the film.

So there you have it. The 6 reasons I have for not supporting this film, and for not blasting it. I tend to see this as a gray issue that is doing both good, and bad. I know there are those that can't see this duality but I can say this, "I'm glad someone told Pocahontas' story."

It will help her memory live on even if it is not totally correct, it will inspire some that really care to research it more thoroughly. If I was a teacher, I would assign my students to study the cartoon, then research why it is inaccurate, or what did Disney leave out. That couldn't be done with dead air. If nothing else, the song "Colors Of The Wind" might just get someone, somewhere to think a little differently about their own arrogance. "Come roll in all the riches all around you, and for once, never wonder what they're worth."

I support those that stand up against Pocahontas and all that signed the letter. It is their voices that is correcting the bad. The list of alternatives is excellent and was done with great taste and advice to promote understanding and education.

I too still respect Russell Means. It is his voice that makes me live life lighter and not so serious.

For standing in the middle, I confuse those that want to categorize me. Indeed I just see the gray and I choose to live my life in both the night, and the day. It might be poetic, but it's not a comfortable position. I guess I shouldn't have said anything. Then again, I see hope in my Ojibway prophecies that one day, both races will come to a position of understanding each other.

--Charles Phillip Whitedog

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Copyright 1995, Paula Giese. Opinions expressed here by other people are each respectively copyright the person expressing it, have been used here by permission of their authors, and require permission of those people to use on other pages except by linking here.

Last updated: Wednesday, February 21, 1996 - 5:15:05 PM