Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Indian Dancers, July 1971

Today I have a series of four photos of the Ceremonial Dance Circle over in Frontierland's Indian Village. In the old days, guests sat or stood to see the show from ground level. But in 1962 (I believe), amphitheater-style seating was added so that large crowds could watch the proceedings.

In this first one, a Native American wearing a feathered headdress educates the audience about the various dances that they were about to see.

As usual, I can't identify the specific dance seen here - the costume might be an interpretation of an eagle. Chime in if you know!

The Mark Twain chugs past, looking suitably impressive. Some of the old spiels used to say that the Indians called the steamboat "penelore", which meant "fire canoe".

And finally, my favorite of the bunch; for the grand finale, children in the audience were invited to join in the fun. You can see how delighted many of them are; even the Indian host looks amused as he accompanies that boy!

These photos take on an extra significance when you consider that the Indian Village and Dance Circle closed forever in May, 1971. Today's images are date-stamped "July 1971", but we all know how that works. We might be looking at one of the very last shows ever performed in the Indian Village.


Nanook said...


I think the 1962 date is accurate for the addition of the amphitheater-style seating.

What a wonderful and unique experience for Disneyland guests. And then you throw-in that magnificent setting - complete with a steam boat and a full-rigged 3 masted sailing ship to add background action.

Today's guests' may feel this sort of experience "antiquated", but 'knowledge is power', and a great bit of 'who we are' has been lost when the Ceremonial Dance Circle vanished. On the other hand, I'm uncertain if a Hawaiian turquoise lei is part of any ceremonial dance in the 'Lower 48'...

Thanks, Major, for sharing these great images.

TokyoMagic! said...

I think the man in the first photo is actually reminding the audience to silence their cell phones.

If the Indian Village had not been removed for Bear Country, I wonder how many more years it would have survived before being replaced with something else.

JC Shannon said...

I, and my wife are always baffled as to why the Dance Circle was eliminated. Here in Montana, we have Pow Wows and traditional Native American dances featuring numerous Nations. How come it is OK in Montana and not in California. If it had been non-Native American actors, I could understand. Walt made sure that the Nations represented performed authentic dances, and educated many as to the beauty of Native traditional dance and culture. What's not to like? Great photos and memories, thanks to Major P.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I really do love the image with the Mark Twain passing by, what a sight! And the one with the kids is cute; most of those kids probably just had fun jumping around, but I’m sure at least a few of them walked away having learned something about the Native Americans.

TokyoMagic!, ha ha, can you imagine the wall of cell phones that we would see (recording the performance) if these photos were taken today? I went to a live concert recently and could barely see the stage because of all the arms in the air with bright cell phone screens. It’s hard to guess how popular the Indian Village might have been if it had continued. Judging by these photos, the guests were still interested.

Jonathan, remember, in the late 1960’s and early 70’s there was a lot of activism among the Native Americans; I’ve always been under the impression that it was at least partially the reason why the Indian Village closed. Perhaps the dance show was seen as exploitative, although the performers did wind up losing their long-running jobs, so I wonder if the dancers themselves were too happy about it. In any case, plans for Bear Country (which opened in 1972) were surely already finalized by mid-1971, and Disneyland’s limited real estate meant that the Indian Village’s days were numbered.

Melissa said...

Those kids look so happy! I would have enjoyed it just as much h at that age.

Anonymous said...

With so many people devoted to collecting obscure Disneyland facts, I'm wondering whether anyone has ever tracked down who the dancers were?

Nanook said...

Apparently, in addition to all the 'other forces' vying for real estate at Disneyland, here is what was written over at Daveland... "By the late 1960’s, a series of labor problems had begun between the Indians and Disneyland. By 1971, continued animosity between the two and lack of interest by the guests caused the final demise of the village. Bear Country moved in and the Indians were no more. The Indian War Canoes became Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes, which operated until October 1998. The Indian Trading Post remained the Indian Trading Post until 1989, when it became the Briar Patch for Splash Mountain."

Nancy said...

It would have been so cool to see "real Indians" there at Disneyland. Sadly, we know that today only the very young kids would enjoy the show and the adults would appreciate the history and pageantry. Like so many things that were "simple" yet good, this is another part of Disneyland history we can only enjoy in photos like these nowadays.

Thanks for sharing these views and the thoughtful comments. :)

Major Pepperidge said...

Melissa, I’m sure that part of the show was the favorite for both the kids and the grownups!

Anonymous, I have received a few comments from people who said that somebody in a photo was their uncle, or their grandmother, or some other relative; so at least a few of them are known. But I have no idea if there is some comprehensive list - the roster probably changed a lot over 15+ years.

Nanook, that was kind of what I was implying (unsuccessfully) regarding the Native American activism. But perhaps it really was just plain labor issues, with no cultural issues mixed up in it. I would guess that during the off season and on slow days there were probably small crowds for those performances, which is kind of sad.

Nancy, I suppose this kind of thing had just run its course at Disneyland. In the 50’s and into the 60’s, TV westerns were among the most popular shows, but by the 70’s the public’s interests had changed, and people wanted something different.

Anonymous said...

Interesting historical pics, the background of the trees and river is remarkable.

For the record, as a kid, I always thought the dances were kind of boring. A few years ago, I visited the Indian Cultural Center in Albuquerque and found it fascinating. Highly recommend a visit if you are in the neighborhood.

Good thread, thanks everyone.