Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Indian Village, December 1971

Today I have two nice photos from the Indian Village - in Frontierland, naturally. 

I am mighty impressed by this wonderful and elaborate cedar plank ceremonial house, in the style of the Native Americans of the Northwest Coast. The artistry is truly amazing. The carvings! The color! And unlike many of the other structures in the Indian Village, you could step into this ceremonial house. 

There were a number of totem poles on display, including some that were actually carved in the Indian Village by native artists. According to Wikipedia, The carvings may symbolize or commemorate ancestors, cultural beliefs that recount familiar legends, clan lineages, or notable events. The poles may also serve as functional architectural features, welcome signs for village visitors, mortuary vessels for the remains of deceased ancestors, or… they may embody a historical narrative of significance to the people carving and installing the pole.

Only months after these pictures were taken, the Indian Village was removed for the addition of Bear Country. I hope that the ceremonial house and totem poles were saved!


Thanks to TokyoMagic's suggestion, I am adding a very nice photo that appeared in a 1963 issue of "National Geographic" magazine. NG shared a large, much nicer version of the photo relatively recently. Look for some familiar totem faces.


Nanook said...


I don’t suppose something this “unique” could exist in today’s Disneyland, but it’s closing has really been a loss for a number of reasons. It’s always fun to see these colorful images.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I just pulled out my handy dandy copy of National Geographic, dated August 1963. There's a backstage photo inside, showing "new totem poles" that were being added to the Indian Village. Two of the three totem poles in your first pic, can be seen in the National Geo. photograph.

After the Indian Village closed, I wonder if any of the totem poles were sent to Florida to be used in the Magic Kingdom's Frontierland. That park still has a few totem poles standing today, but they are kind of hidden by trees.


Walt Disney World had a set of totem poles in a Grassy area across a walkway from the canoe landing - and I think these were there at the park’s 1971 opening. HOWEVER totem poles were added to a few spots along the canoe waterways of Fort Wilderness Campground in the early 70’s.....those could very well be the former Disneyland Indian Village totem poles....

Chuck said...

Wish I'd seen this in person, or, if I did, had some memory of it.

TM!, didn't you do a post years ago on the totem poles that used to be at the NW end of MK's Frontierland, before the addition of BTMRR and Splash Mountain? I wonder if any of them look the same as these.

Melissa said...

Oh, I hope the FW totems are the former Indian Village ones; I love when they're able to re-use stuff like that

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I suppose that the Indian Village must have outlived its relevance, but looking back 45+ years later, we have a better sense of what was removed. Bear (Critter) Country is nice, but I wish we could have had both!

TokyoMagic!, I know the photo you are talking about, with the guy pushing the animatronic baby elephant. National Geographic put up a nice version of that photo fairly recently, I’ll add a copy of that to this post! Interesting thought about the totem poles being reused in Florida… it sure makes sense that they could use them on that huge property. I wonder if a Google search would help to find photos of them?

Mike Cozart, now I am determined to look for photos of the totem poles in Florida! I’m not feeling very optimistic about actually finding any (especially the ones in the Fort Wilderness area), but it’s worth a look.

Chuck, oh boy, I’ll search TokyoMagic’s posts as well! He took lots of photos of unusual details. Fingers crossed…

Melissa, I love it too! Stay tuned.

JG said...

I barely remember the Indian Village. My guess is that we didn't walk out that far more than once or twice.

I did have the opportunity to visit a real lodge that is possibly the forebear of the Disney version in this post, although I don't recall the Disney version at all.

Ketchikan Alaska is home to the Totem Bight State Park, village and museum, with fascinating real and replica totem poles and a wood lodge (clan house) replicated for the museum. Definitely worth a visit if you are up that way. Those forests are very strange environments.



K. Martinez said...

Nice post today! I knew what TM! was talking about when he mentioned that photo. All the pics including the Nat Geo. pic are nice. Thanks, Major.

Chuck said...

That National Geographic photo is also reproduced (with the background removed) on Page 1 of the 1968 edition of the Walt Disney's Disneyland souvenir guidebook. I'm pretty sure it was in a similar position in the 1974 edition, but my copy was lost long ago; the only reason the '68 edition is fresh in my mind is because my wife gave me a copy recently for my birthday.

JC Shannon said...

The Indian Village and the Dance Circle were Walt's way of exposing park goers to Native American culture. Foreward thinking in the areas of transportation and cultural education were a rarity in the 50s. Unless you attend a pow wow, where else are people going to see an authentic Native American dance, or a Totem Pole. So sad. I miss 'em. I am however, grateful for all those photographers who documented the very cool attractions that are no more. And to Major for sharing them. Also for all of you out in GDB land.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, thanks for adding that National Geo pic. It's nice to see an uncropped version of it, showing the road and the warehouse off in the distance.

Chuck, I do remember Disney using that photo in the pictorial souvenirs with just the totem poles, the baby elephant and the men showing and the background completely cropped out. And you are right, I did do a post about WDW's totem poles back in 2010. Here is that post. The totem pole on the far right (in the first three photos) appears to be the same pole (or a copy of it) as seen in Major's first pic. It's the second from the left in Major's first photo. https://meettheworldinprogressland.blogspot.com/2010/01/vintage-walt-disney-world-part-1.html

I have been back to WDW and found the poles that are still there today. I also took pics of them and I could have sworn I posted them later in a WDW "trip report" post, but it appears that I did not. I'll have to go dig those out!

JG, I went in that replica clan (potlatch?) house in Ketchikan, Alaska. I remember the doorway was only about half as tall as a standard doorway and there was only one window inside. There were also no railings around the large pit in the center of the house. Because the light level was so low inside, there was an elderly lady in our group that walked right over to the edge of the pit and fell into it.


So here’s some interesting findings regarding our Totem Pole research project; the original totem poles at Disneyland , Walt Disney World were all Imagineering designed , made of Fiberglas and were not based on specific tribe styles but a topical look INSPIRED by various totem poles. REAL totem poles tell stories of specific tribes who carve them. Many of the Disney totem poles have been removed or replaced. In the 1990’s CANADA’s original Fiberglas totem poles in World Showcase were replaced with Real carved wood totems created by WDI but again failed to tell a story and turned out somewhat amateur looking. So those were replaced by real totems caved live over time in front of EPCOT guests by a member of actual Canadian tribal member who had studied the totem history and art .

So it may be possible that any of our DISNEYLAND Indian Village - Walt Disney World transplanted totems in Fiberglas will not appear in recent or modern photos.


When Shanghai Disneyland was in its early design phases my first Shanghai DL project was for a Frontierland/Westernland (originally designated to the right of Fantasyland and above the “Adventureland” area - as time went on Fantasyland was given more space and The original Adventureland developed into two separate “Lands” there was still an area left for acess to a future Frontierland-Westernland (Frontier Territory) in a phase two . ANYWAY, in those early Shanghai Frontierland plans was a “NATIVE ISLAND” similar to Tom Sawyer Island and Adventure Isle but all Native American themed and it included an arenea for authentic demonstrations and dances very similar to Disneyland’s original Indian Village. I wonder if it’s totem poles would have been correct and authentic??

Anonymous said...

@TM, I remember that little door and how dark it was in the clan house. It was pouring rain (two days without rain in Ketchikan is a drought) and everything was wet and slippery. I hope your fellow-visitor escaped injury.

I did really enjoy the visit to the museum, I bought a book on Indian legends which explained the importance of the various totems and the stories of the demigods illustrated on the poles. I still have the book, "The Wolf and the Raven" over 40 years later.

I think the draw of the Pirates and TSI just made the Disney village a little dull by comparison. The real thing was fascinating but didn't have to compete with animatronic buccaneers. I'm a little ashamed to admit that even today, I would probably take a second Pirate ride before visiting a real village.

@Mike Cozart. Fascinating stories. Thank you!


Major Pepperidge said...

JG, I’m the same, I don’t remember the Indian Village, and am guessing that my family never ventured that far along the path into Frontierland. Sadly. I’ve been to Ketchikan, but it was part of a Princess Cruise. I learned that if you want to see a particular place, DON’T take a cruise. We had mere hours in each port, before having to rush back to the ship (this happened when I took a cruise to Ensenada too). Not being into drinking, gambling, or gorging myself on buffets, the ship was not much fun. Anyway, I wish we’d gone to Totem Bight State Park!

K. Martinez, I’m sure a lot of GDB regulars have practically memorized that issue of NatGeo - it’s a great one.

Chuck, hmmm, I have a copy of that guidebook! There was a time when I wanted them all. Then I just wanted the ones from the “Walt era”. Is there a particular reason your wife gave you a 1968 guidebook? I wondered if ’68 was significant for you in some way.

Jonathan, for all of the unfounded rumors from dummies about how Walt was a racist or anti-semite, he sure made a point of celebrating Native American culture in his park. And how many times did he want to have all of the “children of the world” joined together in song and happiness? More than a few parades, and of course “It’s a Small World”.

TokyoMagic!, yeah, it’s neat to see the full image. I definitely see some familiar Disneyland totem poles from your great Walt Disney World pictures. Look at the National Geographic image, that one to the left that looks like a clown (with red “hair”) is in your photo. I’m glad that some poles are still there. Do you think that’s a mold for a totem pole in the lower left of the NatGeo photo? Reading ahead, I see that Mike Cozart says they were fiberglass. I hope that old lady was OK!

Mike Cozart, you can see that some of the totems in my photos have been repainted since the 1963 National Geographic photo was taken. I am certainly not educated in authentic Northwest Indian carvings, but as a layman, it sure looks like the Imagineers did a great job emulating the style. I have a photo on GDB showing an artist carving a totem pole in Disneyland (https://gorillasdontblog.blogspot.com/2014/04/two-from-1956.html), but of course that doesn’t mean it wound up on display in the park. It’s interesting to imagine what that Shanghai “Native Island” would have been like, but I guess we’ll never know. Unless you have some amazing inside knowledge, which wouldn’t surprise me!

JG, I am afraid you are probably right there with most people, the appeal of a show featuring authentic native dances would be way down on their list of things to do in Disneyland. However, with so many AP holders, maybe it would draw the crowd of people who have seen everything so many times that they want something different.

Chuck said...

Now I wish I had a totem pole. Wait - maybe I still have the one from my old Marx Fort Apache set...

Major, yes, there was a reason she gave me a 1968 guidebook - it was my birthday! ;-)

TM!, "...back in 2010." Ha - you make it sound so long ago! Why, that was just a couple of...oh.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I think you are right about that being a mold in the National Geographic pic. It looks like it's made of plaster.

JG and Major, when we went to Ketchikan and the totem park, it was part of a cruise ship "tour ashore," but it sounds like we had a lot more time in Ketchikan than you did, Major. We also went to "Dolly's House." Oh, and that lady did eventually rejoin everyone on the cruise, but it was in one of the ports after Ketchikan, and I don't remember how she got there. Maybe they lowered her onto the deck by helicopter? And the poor lady's head was bandaged, but she must have been cleared for leaving the hospital and rejoining the cruise.