Native American Students Walk Out of Play Protesting Its Use of Stereotypes


The University of Wyoming is challenged by helping audiences understand the context and/or story for the play without taking undue or illegal liberties with the script.”

Published June 18, 2017

The 1960 musical, which is about two neighboring fathers who trick their children into falling in love by pretending to feud, contains a scene in which characters dress up as and villainize Native Americans. Attendees said they were also shocked at the casual use of the word “rape” in the musical’s dialogue.


“The show especially demeans Native American cultures with outdated stereotypes of Native American appropriation by non-native actors wearing headdresses/warbonnets,” according to a statement by the United Multicultural Council. “It also portrays Native American and Latino/Hispanic characters as the villains or antagonists of the show.”


Tim Nichols, who helped set up the Native American Summer Institute, told The Boomerang that the content was unfortunate

So, including the truth somehow before, after, or during the show might be taking “taking undue or illegal liberties with the script.” For example:

The truth can now be told! Between 1846 and 1870, California’s Native American population plummeted to near-annihilation—from 150,000 to 30,000. Many died from diseases, starvation, and forcible removal at the hands of California officials, leading many, including Professor Benjamin Madley, to conclude that the deaths were not an unavoidable result of assimilation, but in fact, genocide. In 1850, California’s first legislature made it a priority to discriminate against Native Americans, banning them from voting, giving evidence for or against whites in criminal cases, and serving as attorneys or jurors. With no ability to defend themselves, the legislature effectively allowed whites to attack Native Americans with no repercussions.

Legislators also legalized the “indenture” of “any Indian,” including minors and prisoners, triggering countless violent kidnappings and the treatment of many Indians as slaves. In Los Angeles alone, the Indian population fell from nearly 3,700 to 319 in just 20 years.

“A war of extermination will continue to be waged … until the Indian race becomes extinct,” declared California Governor Peter Burnett in 1851. A year later, U.S. Sen. John Weller and future California governor declared that Native Americans “will be exterminated before the onward march of the white man,” arguing that “the interest of the white man demands their extinction.”

Thus, “Native Americans ‘will be exterminated before the onward march of the white man,’” is “taking undue or illegal liberties with the script.”


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