March 3rd, 2016
Hana Mana Ganda
In Walt Disney’s Peter Pan (1953), tucked away within a seemingly charming fairy tale, the audience (and the characters of the movie) find themselves at a powwow where the tribe’s Chief is delivering an oration honoring Peter Pan for his bravery. The children, having never attended a powwow, are naturally brimming with questions for their new acquaintances. The children’s questions for the Chief are, “What makes the red man red?” and “When did he first say ugh?” and they’re nothing short of demeaning. This scene is only made vastly worse by the Chief’s response: “Hana Mana Ganda, Hana Mana Ganda, we translate for you, Hana means what Mana means and Ganda means that too.”
This infamous scene highlights a key idea which Wilson, Gutierrez, and Chao’s text, Racism, Sexism, and the Media (pg. 56-57) brings up, which is the myth of the monolithic “indian.” The monolithic “indian” was an idea concocted by popular literature at the time as a way to throw all Native Americans into an abstract and generalized bunch. By doing this, they effectively robbed all Native Americans of their true identities, culture, and autonomy. It’s cultural genocide (whether it be physical or metaphorical). The phrase “Hana Mana Ganda” is the embodiment of this practice. As the song lyrics state, “Hana Mana Ganda” translates to Hana, Mana, and Ganda having the same meaning and definition. These words are basically gibberish and there is nothing genuine or historically accurate about this scene. It’s painfully obvious that the creator’s intentions were to make a song which was pleasant, catchy, and appealing to the audience and the characters, and nothing more. What they inadvertently (or intentionally, depending on your point of view) made was an insensitive song, with nonsensical lyrics, which was sung at a sterile powwow with no actual tribal identifiers.
Meanwhile, the short film Powwow Trail, which can be found on theways.org’s website, depicts powwows in an entirely different perspective. This short film is about a young man who is constantly trying to balance two different worlds, his traditional Western life, and life as a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Dylan is a part of a drum group, called the Midnite Express, which perform at a various different powwows across the United States. Dylan and the short film inform us that the powwows are social gatherings which can include numerous tribes from the local area or sometimes even different states. These illustrious powwows are anything but generics. Dance groups sport all different types of regalia which are unique to their own tribes and one in attendance could simply not state that these “indians” are the same. These two powwows share only one similarity, and that’s name. The powwow depicted in the short film, which is a far cry from the powwow in Walt Disney’s Peter Pan, is rich with individualism, pride of one’s tribe, elaborate songs and dance (none which are gibberish), the indoctrination of younger generations by older generations, respect for your elders (especially those who served in the armed forces), and an all around sense of community and belonging.
With the stereotype that “all Indians are the same” came the lack of understanding and justification needed to fuel the purge of these seemingly savage people from all over North America. This ideology left no room for middleground and led to the (almost) total eradication of a diverse nation of tribes. With understanding comes tolerance, with tolerance comes peace, and with peace comes prosperity, and in this act, there was none for these native people.