The Gumby cartoon Rain Spirits was a better-than-average look at Indians. In contrast, Indian Trouble is a much-worse-than-average look at them.
In one of Gumby's historical episodes, Gumby and Pokey are looking for a route across the Southwestern desert so they can deliver the mail. They meet an Indian at a trading post who spins Gumby into a pot. Then Gumby and Pokey head into the desert where the Indian leads them astray. In the Indian's village, Gumby hides in a pot and Pokey hides in a teepee. They sneak off but run into more Indians hiding behind rocks and shooting arrows. In response, Gumby whips up an Army outfit, a bugle, and a regiment of soldiers made of clay. The Indians attack but are scared off by the imitation troops.
Indian Trouble has a long list of stereotypes: a caricature at the beginning, Indian music, a "squaw" peak shaped like an hourglass, smoke signals, teepees, a peace pipe, a chief, war whoops, and tomahawks. Unlike Gumby and Pokey, they don't talk. The cartoon calls them "Pesky Indians" as if their only function is to harass and annoy people.
The worst thing is that Indian Trouble portrays Indians as living teepees with faces and feathers. That's a great example of what people thought about Indians in 1957. Namely, that Indians are an alien species that has nothing in common with humanity. These Indians aren't just "Coneheads," they're pure cones. They have no identities or shapes; they're nothing but a compilations of stereotypes. You add some feathers to a teepee and you have an Indian. No need for a body, mind, culture, or history because the stereotypes define the Indian.
Imagine defining blacks as, I dunno, giant watermelons with kinky hair and thick lips. Or Latinos as animated sombreros with faces. Can you say "racist"? Gumby the green slab of clay is more human than these Indians.
A few bright spots
Only a couple of things separate these Indians from pure creatures. First, the cartoon shows an Indian creating pottery twice--a small example of Indian culture. This doesn't seem like much, but it's more than you'll see in most old Westerns.
Second, an Indian "woman" retrieves an errant Indian "boy" at the end and waves at Gumby. It's about the only sign that Indians might have more humanity than shown previously. That they might have other thoughts besides tricking, hunting down, and attacking non-Indians.
Curiously, Indian Trouble appeared only a few episodes before the superior Rain Spirits. Did the same person write both episodes? That's hard to believe. Or did someone watch Indian Trouble, think "this is embarrassing and insulting to Indians," and write Rain Spirits in response? That seems a more likely scenario to me.
For more on the subject, see Native Videos and Cartoons.