MITCHELL: Oh God.
MITCHELL: Please stop.
ADMISSIONS OFFICER: Well, um--
CAMERON: Knowledge is her sustenance. Like so much maize--which, you'll remember, means corn.
Cameron could've claimed to be part Indian in his normal voice. He could've said something modern, like, "How about Obama's tribal summit last November?" or "I was just checking out the tribe's powwow schedule on its website." Then the bit might've been funny.
Instead, he portrayed a stereotypical "dignified" Indian. One who's too out of touch to speak proper English. Who drops references to ancient lore as if he's never seen the 20th or 21st century.
Another minstrel show
Imagine Cameron had announced he was 1/16 black and made the following speech:
My Lily luv watermelon and fried chicken, and she already good at music and sports. She be a real asset to your school, massa!
The point isn't that Modern Family shouldn't have done the bit. It's that it shouldn't have done the bit in such an exaggerated way. No white man in America would try passing himself off as a cotton-pickin' Negro. It should be equally out of bounds to try passing oneself off as a mystical Tonto.
For more on the subject, see Stereotypes as Mental Maps, Why People Don't Care About Indians, and The Harm of Native Stereotyping: Facts and Evidence.
Below: Mitchell and Cameron.