June 08, 2011

Native Canadians in South Park

Here's a brief clip from a recent episode of South Park (airdate: 5/11/11):

Season 15:  Royal Pudding

Mr. Mackey loses it, while Scott the Dick leads Ike to the Native Canadians.
Comment:  As with past South Park episodes, this clip is a mixed bag at best.

On the one hand, the "Native Canadians" are rendered with slanted eyes, which is patently offensive. They're all wearing fur-lined parkas, which are apparently some kind of tribal uniform. (The non-Natives aren't wearing fur-lined parkas, so the clothing must not be necessary for the climate.) And they're not using anything more modern than a harpoon. No high-powered rifles, radios, or snowmobiles--nothing like that.

On the other hand, they're speaking some sort of Native language(s), not gibberish. The non-Natives' stupid comments are designed to make the non-Natives look bad. And the show is sensitive enough to label the Natives "Native Canadians" rather than "Eskimos" or something less pleasant.

The Native language(s)

I asked a friend if she knew what language the Natives were speaking. This led to the following discussion:They are speaking two languages--Athabaskan dialect (the female speaker) and a Plains language (Blood? Or the plains languages spoken in Canada) by the male speaker respectively. (Which means the two conversation topics may be divergent.)Does Athabaskan include Navajo? Does the Plains language include Lakota? I'd guess producers Stone and Parker, who live in the LA area, found two local Native speakers and recorded them separately.

On the one hand, it's kind of lame that they didn't find two Inuktitut speakers. On the other, at least the "Native Canadians" weren't speaking gibberish. Stone and Parker probably did more than many producers would have.I would say the upshot was they did not speak gibberish. My money is on Navajo really, as the cadence and pronunciation leans more that way. As for the male's speech, I do not thing it was Siouxan nor Slavey. Even though I say "Plains" I would guess Blood.I'd also guess the producers recorded the Natives without telling them about the episode. They may have asked the Natives to say something about fishing, or to say anything. If they were carrying on a real conversation in two different languages, I'd be surprised.

The rest of the episode

Royal Pudding's plot involves the kidnapping of a "Canadian princess." The Inuit play a bigger role than the scene above indicates:When it turns out that Scott has been wrongly accused of taking the princess, most other Canadians go home, but Scott persuades Ike and Ugly Bob to follow him as he accuses the Inuit of kidnapping the princess out of his racial prejudice towards the "Native Canadians." However, while admitting that his people do have a grudge against the Canadians for taking their land, the Inuit tribe leader reveals that the princess' abduction was foretold, and that the true kidnapper is one who attacks people of all nationalities. With an Inuit mother leading the three, they find a large dark castle, where the princess is held captive by the abductor: Tooth Decay. Eventually, after the monster hurls Scott and the Inuit woman across the room, Ike turns Tooth Decay to stone by exposing Ugly Bob's face to him.That doesn't sound too bad. It could be a decent role for these cartoon Natives. Except for their slanty eyes and nonstop parka wearing, of course.

For more on South Park, see "Tardicaca Indians" in South Park and "Indians" in Cannibal! The Musical.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I didn't even know Indians had slanted eyes, but they ARE Eskimos. Or Inuit, if you don't mind using a masculine word to describe a group of males and females. And often using a plural to describe one individual. And using the term to describe Yup'ik. And...

"Plains languages" sounds weird, considering that includes Algonquian, Siouan, Hokan, and many other language families.

Scott the Dick is, well, a dick.