Cameron (Cam), a flamboyantly gay man, is asked to substitute-teach an Advanced Placement history class. He knows next to nothing about history, so he decides to dress as George Washington to get the students' attention.
His partner's niece Alex is one of the students in the class. She's embarrassed by Cam's antics and tries to get him on track.
CAM: Yes! Native Americans! Indians! A majestic, peaceful people who lived off the land and cried when they saw litter.
ALEX: The textbook says many tribes were often at war with allegiances shifting all of the time.
CAM [a beat slow as he tries to copy her]: --shifting all the time.
STUDENT: So...were the Indians friends with the colonists, or not?
CAM: Ah! Yes! I know one Indian who was friends with a construction worker, biker, and traffic cop.
[Cam laughs at his own joke, but notices no one else is laughing.]
CAM: Do you g--nothing, seriously nothing? Okay, your parents are going to love that joke.
[Cam gasps in surprise. He leans forward to talk to another student.]
CAM: Look, goosebumps.
Alex is clearly more knowledgeable about Indians than Cam is. And her statements are basically accurate without casting Indians in a bad light.
Cam offers Native (mis)appropriations--the crying Indian, the Village People--as "jokes." But it's not clear if one comment--"A majestic, peaceful people who lived off the land and cried when they saw litter"--is really supposed to be joke.
Will viewers get that this superficial view of Indians--that they're all members of one eco-friendly tribe--is false and stereotypical? I wouldn't bet on it.
To be effective, Native-oriented humor should be clear about what's true and what isn't. These Native bits sort of pass the test, but not quite. Alex and the other students sort of reject Cam's ignorant views, but not quite.
That's why I say these bits are ambiguous. That some writers are trying to do Native-oriented humor properly, without mistakes or stereotypes, is good and commendable. But they haven't quite nailed it yet.
For more on Modern Family, see 1/16th Cherokee in Modern Family.