While I was researching Gumby, I found the cartoons often feature historical themes that include Indians. In the first batch of 131 episodes (1956-1967), at least ten had Natives or Native themes. I present them below along with my snap judgments.
Note: Wikipedia has a master list of episodes
and TV.com has a set of summaries
. The two sources don't always match.31. Indian Trouble34. Rain Spirits
35. The Kachinas52. Ricochet PeteGumby's the sheriff of an old west town. One day, the dangerous Ricochet Pete comes into town, firing his gun at anything with volume or mass, like Gumby's hat. Gumby nonchalantly orders him out of town, but Pete has a better idea. They'll go to a nearby valley and see who can be the first to scare the other person, and the loser leaves town. Since Pete is in no position to be making demands, Gumby accepts. Pete scares him off with some cheap Indian puppets, and Pokey scares Pete off with a rubber spider. It's sort of a draw, so Pete is merely sentenced to perform violent puppet shows.
Do the Indian puppets look scary, or are they supposed to be scary just because they're Indians? Either way, it sounds stereotypical.53. Northland FolliesGumby and Pokey stow away in a box, thinking it's on its way to Hawaii. Surprise! They're dropped right on top of an igloo in the middle of Alaska. Unfortunately, the igloo belongs to a walrus and something that looks like Roger painted yellow. The fourth wall takes a bit of a beating when the now-homeless animals recognize Gumby and Pokey as television celebrities, but they still insist that Gumby and Pokey rebuild the igloo they indirectly ruined. We learn that Alaska is five hundred years behind in its news due to the fact that each year is one day up there, the igloo is rebuilt, and they celebrate with chocolate clam-dandy (chocolate sundaes served on clam shells). Their celebration is cut short when another box starts falling out of the sky, bent on destroying the new igloo, and Gumby and Pokey book it, lest they get asked to rebuild it again.
A yellow-skinned Native living in an igloo? Sounds stereotypical and bad.68. Pokey's PriceA pilgrim boy escapes from his book about the Plymouth colony and steals Gumby's apple. Gumby and Pokey pursue him back into the book and tackle him, but decide to go easy on him, what with how his family is starving to death. Pokey discovers a sinkhole where two baskets of corn are buried. The colony is saved from starvation, and the boys are ready to get a quick drink, when some Native Americans arrive, demanding payment for the corn stolen from them, which they'd been saving to plant next season. They decide to settle for Pokey, and they take him home with them, much to Gumby's discontent. Gumby rallies the pilgrims and they go into the Native Americans' camp, shoot off a few rounds, and trade Pokey for three hunting knives and some glass beads. And that's the story of the first Thanksgiving.
Note: The Native Americans feed Pokey something that makes him change colors randomly and makes crazy sound effects play.
The Indians are adversarial, but at least the two sides are trading with each other, not killing each other. Sounds decent.71. Siege of BoonesboroughGumby and Pokey follow Daniel Boone to the Siege of Boonesborough, where hundreds of Native Americans are ready to attack. The fort is hopelessly undermanned, so all of the women and children dress up as men and everyone gets two fake man heads to hold up. Gumby uses his fire extinguisher to neutralize the Native Americans' overwhelming three flaming arrows, and everyone pokes their heads up from behind the wall, making it look like they have several thousand more men than they really do. The Native Americans decide that there's too many men on the opposing side, so they cancel the fight. It just goes to show you, trickery was just as important as brute force in driving Native Americans out of their homelands.
Trivia: When Daniel Boone suggests that the women and children dress up as men to trick the Native Americans, one of the women laughs in delight for a second, then instantly looks grim again.
Indians as savage warriors who aren't very bright or brave? Sounds stereotypical and bad.97. Indian Country
This episode is listed in Wikipedia but omitted in TV.com. Amazon.com lists it as one of the episodes in Gumby & Friends--The Lost Episodes
I couldn't find out what happened with Indian Country
. I can only guess that Gumby's owners couldn't find the master for this episode, so they deemed it "lost." At some point, someone found it and made it available. So Indian Country
is missing on older lists and present on newer lists.130. The Indian ChallengeSome Native Americans are after Prospector Pete for all of the tales he's told about killing their people. He must face Old Joe, the champion of their tribe. He's scared, what with how they were all a bunch of tall tales, so Gumby and Pokey agree to spy on the tribe and see what he's up against. Wouldn't you know it, Old Joe's just a big blowhard too. And so, Pete and Joe enter a tall tale contest where the loser has to stop telling stories.
Non-Indians with inflated fears of Indians? Sounds decent.131. Gold Rush GumbyGumby's lookin' for gold deep in the Pesky Indian Reservation with Pokey and Nopey. When he strikes gold, he's captured by the Peskies. Normally they're a friendly people, but the chief's in a bad mood today, so they're gonna have to get burned to death. Gumby offers to help the chief, whose ailment comes from a toothache. Gumby has no idea about dentistry, so he just pulls it out. Everyone laughs at the gap where the chief's tooth was, so Gumby makes a gold one with the tooth-making kit he brought along.
Burning someone to death because he has a toothache? Sounds like a stereotypical savage, and bad.
Of course, if any of these episodes feature more teepee-style Indians, they instantly go into the "reject" category. That portrayal is about as stupid as portraying Indians as gophers
. It's roughly the same idea: "pesky" Indian and gopher pests.
I suspect Gumby's producers did so many Western shows because cowboys and Indians were big then. But still, 10 of 131 episodes was a lot of Native-themed shows. I doubt other children's shows had that many episodes featuring Indians.
For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians
I came across this on YouTube: Thought it would interest you:
I AM 1/3 NATIVE AMERICAN BUT I FEEL LIKE I ACCEPT AND CARE ABOUT MY NATIVE AMERICAN SIDE THE MOST BECAUSE I HAVE A BIGGER PERCENT OF FAMILY WHO NOT ONLY ARE NATIVE AMERIAN BUT STILL LIVE ON AN INDIAN RESERVATION!!! AND I ABSOLUTELY HATE WHENN PEOPLE mKE FUN OF OR FIND INDIANS TO BE SO HILIROUS LIKE THEY RE SOME KINDA OF JOKE AND I HATE HOW WHEN SOME PEOPLE WHEN I TELL THEWM THAT IM PART NATIVE AMERICAN THEY ASK ME IF I HAVE THE STEORTYPICAL FEATHER HEAD BAND OR IF I DO ANY OF THOSE POWWOW DANCES. AND IT MAKES ME SO MAD THAT THAT IS HOW PEOPLE PORTRY NATIVE AMERICANS AS PEOPLE WHO DANCE AROUND IN FEATHER HEAD BANDS AND ANIMAL HIDE DRESSES ALL DAY!!!!!
I DON'T WATCH GUMBY ANYMORE PARTLY BECAUSE OF THAT EXACT REASON!!
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