By Christian Hoffer
Disney World has removed names from one of Magic Kingdom’s oldest attractions, likely to remove a culturally insensitive and dated turn. Earlier this week, Disney World removed two references to “Injun Joe” from its Tom Sawyer’s Island attraction at Magic Kingdom. A sign labelling “Injun Joe’s Cavern” was pulled from the island itself, while a raft named after the character had its name plank painted over. Disney also painted over the name planks for the other rafts of the attraction, which were named after Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher.
Injun Joe is the villain of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a half-Native American grave robber who commits multiple crimes including murder throughout the book. Sawyer and his friends witness Joe either commit the crimes or conspire to commit the crimes, and Sawyer is inadvertently responsible for the character to starving to death inside a sealed cave. Twain wrote the character as a fundamentally evil and irredeemable character, with multiple characters in the book claiming that his evil nature was due to his Native American heritage.
While The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is considered to be a classic in American literature, the book is often criticized in the way that Injun Joe is portrayed, and his name includes a derogatory term for Native Americans. So, it’s not a surprise that Disney World has removed references to the character, especially after pledging more diversity and inclusivity last year. Several other rides, including the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean, have also received updates to remove harmful stereotypes in recent years.
This wouldn’t be the first time that a part of Tom Sawyer Island was changed to remove harmful stereotypes. The island also originally had a burning cabin that featured its resident dead on the ground with an arrow in its chest, with the implication being that he was killed by residents of a nearby Native American village. The cabin became a moonshine distillery in the 1980s after complaints from guests, and the cabin’s perennially lit flames were shut off in the late 1990s.
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