'SNL' Tries to Sidestep Backlash From Native American Sketch, But Some Fans Are Still 'Uncomfortable'

A controversial Saturday Night Live skit on this weekend's show ended with a kind of apology from host Will Ferrell, but fans were still upset by it. The sketch in question showed Ferrell, Melissa Villaseñor, Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen playing Native Americans. If that were not enough, the skit was about politics at Thanksgiving.

The skit was called "First Thanksgiving," and it was set in the 1600s. Villaseñor played Pocahontas, while Beck Bennett played John Smith — with a subtle nod to the fact that these real historical figures were about 12 and 30 years old respectively.

The skit was a tangled web of hot button issues that were hard to parse in the beginning. Ferrell played the grandfather of this Native American family, which functioned like a parody of a modern Thanksgiving table. Beck Bennett was the new boyfriend in the hot seat, but Ferrell's rhetoric got confusing fast.

Ferrell went from calling Bennett a "pale-face" to an "illegal immigrant," and then just referring to white people as "illegals." He spoke in historical parodies of modern talking points, saying he got his news from "a fox," while Pocahontas got hers from "a peacock."

The punchline of the skit was that, regardless of race, all of the characters had similar bowel movements. With that, Ferrell stood up, dropped character and spoke directly to the camera as a spotlight shone on him.

"Hi folks, I'm Will Ferrell, and if you're anything like me, you know there's a lot of a problems in this crazy, crazy sketch," he said. "I mean, white actors playing Natives? What is this, 2014? But, no matter what year it is, or what color we are, or whether we get our news from a fox or a peacock, one thing's for sure: none of us can digest corn. And that's what's important. Happy Thanksgiving."

Fans had many complaints about the sketch as they picked apart the details online. Many thought that, regardless of "the message that [SNL] is trying to make," it was an absolute deal-breaker to have "white people playing Native Americans."

Others were more concerned with the political implications of having a Native American character being outright racist against white people. As one Twitter user pointed out, this "accidentally suggested the white nationalist crowd has a point." Since Native Americans were the victims of a systemic genocide after the first Thanksgiving, the analogy is ill-fitting and uncomfortable.


For better or worse, SNL never shies away from controversial topics, and this was not the only one of the night. This week's episode tackled current politics in several skits as well, and the fan reaction is sure to carry on into Sunday morning.

SNL airs every weekend at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC.