Ever since the Lost Boys have lived in Neverland, the Indians and the Lost Boys have had an unending mock-war; at the end of any "battle", one of the groups would end up captured by the other, which would be marked down as a victory, and then would be released in anticipation of the next game.
The Indians are based on similar characters in J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan play and Peter and Wendy novel.
The Indians are made to resemble cliché stereotypes of Native Americans prevalent in the 19th and early 20th centuries that were portrayed in European comic books before and around the time of the film's release. The culture as-well is a pastiche of real-life American Indigenous cultural practices.
After the film was released, in recent decades, controversy has grown around these characters, which some consider to be an insensitive stereotype. The main reason is because in their song they are depicted as people or a race mainly defined by sexuality; the lyrics attribute the Indians' red skin to their pursuit of women.
Although a similar depiction was displayed within J.M. Barrie's original play, the characters have been omitted near-completely in later Disney media, such as Return to Never Land, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, and the Disney Fairies franchise. They appear physically in the 2002 videogame Peter Pan: Adventures in Never Land and in the Disney's Magic English series.
The criticisms seem to be missing the point that the Indians, like everything in Neverland, are in fact attuned to the imagination of children, and they resemble these stereotypes because those are the stereotypes Edwardian-era British children would have held.
Marc Davis, one of the supervising animators of the film, said in an interview years after the production, "I'm not sure we would have done the Indians if we were making this movie now. And if we had we wouldn't do them the way we did back then...The Indians were Ward Kimball’s stuff. Beautifully done. The Indians could not have been done that way nowadays. I like them. Very funny. Very entertaining, especially the Big Chief." As Disney historian Jim Korkis clarified, "It is important to remember that Peter Pan was supposed to represent a young boy’s impression of pirates, mermaids and Indians and, as a result, these fanciful creations bore more of a relation to popular culture storybooks than reality."
- Peter Pan Platinum Edition (Audio commentary). Roy E. Disney, Leonard Maltin, Jeff Kurtti, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Marc Davis, Kathryn Beaumont, Margaret Kerry. Burbank, California: Walt Disney Home Entertainment. 2007.
- Korkis, Jim (May 15, 2020). "Neverland Tribe". Cartoon Research. Retrieved on May 16, 2020.