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Native Advocacy Group Acquires the Rights to Finally Retire That Extremely 1970s Anti-Litter Ad

An animated Native American character on The Simpsons.

As a geriatric millennial, I’m old enough to remember the so-called “Crying Indian” ad campaign from the ’70s, which was still hanging around in the ’80s (and continued to be parodied long after, as on The Simpsons, pictured above) because no one really had taste back then and the Reagan years were bad for everyone who wasn’t pale, male, and stale. (The toys, however, were great. So many ways to poke your eyes out and get maimed.) Even back then, I, a literal child, knew the campaign was racist and awful because the whole concept revolved around the idea that littering made an older Indigenous man sad, so we shouldn’t do it. Here’s the commercial if you want to watch it, but … it does not hold up to any standard of decency, so you’ve been warned.

Just completely and utterly tone-deaf. Let’s skate around the whole “we’re colonizers” idea and go straight to the fetishization of Indigenous people, making them into mascots to stop the poor behavior of white people—of the descendants of outsiders who thought it was their God-given right towards Western expansion to torture and kill those very native populations. (F*ck you, Andrew Jackson! I hope hell is nice!)

Well, I am happy to tell you that Keep America Beautiful, the organization that owned the IP of the “Crying Indian,” has transferred the copyright and the advertisement to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Fund. Since the advertisement first aired in 1971, it only took 52 years, so all I can say is it’s about damn time. Per a Keep America Beautiful press release:

The property has now been assigned to the NCAI Fund, a 501(c)(3) public education nonprofit organization that is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the broad interests of tribal governments and communities.

“NCAI is proud to assume the role of monitoring the use of this advertisement and ensure it is only used for historical context; this advertisement was inappropriate then and remains inappropriate today,” said NCAI Executive Director Larry Wright, Jr. “NCAI looks forward to putting this advertisement to bed for good.”

This means that now if someone uses the “Crying Indian” for commercial use for monetary gain, the NCAI can come after them with a cease and desist as they now own the copyright, and based on the above quote, they are absolutely going to do that. Thank goodness. This means that they can effectively retire the ad and put it to rest for good.

The entire concept is so offensive. Indigenous culture was decimated by the U.S. government; just look what happened with the Trail of Tears, which was a U.S. government-sponsored genocide of Native Americans (again, I say, f*ck you, Andrew Jackson.) To turn around and use a Native American man as a symbol of disapproval for American littering in an advertisement after we stripped his ancestors of their lives, land, freedom, and culture; is just incomprehensibly poor form. I am glad this IP can be retired forever and now is owned by the people who can relegate it to the dustbin of history. Good riddance.

(via NBC News, featured image: Iron Eyes Cody)

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