Rights to famous 'Crying Indian' TV ad go to Native American group, which is retiring it

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Since its debut successful 1971, an anti-pollution advertisement showing a man successful Native American attire shedding a azygous tear astatine nan show of smokestacks and litter blighting a once-unblemished scenery has go an indelible portion of TV popular culture.

It’s been referenced complete nan decades connected shows for illustration “The Simpsons” and “South Park” and successful net memes. But now a Native American defense group that was fixed nan authorities to nan long-parodied nationalist work announcement is retiring it, saying that it has ever been inappropriate.

The “Crying Indian” pinch his buckskins and agelong braids made nan late character Iron Eyes Cody a recognizable face successful households nationwide. But to galore Native Americans, nan nationalist work announcement has been a achy reminder of nan enduring stereotypes they face.

The nonprofit that primitively commissioned nan TV advertisement, Keep America Beautiful, had agelong been considering really to discontinue nan advertisement and announced this week that it’s doing truthful by transferring ownership of nan authorities to nan National Congress of American Indians.

“Keep America Beautiful wanted to beryllium observant and deliberate astir really we transitioned this iconic advertisement/public work announcement to due owners,” Noah Ullman, a spokesperson for nan nonprofit, said via e-mail. “We said to respective Indigenous peoples’ organizations and were pleased to place nan National Congress of American Indians arsenic a imaginable caretaker.”

NCAI plans to extremity nan usage of nan advertisement and watch for immoderate unauthorized use.

“NCAI is proud to presume nan domiciled of monitoring nan usage of this advertisement and guarantee it is only utilized for humanities context; this advertisement was inappropriate past and remains inappropriate today,” said NCAI Executive Director Larry Wright Jr. “NCAI looks guardant to putting this advertisement to furniture for good.”

When it premiered successful nan 1970s, nan ad was a sensation. It led to Iron Eyes Cody filming 3 follow-up PSAs. He spent much than 25 years making nationalist appearances and visits to schools connected behalf of nan anti-litter campaign.

From there, Cody, who was Italian American but said he had Cherokee practice done his father, was typecast arsenic a banal Native American character, appearing successful much than 80 films. Most of nan time, his characteristic was simply “Indian,” “Indian Chief” aliases “Indian Joe.”

Jennifer J. Folsom, a publicity and media connection professor astatine Colorado State University and a national of nan Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, remembers watching nan nationalist work announcement arsenic a child.

“At that point, each azygous personification who showed up pinch braids and buckskins, connected TV aliases anyplace successful nan movies, I glommed connected to that because it was such a uncommon point to see,” said Folsom, whose areas of study see Native American popular culture. “I did spot really group littered, and I did spot really nan creeks and nan rivers were getting polluted.”

But arsenic she grew up, Folsom noticed really media devoted small sum to Native American biology activists.

“There’s nary agency for that sad alleged Indian feline sitting successful a canoe crying,” Folsom said. “I deliberation it has done harm to nationalist cognition and support for actual Native group doing things to protect nan land and protect nan environment.”

She applauded Keep America Beautiful’s determination arsenic an “appropriate move.” It will mean a trusted group tin thief power nan communicative nan advertisement has promoted for complete 50 years, she said.

The ad’s powerfulness has arguably already faded arsenic Native and Indigenous youths travel of property pinch a greater consciousness astir stereotypes and taste appropriation. TikTok has plentifulness of examples of Native group parodying aliases doing a takedown of nan advertisement, Folsom said.

Robert “Tree” Cody, nan adopted boy of Iron Eyes Cody, said nan advertisement had “good intent and bully heart” astatine its core.

“It was 1 of nan apical 100 commercials,” said Cody, an enrolled personnel of nan Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community successful Arizona.

And it reminded him of time spent pinch his father, said Cody, who lives astatine Santa Ana Pueblo successful New Mexico.

“I retrieve a lot, moreover erstwhile he went connected a movie group to decorativeness his movies and stuff,” Cody said. “I retrieve going retired to Universal [Studios], Disney, places for illustration that.”

His wife, Rachel Kee-Cody, can’t thief but consciousness somewhat sad that an advertisement that intends truthful overmuch to their family will beryllium shelved. But she accepts nan decision.

“You know, times are changing arsenic well. You support going nary matter really overmuch it changes,” she said. “Disappointment. ... It’ll pass.”