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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

A Public Letter to Liz Claiborne & JC Penney Company

We, the undersigned, publicly invite Management of both Liz Claiborne, Inc. and JC Penney Company, Inc. to redress an ethical issue in which both companies are involved. Since November 1998, several religious and social institutional shareholders of Liz Claiborne, Inc. and representatives of the American Indian community have been in dialogue with the management of Claiborne on the company's use of the name CRaZY HORSE. They have also on several occasions during this period attempted to bring the management of JC Penney Company, Inc. into this dialogue.

Claiborne markets lines of women's and men's clothing, only available at JC Penney stores, called CRaZY HORSE. Shareholders and American Indians, including representatives from the Estate of Crazy Horse (Estate), have argued that the company's use of this name disappropriates and desecrates the name and legacy of one of the most revered spiritual and political leaders in American Indian history by treating him and his legacy as a mere commodity. Penney's has failed to respond to several invitations to participate in this dialogue.

To the deep disappointment of stakeholders, Claiborne Management, while engaging in these dialogues and conceding that this is an ethical issue transcending ordinary business considerations, has remained adamant that it would not cease using CRaZY HORSE as one of its registered trademarks. Claiborne Management has offered only cosmetic changes, such as providing a horse as part of the logo, pluralizing horse to horses, or putting crazy horse into lower case letters. Stakeholders have requested that Claiborne go beyond mere cosmetic changes that do nothing to break the clear association with the Lakota Sioux Leader.

Stakeholders agree with the company that this is an ethical issue. One Lakota Sioux family member has referred to Claiborne's use of this name is "theft." All stakeholders believe that, whether intended or not, a double standard operates here. Neither company, for instance, would contend that putting Gandhi in lower case or pluralizing Martin Luther King, Jr. would sever all associations to these revered spiritual leaders, although this is the kind of solution that Claiborne has offered and Penney has supported to resolve this ethical issue.

Claiborne shareholders who have participated in this initiative are sensitive to financial considerations that both companies confront in any decision to change this name. To retain the name, however, is unethical and ultimately financially risky. It is to engage wittingly or unwittingly in exploitative, racist behavior against American Indians. The family of the Lakota Sioux Leader has testified to Claiborne Management that the use of this name is a profoundly hurtful violation of their most deeply held spiritual beliefs. No longer can Claiborne or Penney claim that it intends to do no harm.

Each company has been notified that its behavior is harmful: harmful to the memory and legacy of the Lakota Sioux Leader, harmful to the Estate, and harmful to American Indians everywhere, particularly to American Indian children and youth who see the name of one of their most deeply cherished leaders commercialized and trivialized in suburban malls across the country. We take this occasion to appeal to Liz Claiborne, Inc. and JC Penney Company, Inc.to work with shareholders, the Estate, and American Indian representatives to resolve this issue. We believe that both companies can do better, can be more resourceful and adaptive.

We believe that if company representatives choose to make an ethical difference they will enhance their company's reputation and garner greater public respect and customer loyalty.

We put this issue before the public hoping that it elicits further shareholders, American Indian stakeholders, consumers, and an aware and conscientious public to join in this effort to persuade Liz Claiborne, Inc. and JC Penney Company, Inc. to do the right thing.

As always, religious and social institutional shareholders and American Indian representatives remain committed to working collaboratively with Claiborne and Penney to resolve this ethical issue with justice and honor.

Father Gordon Judd


Seth Big Crow, Crazy Horse Estate
Elsie Meeks, US Commission on Civil Rights, Washington, DC
Billy Mills, Billy Mills Speakers Bureau, Fair Oaks, CA
Dr. Phyllis Tousey Frederick, Crazy Horse Defense Project, St. Paul, MN
Vernon Bellecourt, National Council on Racism in Sports & Media
Charlene Teters, Santa Fe, NM
Susan White, Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, Oneida, WI
Rebecca Adamson, First Nations Development Institute
Dr. Gel Stevenson, New York, NY
Gwalta Ruse Crue (Shoshone-Bannock), Champaign, IL
Juan Reyna, Cleveland, OH
Bruce Two Eagles, Leicester, NC
Dr. Andy Smith, Devon, PA
Rosemary Richmond, American Indian Community House, New York, NY
Tonya Gonnella Frichner, Esq., American Indian Law Alliance, New York, NY
Curtis Crow, Akron Indian Services, INC, Akron, OH
Fern Mathias, American Indian Movement of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Sheridan Murphy, American Indian Movement of Florida
Rabiah Yazzie, American Indian Movement of Virginia, West City, VA
Alex Ewen, Native American Council of NYC, New York, NY
Ken Demsey, Native American Cultural Foundation, Cleveland, OH
Loretta V. Malaxen, Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, Oneida, WI
Renee Still Day, N.A.T.I.V.E.S., Pueblo, CO
Philip Yenyo, American Indian Movement of Ohio Northern District
Karen Weideman, Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, President of Native American Student Assoc. at Baldwin-Wallace College
Momfeather Erickson, Omaha, Nebraska
Mike Wicks, American Indian Cultural Support
Sheila Firehair, owner/editor, Native News & Issues, Eastern Tribal Peoples Support -- online.
Ben Little Hawk, Senior High School student, Apache/Yaqui
Matt Quiet Storm, Senior H.S. student, Mayan/Arapaho
Sarah Evening Star, Senior in H.S., Miss Native American Heritage, Franklin Co., NC, Mayan/Arapaho

Related links
Paris strip club with nude dancers named after Crazy Horse
Savage Indians

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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