Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
I enjoy your website.
Do you have any opinion on the Lakota commercial where they show a variety of people wearing a headdress after taking their product? Isn't this offensive? I understood that headdresses were earned and this commercial surely trivializes the whole issue.
Thanks for your thoughts. And if this is already addressed on your website, my apologies for missing it.
My initial reply
>> I enjoy your website. <<
>> Do you have any opinion on the Lakota commercial where they show a variety of people wearing a headdress after taking their product? <<
No, I haven't seen it. What is the product, exactly? "The Lakota Way" sounds more like a charitable service than a product.
>> Isn't this offensive? I understood that headdresses were earned and this commercial surely trivializes the whole issue. <<
It could be considered offensive, or at least problematical. Can you describe the commercial in more detail for me? Or find a description on the Web?
Pat fills me in
If you look here:
The Lakota Way: Medicine That Works
you can see across the top of the page there are pictures of non-native people wearing headdresses....This is in the commercial where people have taken the Lakota herbal product for arthritis, or whatever, and they are then shown being very active and wearing a headdress as they deliver the mail or pick up a grandchild or kick a ball. It's certainly shown a lot on TV in Canada!
I can't get a link to anywhere where you can see the ad itself but it's pretty much as I've described it.
The Lakota Way is a line of herbal remedies and they use Floyd Crow Westerman in a lot of their commercials.
I checked out the Lakota Way website again and it seems to be a Canadian company so maybe you don't get those commercials in the States at all.
I'll email them directly and see what they have to say for themselves!
I emailed The Lakota Way about their commercial and here is their response which just arrived:
The Lakota brand was founded by entrepreneur Rick Stewart, a Canadian Métis of Cree heritage, and strong supporter of Native Canadian and Native American culture. Stewart originally established Lakota brand health products, along with the marketing concept, in conjunction with members of the Sioux Nation who still reside on their traditional lands in the Dakotas.
Our product marketing is designed to represent Native remedies as being the powerful and effective medicines that they are. Consequently, our use of the feathered headdress is meant to serve as an iconic representation of this power. It is because the Native American headdress is such a powerful and esteemed symbol that we chose to use it to represent our Native American Formulas.
In producing the advertisement you refer to in your letter, we have authentically represented a Lakota headdress with respect for the important symbol that it is. The non-aboriginal people wearing the headdress in the advertisement are not meant to be comedic. Rather, they are meant to respectfully represent Lakota users, and to celebrate the fact that they are now pain free thanks to the power of the traditional natural remedies first discovered by Native people.
I hope this answers all questions and concerns that you may have had!
Director of Communications
Thanks for forwarding this reply. Naturally, it doesn't really address the issue of misusing a Lakota headdress.
There's no longer a banner across the top of the website, which says the company may be listening. There aren't any headdresses on the products themselves, either. There's only a picture of Floyd Red Crow Westerman (I believe) on the website's lefthand margin.
Let's hear what others have to say:
Headdress in advertisement: insult or homage?
Last Updated Nov 29 2005 09:39 AM CST
Some aboriginal people in Winnipeg are upset about a television advertisement they say misuses the traditional native headdress.
The ad for Lakota pain-relief products shows people who appear to be non-native buying the product while wearing native headdresses. The headdress also features prominently on the company's website.
Ivy Chaske, a Dakota woman from the same First Nation as the Lakota tribe, says the ad offends her.
"It's disrespectful of my people. It's disrespectful of what this headdress means, and how people earn those things. Complete ignorance," said Chaske, who teaches aboriginal awareness for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
"I'm sure that my neighbours or my grandson's classmates would be sorely offended if I let him run around in a priest's cossack, doing a commercial. They would be incredibly upset."
The company that makes Lakota says it never intended to offend anyone. Company officials say they chose the headdress because it's an icon that conveys the power of native medicine, and the company wanted to honour aboriginal peoples' contributions to modern medicine.
"The headdress was chosen because it is symbolic of power, and because it is symbolic of freedom, and it's an icon that's instantly recognizable as native American," said company spokesman Dan McLeod.
McLeod says the company's founder, in fact, is Métis. But Chaske says that's no excuse.
"Maybe he's Métis. But I'm sure he would be offended, or the elders in his community would be offended, if I … took one of their sashes and made a bikini and I was dancing around. They wouldn't like it."
Officials with CBC, which has been airing the ad, say it meets the corporation's standards of good taste and cultural sensitivity. CBC says it will take note of people's complaints, but there are no plans to take the ad off the air.
The company says the headdress is a symbol of "power" and "freedom." In other words, the company wants you to associate the pills with the good qualities of Native people so you'll buy it. The company also says the headdress is "an icon that's instantly recognizable as native American." In other words, it's a stereotype.
On its "Lakota Legend" page, the company explains the thinking behind the "Lakota Way" name. The products use some natural ingredients originally used by Natives (although not necessarily by Lakota Natives). The products also use artificial modern ingredients to "enhance the effects of the traditional medicine."
So the products are about like any other "natural" remedies that use some natural ingredients and some unnatural ones. There doesn't seem to be much justification for labeling the products "Lakota." There's no way of knowing if they're more or less powerful than a traditional Lakota remedy.
In any case, using a headdress by itself isn't a huge problem. You see chiefs in headdresses all the time on commercial products. The real issue is the TV ad. There's no justification for an ad showing non-Natives dressed up like Plains chiefs.
The "Lakota Legend" link no longer works. The company apparently has removed that page from its website.
The company also has changed its brand name and slogan—from "The Lakota Way: Medicine That Works" to "Lakota: Legendary Native American Formulas." Note the subtle change in emphasis. Before the implication was that these products were formulated in particular "Lakota ways." That is, that they replicated known Lakota remedies that worked. Now the products are only "Native American Formulas" (i.e., from any tribe) and they're "legendary" (i.e., possibly unreal) to boot.
The company also has removed every Native image from its site except its logo, which features a standard Plains Indian. Again note the subtle effect. Before the headdress linked the products strongly with the Lakota, the most famous Plains tribe. Now the generic Indian makes the link more of a suggestion than a reality.
So the company eliminated the most stereotypical aspects of its products after people protested. Is this another example of stereotype critics having an impact?
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