Great Indian Moments















bent arrowExhibit: "Too Deep for Tears"

On Earth Day, 1971, a PSA by Keep American Beautiful first aired. In what came to known as the "Crying Indian" commercial—most of you know the scene —a Native American appears, canoeing down a polluted river, to a backdrop of factory smoke. When a sack of garbage from a passing car lands at his feet, a single tear falls down his cheek, and the narrator says: "Some people have a deep, abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country; some people don't. People start pollution. People can stop it." But the tear was fake, a simulation—glycerin, really—and controversy later swirled around the actor, Iron Eyes Cody, amid allegations that he was actually 100% Italian. (Gerald Vizenor once said that Germans make "the best Indians," but maybe Italians are pretty good at it, too?) Whatever his ethnic background, he was certainly playing a prescribed role, as member of a people endowed not only with "a deep, abiding respect" for "natural beauty," but also with a noble stoicism, an innate quality of character in which silent suffering is superior to words. [Cf. "Kaw-Liga."]
    --from my essay "The 'Eco-Indian' in the 21st Century"

Crying Indian

Or watch the YouTube video.
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bent arrowExhibit: "Half-Breed" & Half-Baked

Cher's 1973 #1 hit "Half-Breed" was bad enough, perhaps; but Mattel's idea to make a Barbie out of the idea is wrong on so many levels. The doll itself is "New" for 2007(?), although the "Cher doll wears the truly original Cher ensemble made famous in the 1970s and designed by Bob Mackie." Unfortunately, "Not for use with other dolls"; and the "Doll cannot stand alone." But heck, nothing says "part-Cherokee woman" than a Northern-Plains-Indian male chief's headdress.

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bent arrowExhibit: "Ouga Chaka Ouga Ouga"

In the fine simulated-tom-tom tradition of "Kaw-Liga" and "Running Bear," Blue Swede's 1974 version of "Hooked on a Feeling" added as an intro/background lyric one of the most ridiculous "Indian chants" in the history of pop music. (Whatever that "girl" is doin' to him, she'd better stop it!) . . . More recent famous "pop" songs that are very suspect in their representation of the Native include Tim McGraw's country tune, "Indian Outlaw" (1994) and Menken and Schwartz's faux-naturist "Colors of the Wind" (Disney's Pocahontas, 1995).

MP3 excerpt from "Hooked on a Feeling"
(music & lyrics: Mark James [1968])

Ouga Chaka Ouga Ouga--
Ouga Chaka Ouga Ouga--
Ouga Chaka Ouga Ouga--
Ouga Chaka Ouga Ouga--
        [continue "chant" into the verse:]
I can't stop this feeling deep inside of me--
Girl, you just don't realize what you do to me. . . .

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bent arrowExhibit: "Meathead" = Bleeding Liberal

Archie Bunker was famous for his racist remarks regarding African-Americans, Jews, et al. Here he espouses the traditional let's-cheer-for-the-cavalry-and-John-Wayne attitude. Implicit, however, is that—by the 1970's—there are a sprinkling of Euro-Americans like his son-in-law who might well sympathize with the "redskins" (from All in the Family, mid?-1970's [dialogue recalled from memory]):

--ARCHIE BUNKER [scornfully, to his son-in-law Michael "Meathead" Stivic]: You're the kind o' guy who watches John Wayne movies and roots for the Indians!
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