That’s Not Me: The Use of Indian Imagery in Advertising

Hobby Show Exhibit

Photo by: Lawrence Baca

By:      Karli Sultzbaugh | Intern | karli.sultzbaugh@procopio.com

It has been reported that there are over 600 active trademarks from 450 companies that have an Indian mascot or use Indian imagery in their branding.  Some of these trademarks are used by Indian-owned entities, but the majority of them are not.  The trademarks span the range of goods, including clothing, food, cigarettes and tobacco, alcoholic beverages, and paper products (see, e.g, Land O’Lakes, American Spirit, Hawaiian Airlines).  They also include sports teams like the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks, Cleveland Indians, Washington Redsk*ns, Florida State University Seminoles, Springfield Indians (hockey), and the Kansas City Chiefs.

These trademarks and products that use Native imagery do not include the innumerable instances of Indian caricatures or other imagery used in advertising campaigns, both in the past and now.  In fact, many of the products or brands have nothing to do with Native Americans, which begs the question; why does a company choose to use Indian imagery in its branding or advertising in the first place?  These representations of Indians in advertising are often based on racist stereotypes that draw on and mix the perceived characteristics or practices of a small handful of tribes.  These uses further perpetuate the stereotypes of Indians or cartoonish images and fail to allow representation of the true diversity of the Native community.  You don’t see Indian teachers on products, or accountants or future lawyers.

There are over 566 tribes in the U.S. alone, but because of images in branding and advertising, Native peoples are only seen as figures of the past who wear headdresses (war bonnets) or feathers in their hair, wield tomahawks, and live in tipis.  If we don’t look this way, our identity as a Native person is often questioned or disbelieved.  Because non-Indians are not exposed to the diversity of faces, lifestyles, and cultures of Native peoples, many of us are deemed “not Indian enough” because we don’t “look Indian,” meaning we don’t look like these stereotyped caricatures of Indians.  This is harmful to a Native identity and image in the US that has already been romanticized and exploited for the past 200 years.  It is time for non-Indian businesses to rethink utilizing Indian imagery in their branding and advertising.

The San Diego County Fair, opening June 2 and running through July 4, 2017, will feature Lawrence Baca speaking on “Not All Indians Are Chiefs: Native Americans in Advertising” each Saturday during the Fair at 2:00 p.m. There will also be exhibits by Mr. Baca and the Kumeyaay Cultural Committee, located in the Activity Hall, displaying current and historical pieces of Indians used in advertising and Kumeyaay history, respectively.  An additional Exhibit from Mr. Baca is located in the Fair “Hobby Show.”  Procopio is proud to sponsor Mr. Baca’s Exhibits.  For Exhibit location, see Building 6, here.  This is a great opportunity for people to better understand “what the big deal is” with using Indians for product mascots.

If you can’t make it to the Fair this year, find out more about Indians in advertising here and Indians as sports mascots here.

See our previous posts on issues of cultural appropriation and misrepresentation here, here, here, and here.

Karli Sultzbaugh is a member of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians and a rising 3L at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.  She is the outgoing president of UCLA’s Native American Law Students Association as well as an editor of the Indigenous Peoples’ Journal of Law Culture and Resistance and the Journal of Environmental Law and Policy. Karli is a recipient of the 2017 Procopio Native American Internship.

Ted GriswoldTed is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.

Where are they now? 9 and Counting…The Procopio Native American Internship Alumni

By:      Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

The annual Federal Bar Association Indian Law conference provides a convenient opportunity for past, present and future Procopio Interns to connect and strengthen their network together as they develop into the future Native American Bar. Each year Procopio hosts a reception and dinner at the Scottsdale AZ Fed Bar Meetings to help facilitate the connections and to celebrate their accomplishments.  This year’s April 6 reception was particularly special with Indian Law Section Chair Emeritus and Past FBA President Lawrence Baca joining the gathering.  Lawrence was the first American Indian lawyer hired at the United States Department of Justice through the Attorney General’s Honor Law Program in 1976. He was also the first American Indian attorney hired into the DOJ Civil Rights Division, and for 32 years, he dedicated his career to protecting the civil rights of American Indian People. Now retired, Lawrence remains active in encouraging the development of the future of the Native American Bar and was generous in providing his time to meet with the next generation, share a few of his many stories and his wisdom, and offering encouragement to the law students and young lawyers.

While not all of the intern alumni could make it to the Fed Bar meetings, the timing provided a convenient opportunity to obtain an update on their professional progress and direction.  We reconnected with each of Procopio’s talented and diverse alumni and want to share with you an update of their journey.

Eric Abeita (2014), from Isleta Pueblo, is a member of the New Mexico Bar and holds the position of General Counsel for the Pueblo of Pojoaque in Santa Fe New Mexico.  Eric is a 2015 graduate of University of New Mexico College of Law School, where he was the Managing Editor for the Tribal Law Journal and gathered valuable legal clinic experience with the Southwest Indian Law Clinic.

Nichole (Nikke) Alex (2015) is Diné (Navajo) Nation, and a third-year student at the University of New Mexico College of Law. Nikke is currently a judicial extern with the Pueblo of Isleta Tribal Court where she is assisting with developing a Juvenile Intervention Program and a Peacemaking Program to promote a non-adversarial forum for resolving disputes where Pueblo tradition and culture are utilized to promote healing. Earlier this month she was able to meet with Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor on behalf of the Tribal Court, as part of Justice Sotomayor’s outreach to learn more about the difficult issues faced by Indian Country.  During her law school career, Nikke has also investigated the linkage between mineral extraction and violence against Native women and has worked with tribes to implement safeguards to protect Native women and children.

Fernando Anzaldua (2012) is a citizen of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Fernando is a federal attorney for the National Labor Relations Board, where he has experienced significant success in Federal Court, successfully first-chairing two trials for his clients. He is a 2013 graduate of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University where he also earned an Indian Legal Certificate.

Stephanie Conduff (2013) is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court, Oklahoma, District Court of The Chickasaw Nation, The Supreme Court of Cherokee Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Osage Nation and Chickasaw Nation.  She lives and works in her community in Oklahoma as an attorney, business owner of Leche Lounge and training Native entrepreneurs on best practices for profitability through sustainable development. She currently works with both ONABEN and First Peoples Worldwide to empower indigenous people. Stephanie is invited to present and attend the Fifteenth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held in New York from May 9-20, 2016 to work on global issues facing Native People.  She graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Stephanie served as a judicial clerk for the late Honorable Chief Justice Barbara Smith of the Chickasaw Nation Supreme Court and is certified to assist tribal courts as a Peacemaker.  Stephanie was with Procopio for three years first as a summer intern, then as a law clerk and worked full-time for the firm as an Associate until 2016.

Trinidad Contreras (2011) is a citizen of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel and is a descendant of the Pala Band of Mission Indians. He is a member of the Alaska Bar and currently assistant City Attorney for the City of Juneau.   He received his law degree from the University of Arizona, College of Law in 2010 and his LL.M.(Business Law) from UCLA Law School in 2011. Trinidad received his undergraduate degrees from U.C. Berkeley in Native American Studies and molecular and cellular biology and a master’s degree at the University of Arizona in Federal Indian Law and Policy. Since law school, Trinidad worked as Judicial Law Clerk for the Alaska State Court System, externed for the National Indian Gaming Association, and worked on corporate and environmental matters for Sealaska Corporation.

Anna Hohag (2015) is a citizen of the Bishop Paiute Tribe and born and raised in the Eastern Sierras in Bishop, CA. She is in her second year of law school at the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona and recently placed fifth in the National Native American Law Association Moot Court Competition at Michigan State University. She is a Board Member on the California Indian Law Association and the 2015-2016 National Native American Law Students Association Area 1 Representative and was recently elected to the same position for 2016-2017.

Kelsey Leonard (2015) is a citizen of the Shinnecock Indian Nation and received her law degree at Dusquene University Law School. Last year she was named the prestigious Philomathia Trillium Scholar by McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario), where she will be study climate change’s impact on Native Communities, with a focus on water resource management.  Kelsey was previously the Tribal Co-Lead on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body for the National Ocean Council charged with guiding the protection, maintenance, and restoration of America’s oceans and coasts.

Christopher Scott (2014) is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and received his law degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law (2015), where he was the Note and Comment Editor for the American Indian Law Review. A member of the Texas Bar, Christopher is currently working for Ernst & Young in Dallas, Texas, working in labor/employment law in their People Advisory Services Department.

Jaclyn Simi (2012) is a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. She graduated with honors from Notre Dame de Namur University and received her law degree from California Western Law School (2012), where she was president of the Native American Law Students Association. Ms. Simi is currently an associate with the San Diego office of Ogletree Deakins, practicing employment litigation and counseling with an emphasis on sports law.  Ms. Simi was recently named a San Diego Super Lawyers Rising Star (2016) and to San Diego Business Journal’s Best of the Bar list (2106).   She is active member of the Lawyers Club of San Diego.

Ted Griswold

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.