eska : protecting whose purity?

Access to clean, safe drinking water is the exception and not the rule in many aboriginal communities in Canada. In this country of vast mineral wealth, it is most appalling. Water usage and bulk water sales are a sensitive issue, especially in the context of users including multinational firms bottling a natural resource and re-selling it. Like selling snow to the Inuit…

Throughout North American history the perceptions of Native Americans have hinged on the natives’ usefulness to Whites. When the early colonists in New France needed them to stay alive in the winter or help fight a war against the British,  the Indians were thought of as brave and noble savages fitting with the philosophy of Jean Jacques Rousseau. When the Indians became obstinate and threatened the White’s projects, they were labeled as uncivilized and blood soaked savages. The Indian, who had been important when the fur trade and exploration were the keys to expansion and wealth creation, became an inconvenient nuisance when they demanded respect.

---Eaux Vives Water, which retained a public relations firm last weekend to handle the growing controversy, says it needs to grasp the exact nature of the criticism before acting on it. “There is no intention of the company to hurt people,” said spokesman Gilles Corriveau. “Their customers, their employees live in the area, work in the area.” He added that the ads had been tested with focus groups without incident, though he acknowledged that he didn’t know if any first nations member had been included in the research sample. He also insisted the company had received “all types of positive comments” about the campaign, though he declined to provide any examples. --- Read More:

In the 19th century, Americans began feeling confident in their ability to settle and rule the continent:

…[T]he fulfillment of our manifest destiny [is] to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions. — John L. O’ Sullivan, The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, 1845 Only problem was, the continent was already inhabited. To justify their depredations against the Indians, Americans conceived of a self-justifying rationalization. Doomed to defeat by their inferiority, they claimed, Indians were destined to vanish off the face of the earth.

The English stereotype of the hostile savage helped assuage a sense of guilt which inevitably arose when men whose culture was based on the concept of private property embarked on a program to dispossess another people of their land. Having created the conditions in which the Indian could only respond violently, the Englishman defined the native as brutal, beastly, savage, and barbarian and then used that as a justification for what he was doing. Read More:

Aboriginal Canadians living on native reserves rely mostly on bottled water for daily consumption because most don’t have access to clean drinking water. According to Project Blue, Canada’s national water campaign, 90 reserves are still under boil-water advisories while 2,145 homes have no water service at all, in a country where water is abundant….

---It was in the 1970s that Indians began to be portrayed more authentically and more prominently in film story lines. In Little Big Man with Dustin Hoffman the Cheyenne people actually shown laughing and crying, like real human beings rather than the predictably stoic and unemotional Indians we'd seen in Hollywood features. The Indians in this film were just like any other people -- some good, some not so good. They were not demonized just because they were Indian, as Hollywood custom had been before. Chief Dan George was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, making him the first Native American to receive the honor.--- Read More:

…A recent ad campaign by Quebec bottled water company Eska, depicts three men as aboriginals, using stereotypical native imagery. The ads were rolled out across Montreal’s transit system and instantly solicited calls for a boycott.Read More:

To be honest, from without and within, almost every national and ethnic group is guilty of racism. Self-serving tribalism. Nonetheless, the advertising industry is the public relations arm, along with Hollywood of white patriarchy and the attendant racism that results when market economies use consumerism and militarism as elements to maintain and expand their influence. NIMBY

t in my back yard?….

Michael D. Reid: That was before the Cree filmmaker hooked up with Montreal’s Rezolution Pictures to make Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian, his illuminating and entertaining documentary tracing the evolution of Hollywood’s depiction of Indians and how such cinematic archetypes have influenced the way we view native culture….

---The ads were developed by KBS+P Canada, which is owned by MDC Partners Inc. Eaux Vives Water is privately held by Morgan Stanley Principal Investments. --- Read More: image:

…”We cheered for the cowboys, never realizing we were the Indians,” said Diamond, recalling his childhood in the Cree community of Waskaganish on James Bay.

“It was so isolated, we’d get old black-and-white films and other westerns projected on a big screen,” he recalled. “That was our entertainment. I didn’t get any TV in my community until I was 17.”

Diamond later began wondering why the Cree kids identified more with the cowboys.

“The Indians were always losing and couldn’t fight,” he said. “They were stupidly circling wagons and got shot down. I don’t think that ever happened to native people. Maybe it’s just the most exciting way to film a battle.”…

---It’s ironic, Native American cigar box labels are some of the most beautiful, colorful and detailed images ever created in advertising. They are definitely highly collectible. However, I have come to the conclusion that the cigar industry exploited the native Americans. Being that I have some Choctaw blood, I was dismayed to learn how cigar labels helped to stereotype the American Indian.---Read More:

…Diamond’s reflection on Hollywood’s representation of the “redskin” from silent films through the political correctness of Dances With Wolves and today’s indigenous filmmaking renaissance sparks classic movie memories during his road trip to Hollywood in a dilapidated “rez car.”

Along the way, he pulls into such historic sites as Monument Valley, where many Hollywood westerns were filmed, and Wounded Knee and the Black Hills of South Dakota — home of Crazy Horse, the mythologized Indian warrior who battled Custer and whose descendants live in poverty on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation.

Diamond ends up in Igloolik, Nunavut, where he interviews Zacharias Kunuk, director of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, an uplifting symbol of hope for native cinema’s future.

In titled segments that reflect changing stereotypes — The Noble Injun, The Savage Injun, The Groovy Injun and so on — a fascinating smorgasbord of clips unspools. It includes archival footage of Bugs Bunny shooting natives for kicks; a horrifying scene from The Searchers where John Wayne shoots a dead Indian in the face; and scenes from such cliché-riddled westerns as John Ford’s Stagecoach, which Ojibway film critic Jesse Wente terms “one of the most damaging movies for native people in history,” Wente says. “It’s because of John Ford they thought of us like [vicious, bloodthirsty killers] … That’s where we developed ‘Tonto-speak.’ ”

Diamond also exposes how Navajo elders hired as actors would substitute subversive alternatives to lines in their native tongue. After an Indian chief is threatened by a U.S. cavalry officer in the 1964 western A Distant Trumpet, for instance, the native actor playing him goes off-script and instead replies: “Just like a snake, you’ll be crawling in your own sh-t.” Read More:


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