The memory of warrior and spiritual leader Tasunke Witko – Crazy Horse to most of us – is so sacred to the Lakota Nation that his descendants and admirers wouldn’t even think about naming one of their children after him. That commercial enterprises appropriate his name for profit is galling.A cursory online search revealed just of few of the businesses drawn to the Native leader for whatever reasons, from “Crazy Horse Kennels” and the “Crazy Horse Cabaret” to the “Crazy Horse Tack and Gift Shop.” But the most prominent examples of Crazy Horse’s exploiters are the makers of “The Original Crazy Horse Malt Liquor,” Hornell Brewing Company and Ferolito, Vultaggio & Sons of Brooklyn, and Liz Claiborne (NYSE: LIZ) and JC Penney (NYSE: JCP).
The Estate of Crazy Horse expressed its feelings about having an alcoholic beverage as its namesake in federal court last fall. Its lawsuit against Hornell Brewing Company and Ferolito, Vultaggio & Sons alleges disparagement and defamation of the spirit, false designation of origin and false endorsement, trademark dilution, violations of rights of publicity and privacy, and the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. Consumers became accustomed to stereotypical marketing campaigns, and the ploy here is to romanticize the life and death struggle of a Lakota Warrior, as a macho-myth appealing primarily to young urban men. The issue is Consumer Identity, and the message is DRINK THIS PRODUCT AND BECOME “CRAZY HORSE. In reality, this strategy promotes both stereotyping and alcohol abuse. Our young people can be particularly vulnerable to this romanticized type of advertising, “buying into” myths that contribute to the very stereotypes which damage our self-perceptions, our communities and our future generations.
– Seth Big Crow, Administrator of the Crazy Horse EstateLiz Claiborne produces a Crazy Horse line of clothing that is marketed exclusively at JC Penney stores. Crazy Horse’s descendants, religious shareholders, Native Americans and others have been pressing them for several years to rename the brand. Last December, protestors demonstrated outside of Liz Claiborne’s headquarters in New York City. In an open letter to Liz Claiborne and JC Penney Company, members of Crazy Horse’s family and their co-signatories insist that the use of the Lakota Sioux leader’s 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.”
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.Liz Claiborne has offered to make certain changes to the brand logo, such as providing a horse, pluralizing horse to horses, or putting crazy horse into lower case letters. But to the family of Crazy Horse, such changes are “cosmetic,” and “do nothing to break the clear association with the Lakota Sioux.”
JC Penney has not responded to requests for dialogue from stakeholders.
Crazy Horse led the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian Nations in a united victory over General George Custer and the 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn in 1876. To learn more about the life of Crazy Horse, visit Chief Crazy Horse: The Oglala Lakota Leader.
Liz Claiborne and JC Penney are capable of better. Last year, Liz Claiborne recalled DKNY jeans offensive to Muslims because verses from the Quran were incorporated in the design, and apologized to the Muslim community worldwide. In 1999, JC Penney pulled T-shirts from stores after female customers were offended by slogans, including “Your game is as ugly as your girl” and “You like that move? So does your girl.” So why not do away with the Crazy Horse logo? One can only conclude that it has simply been more expedient not to – so far, anyway. Perhaps things will change if the noise gets louder. The open letter to JC Penney and Liz Claiborne is printed below, and serves as a useful model for others.
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. Sincerely, Father Gordon Judd INDIGENOUS SIGNATURES 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, NYC, 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 Member, President of Native American Student Assoc. at Baldwin-Wallace College
Paul CharronChairman, President and CEOLiz Claiborne, Inc1441 BroadwayNew York, NY 10018Phone: (212) 354-4900Fax: (212) 626-1800Liz Claiborne can be e-mailed directly from its web site .
Allen QuestromChairman and CEOJC Penney Company, Inc.6501 Legacy DrivePlano, TX 75024Phone: (972) 431-1000Fax: (972) 431-1362Email: email@example.comFor more information: