Opinion- Mission Springs Should Rebrand Their Beer Big Chief Cream Ale

Let me begin by pointing out that I am NOT suggesting that Mission Springs is bigoted or hateful. I am however concerned that the branding of this beer was created out of ignorance, and that is concerning.

I should also say that in my other life (not this blog) I am a Secondary History teacher with a keen interest in Aboriginal History – That’s my appeal to logos, just so we are clear…

So here are the cans in question:

 

So what is the issue here?

The issue is simply that this branding (likely unintentionally) serves to perpetuate negative stereotypes of Aboriginal people, and given present need for reconciliation that is simply not acceptable.

How?

-The Image

The most visible feature of the can of course is that of the Aboriginal in the Head dress. The branding is clearly a reference and amalgamation of many different Aboriginal brandings associated with the automotive industry in the 20th century such as those below:

So what is so terrible about in image?  It would be hard to describe the images above as disparaging I agree, but just as there a few simple things in out complicated world their are few simple images too.

These images are examples of cultural (mis)appropriation.

Of course the next question becomes what does that mean?

Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation may be perceived as controversial, even harmful, notably when the cultural property of a minority group is used by members of the dominant culture without the consent of the members of the originating culture; this is seen as misappropriation and a violation of intellectual property rights.-Wikipedia

If you would like to know more I recommend this article.

How does it apply in this case? These images although not in themselves harmful are the cultural property of Aboriginal peoples and have been used without any compensation to the people themselves, in fact they are used in a time where Aboriginal admission to society at large was either blocked or marginal.

Really you ask? Yes Really! Can you imagine if your jerk neighbour one day walked over to your house with a gun. He kicks you and your family out of the home and makes you live in the doghouse living off his garbage. Then he has one of his marketing bros take pictures of you and create a brand around your family for lets say bread from the grain he grows in your backyard. The bread company makes it big and you still aren’t allowed out of the dog run, let alone any of the profits… Fuck that guy right?… Fuck Oil companies…

So for the sake of this piece I am stating that the old Aboriginal oil company images are misappropriation of Culture… Where does that leave Big Chief Cream Ale?

Answer: Appropriating a cultural appropriation!

This apart from being inconsiderate branding is lazy branding. You’ve simply used an old branding trope and applied it your own product. But more importantly you affirming that it is ok to (mis)appropriate culture in a time where we are trying desperately to reconcile.

I always have people pressure me as to what affirmation is in the context social issues and why it is negative. In this context Affirmation is:

         A statement (through media, art, writing, or spoken word), that unintentionally or accidentally persuades the consumer of said statement to a larger philosophy despite the statement being of seemingly less substantive quality or quantity than the Unintended Larger Logical Philosophy.

Example:

Statement: To a boy “Don’t cry like a girl!”

Logical interpretation/Affirmation: Girls crying are bad, acting like a girl is bad

Unintended Larger Logical Philosophy: Being a girl or acting like a girl is bad

In this case:

Statement: Settlers use and make money from images of Aboriginal Culture without any compensation to Aboriginals

Logical Interpretation/Affirmation: It is good to make money from images of other cultures.

Unintended Larger Logical Philosophy: It is acceptable to exploit the culture of people such as Aboriginals.

In both cases the Unintended Larger Logical Philosophy gets Affirmation because the original Statement does not explicitly deny aspects that would logically follow.

You might say that because these statements are not intentional hateful they are therefore acceptable. I do not accept that. Life and history have shown time and time again the original intention and actual conclusion may have correlation but not always causation.

I could give you the example of the lawful election of the Nazi’s but I won’t. Instead think of the time someone got a nickname at work and the person weeks later asked everyone to stop. The intention was collective fun. Once one person used the nick name this affirmed to others in the work place that it was ok to do so too. The effect of this nick name, despite the intention, was to hurt the owner of the nick name.

In other words continuing with the first example if we were to say to a boy “Don’t cry like a girl… even though boys and girls are equal.” The statement doesn’t make any sense because logically it is a contradiction. To overtly deny the Unintended Larger Logical Philosophy we must actually contradict the statement itself thus proving (to some at least) that telling a boy “”Don’t cry like a girl.” affirms thats being or acting like a girl is bad.

The above shows the first example is innatley within the Unintended Larger Logical Philosophy of acting like or being a girl is bad, but that is not always the case with Cultural Appropriation. Sharing Culture can be positive of course as the diversity of peoples has shown us time and time again.

The can in question could be a positive example of Cultural Appropriation if Mission Springs had contacted Aboriginal Nations asking for their thoughts and consent and commisioned Aboriginal artist. Before i go any further, there is a slight chance this is the case, however i very much doubt that. Even if this is the case everything i have written in regards to Cultural (Mis)appropriation remains standing tall.

Doing what I have described above and letting the consumer know in the note would help in the reconciliation process by respecting Aboriginal cultural norms and our own cultural norms of compensation for value. In this case compensation for the cultural image which oil and beer companies clearly think has value. Despite my thoughts we get something very different in the note.

-The Note, and writing.

 

On the can side: Its time to rev your engines with high-performance sophistication. Our signature Big Chief Cream Ale is beautifully golden-coloured, smooth and lightly hopped with a traditional English variety . A seductive malt body provides the sweetness of caramel and biscuit… (the rest is unreadable) 

First of all the note on the side totally ignores the image’s connection to Aboriginal people. Instead the writer references the use of similar images for the oil company making automotive references all around.

Next we might consider the name of the beer “Big Chief Cream Ale”. Chief is not an Aboriginal word despite most often being associated with Aboriginal Nations. Chief has origins in French and Latin and is yet another example of the Colonialism living on today.

In both cases we see here unwillingness on the part of Mission Springs to face the tension of the image and words presented to persuade the consumer to buy their product. By not facing the tension Mission springs is clearly Affirming Cultural Misappropriation at the expense of aboriginals and by doing so undermining reconciliation process.

CONCLUSION

Mission Springs clearly sees values in the image and the words of this brand but seems more interested in depositing money in their pokets than with the effects of their branding. I will not knowingly give a dime to Mission Springs until this branding is dropped and ask you to do the same. I’ll leave you with words by Mr. Thomas King with a link to his Video which incredibly parallels concepts I have attempted to discuss.

screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-11-45-59-am

I’m not the Indian you had in mind

I’ve seen him, I’ve seen him ride

Rush of wind, darkening tide

With wolf and eagle by his side

His buttocks firm and well defined

My God, he looks good from behind

But I’m not the Indian you had in mind

I’m not the Indian you had in mind

I’ve heard him, heard him roar

The warrior wild in the video store

The movies that we all adore

The cliches that we can’t rewind

But I’m not the Indian you had in mind

I’m not the Indian you had in mind

I’ve known him, oh I’ve known him well

The bear greased hair,

The pungent smell

The piercing eye

The startling yell

Thank God he’s the friendly kind

But I’m not the Indian you had in mind

I’m that other Indian

The one who lives just down the street

The one you’re disinclined to meet

The oka guy, remember me?

Hipper wash, wounded knee?

That other one

The one who runs the local bar

The CEO, the movie star

The elder with her bingo tails

The activist alone in jail

That other Indian The doctor

The homeless bum

The boys who sing around the drum

The relative I cannot bear

My father who was never there

He must have hated me I guess

My best friend’s kid with FAS

the single mom who drives the bus

I’m all of these

and they are us so damn you for the lies you told

and damn me for not being bold enough

to stand my ground and say

that what you’ve done is not our way

but in the end the land won’t care

which one was rabbit which was bear

who did the deed and who did not

who did the shooting and who got shot

who told the truth who told the lie

who drained the lakes and rivers dry

who made us laugh, who made us sad

who made the world monsanto mad

whose appetites consumed the earth

wasn’t me

wasn’t me

wasn’t me

for what it’s worth

or maybe it was but hey let’s not get too distressed

it’s not as bad as it may sound

hell we didn’t make this mess

it was given us and when we’re gone,

as our parents did, we’ll pass it on

you see we’ve learned your lessons well

what to buy and what to sell

what’s commodity, what’s trash

what discount you can get for cash

and Indians, well, we’ll still be here

the real one and the rest of us

we’ve got no other place to go

don’t worry we won’t make a fuss

well not much

still, sometimes,

sometimes late at night

when all the world is warm and dead

i wonder how things might have been

had you followed, had we led

so consider

as you live your days

that we live ours under the gaze

of generations watching us

of generations still in tact

of generations still to be

seven forward

seven back

yeah it’s not easy

course you can always ask this buck you like so much

this Indian you idolize

perhaps that’s wisdom on his face

compassion sparkling in his eyes

he may well have a secret song

a dance he’ll share

a long lost chant

ask him to help you save the world

to save yourselves

Don’t look at me I’m not the Indian you had in mind

I can’t,

I can’t.

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