GRSJ 300-Culture Jam Assignment
The Original Image:
I have always found the Land o Lakes brand, which relies on the use of Indigeneity, to be problematic as it reiterates a number of harmful stereotypes and beliefs about Indigenous peoples and their culture. This image, which is featured on the brand’s packaging (as it is seen here) and in their advertisements, takes advantage of and reproduces tropes about Indigenous peoples in order to make a profit. First, the depiction of the land in the background as empty, serene and undeveloped reinforces a colonial mindset that Indigenous land was empty and just waiting to be taken by white settlers who would develop the land to its full potential, with the assumption being that Indigenous peoples were primitive and backwards. This imagery also works to evoke nostalgia for a time in the past, pre-civilization and technology (Francis, 1992 p194), a strategy many companies use to market their products to Western consumers to make themselves appear wholesome and family-oriented. The words “farmer-owned” also work to bolster this image of timelessness and trustworthiness.
The Indigenous woman appears to be an artifact or relic of the past, echoing the belief that “the best Indian [is] the historical Indian” (Francis,1992 p176). This relegates a group of people to the past (who are seen as backwards), while erasing them from North America’s colonial present in which they still endure discrimination and marginalization. Additionally, the depiction of the Indigenous woman reproduces the “Indian princess in beaded doeskin” (Francis,1992 p176) trope, much like the character of Pocahontas does, in which Indigenous women are fetishized as beautiful, exotic objects (Francis,1992 p121). The brand uses this stereotype to market its product and is complicit in the ongoing reproduction of the idea that Indigenous women are “sexual [commodities]” (Francis,1992 p122), an idea that was introduced as part of the colonial project and one that still has harmful effects today in the way that Indigenous women are treated. Certain varieties of the brand’s old packaging for their boxed butter (the new packaging and image I have pictured here was introduced in mid 2018) featured an picture that could be folded in a way so that the Indigenous woman on the box appeared topless. There are several images of this illusion online and many youtube videos instructing people how they can reveal it for themselves. Whether this illusion was intentional or was an accident not caught by the company during production is unknown, but the company itself has not spoken out against or acknowledged the harmful ramifications of this image nor encouraged its consumers to do the same reflection.
The brand’s use of an Indigenous woman as its “mascot” contributes to and benefits from ideas that Indigenous women and their culture are something that can be consumed. The brand not only tries to sell its product through this image, featured on its packaging and in its ads, but also a fantasy about and nostalgia for simpler times and old fashioned values. The company’s portrayal of a historicized and stereotype fueled Indigenous woman help them achieve this goal while simultaneously reinforcing the message to consumers that Indigenous people are objects of the past.
My Jammed Version of the Image:
In my jamming of the brand’s famous imagery I replaced the word “Lakes” with the word “Colonization” to reflect that the negative depictions and stereotypes of Indigenous women, that often lead to marginalization and violence, are a direct result of ideas introduced during the colonial process. This also works to reinforce that the land we are currently occupying is a land on which colonization occurred. Having the package read “Land o Colonization” acknowledges a colonial past, but also that the process of colonization is still ongoing. While this product is based out of the United States, the same is true of Canada as well, where Indigenous peoples are still subjugated, their traditional lands are exploited and poisoned, and they continue to be a population that is over policed yet under protected. The interesting placement of the words “Farmer owned” over the word “Land” when changed to say “Indigenous owned” also works to re-establish that the land in which the company produces their product is stolen and that they benefit off of the marginalization of Indigenous bodies and the reproduction of stereotypes. By utilizing stereotypes, the brand tries to sell the consumer more than just butter, but also an exotic, historicized depiction of Indigeneity to provide a nostalgic window into the past. I hoped that in my jamming of the product I could bring attention to the aforementioned issues but also to the way in which capitalism intersects with colonialism and how products like this utilize harmful depictions of Indigenous peoples in their packaging/marketing/ advertisements and profit off of it.
Francis, D. (1992). The Imaginary Indian: The image of the Indian in Canadian culture. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press.