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Native American maiden on Land O'Lakes package — which 'devolved into a stereotype' — is gone after nearly 100 years


But son of Native American artist who revamped maiden's image in 1950s has 'mixed feelings' about move: 'We live in a politically correct time'

Photographer: Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg

The familiar Land O'Lakes Native American maiden — front and center on the Minnesota company's packaging for nearly 100 years — is no longer on butter, cheese, and other products, the Star Tribune reported.

In some packaging, the figure known as Mia will be replaced by photos of Land O'Lakes member farmers, the paper said, adding that the words "Farmer-Owned" have been given prominent placement.

A company news release about the new packaging makes no mention Mia's disappearance, and the Star Tribune said nearly every trace of her has been erased from the Land O'Lakes website.

What's the background?

The paper said the Native American maiden was illustrated by Arthur C. Hanson, and that her appearance was modified over the years.

Patrick DesJarlait of the Ojibwe tribe remade Mia in the mid-1950s, the Star Tribune said, adding that he also created the Hamm's Beer bear, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul features his work.

'Mixed feelings'

But Robert DesJarlait — the son of Patrick DesJarlait and an artist and writer — told the paper he has "mixed feelings" about getting rid of the Mia imagery.

"I'm sad to see it go, but I can understand why it's gone," he noted to the Star Tribune. "We live in a politically correct time, so maybe it was time to get rid of it. It certainly devolved into a stereotype. But in our family, my dad's work is a source of pride for us. He broke barriers as an Ojibwe artist from Red Lake. Back then, you didn't find native people in those kinds of jobs, and this gave him the opportunity to put his spin on a well-known native image."

More from the paper:

Much like the use of Native American names and imagery in sports and other popular culture arenas — the Washington Redskins come to mind — the Land O'Lakes maiden has generated controversy for years.

In 2006, Minnesota Chippewa Tribe artist David P. Bradley created "Land O Bucks, Land O Fakes, Land O Lakes," a sculptural representation of the Land O'Lakes butter box. It is part of the permanent collection of the Denver Art Museum.

The museum notes that Bradley "reformulates pop imagery such as this Land O'Lakes butter box — found in American grocery stores — to combat cultural myths and the treatment of Native Americans."

"For five hundred years, American Indians have had everything taken from them," Bradley told the museum, according to the Star Tribune. "One of the last valuable things they own is their identity. Now that Indian identity has become a marketable commodity, it is being taken, as well."

'Hand-in-hand with human and sex trafficking of our women and girls'

Native people have called the maiden's imagery racist, and that it goes "hand-in-hand with human and sex trafficking of our women and girls.… by depicting Native women as sex objects," North Dakota state Rep. Ruth Buffalo (D) — a registered member of the Mandan, Hidatsa Arikara Nation — told the Grand Forks Herald.

"Yes, it's a good thing for the company to remove the image," Buffalo — who's also from Fort Berthold Reservation — added to the paper. "It's kinda like with land acknowledgements, it's a good gesture and a step forward. But we can't stop there. We as a whole need to keep pushing forward to address the underlying issues that directly impact an entire population that survived genocide."

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