"Sioux Chief" Drain: Honoring Natives in a Bathroom Near You!

August 10, 2010 — 3 Comments
(image source)
It’s definitely an honor to have the place where dirty, disgusting water drains in rest stop bathrooms to be named after the most revered position in your tribe, right? According to the Sioux Chief Manufacturing Company, that’s exactly what they were going for.

Tipster Ann spotted this tribute to the “proud and resolute people” of the Sioux Nation in a skeezy rest stop bathroom somewhere in Indiana. She did a little research and found the website of the company, where they describe the origin of their company’s name and logo:
Sioux Chief’s founder, Martin E. “Ed” Ismert Jr., was greatly interested in Western Americana. Ed’s father, Martin Sr., was a collector and Midwest authority of Western and Native American artifacts in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. When the time came to name his new company, it did not take Ed long, as he had learned from his father all about the Sioux Indian Nation. The Sioux Nation were a very proud and resolute people that, while being fierce and competitive, held in highest regard the family, the Earth, and especially Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit. Ed commissioned his brother Bud, an artist who studied under Thomas Hart Benton, to draw the “Young Determined Sioux Chief” in full ceremonial dress as the logo for his young determined company. Sioux Chief Manufacturing, being named and patterned after such a distinctive people would put forth an image not easily forgotten.

Let’s examine this language a bit, shall we? So Ed learned from his father (a white collector and “authority” on Indian stuff) “all about the Sioux Indian Nation”. Another great example of how many non-Natives can have extremely limited encounters with Native peoples but then call themselves “experts” and sell themselves as foremost authorities on all things Native. I’m sure he knows all about the Lakota/Dakota. All about them.

Then there’s the ubiquitous past tense–The Sioux “were a very proud and resolute people”, “held in highest regard”, etc. He also manages to throw in a whole bunch ‘o stereotypes in there too–The “Spiritual Warrior” syndrome. Competitive and fierce, yet deeply tied to the earth and “The Great Spirit”. And hey, Mr. Ismert, the Lakota didn’t go anywhere. They’re still here.

So then we asks his non-Native brother, with presumably the same limited knowledge as himself, to draw a “Young, Determined, Sioux Chief” for their logo, in ceremonial dress, of course (with no regard to how that might be, you know, special or sacred):

…and we get the stereotypical Plains Indian Warrior. At least they got the regalia semi-right? considering how often this dress is attributed to other tribes for advertising and marketing. Not that it makes it any better.

I also keep coming back to the fact that it’s the Sioux Chief company. Chiefs and leaders of tribes are deeply revered positions of power, and to me it just seems so absolutely degrading to have that position of wisdom, trust, and authority placed on a bathroom drain. People are literally (excuse the language) pissing on our culture.

If any Lakota or Dakota tribal members want to weigh in, definitely let me know.

 Sioux Chief Manufacturing Company: http://www.siouxchief.com/Company

(Thanks Ann!)

Adrienne K.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02709883498078367644 Stephen Bridenstine

    Hey, maybe you’ll be lucky like me and get an actual response from the company that makes you scratch your head even more!

    http://drawingonindians.blogspot.com/2010/08/pemmican-brand-beef-jerky-part-ii.html

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11077004157036621428 Sheena Louise

    From a Lakota: Boo.

    If you admired Sioux culture so much, why’d you put it on a DRAIN? The metaphor is hard to miss.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02709883498078367644 Stephen Bridenstine

    @Sheena Louise

    Good point. I always get a kick out of the often huge disparity between the “admiration” and the application.

    Just shows how superficial their “admiration” can be.

    (watch, there will be Sioux urinal cakes next!)