We wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t notice anything different about Land O’Lakes.
But something’s missing: “Mia,” Land O’Lakes’ braided, buckskin-wearing “Butter Maiden” mascot, depicted sitting and proffering dairy products for nearly a century. It’s as if one day she just stood up and walked away.
Mia had appeared on the Arden Hills-based co-op’s packaging since 1928, when she was first dreamed up by a St. Paul advertising firm. In the 1950s, she got a redesign by Patrick DesJarlait, the same prolific Ojibwe artist from Red Lake who designed the Hamm’s Brewery bear.
In February, the Fortune 500 company announced the package redesign, highlighting its farmer-owned history with photos of actual Land O’Lakes farmers. It failed to mention where Mia had gone. Minnesota Reformer, which noticed the change earlier this week, also points out she’s been scrubbed from the company’s website.
Mia didn’t exist in a vacuum. Americana is saturated in portrayals of Native people, usually by corporations in an attempt to sell things to white people. Depending on how each image was deployed, they came to be industrial symbols of integrity, or oneness with nature, or at their skeeviest, sexual purity.
As Adrienne Keene, a professor at Brown University and the creator of the popular Native Appropriations Blog, told the Reformer, this is a “great move” for a lot of Native folks who have been forced to watch companies use cartoonish visions of their culture to sell butter, cigarettes, and motorcycles.
Meanwhile, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, who is a citizen of the White Earth Nation of Ojibwe, praised the decision on Wednesday.
“Native people are not mascots or logos,” she tweeted. “We are very much still here.”
Thank you to Land O’Lakes for making this important and needed change. Native people are not mascots or logos. We are very much still here. https://minnesotareformer.com/2020/04/15/land-olakes-quietly-gets-rid-of-iconic-indian-maiden/ …
Land O’Lakes quietly gets rid of iconic Indian maiden mascot – Minnesota Reformer
For nearly a century, the Land O’Lakes Indian maiden has kneeled by the side of a blue lake holding out an offering of a 4-stick box of butter. No more. The Minnesota-based farmer cooperative…
That explains what Land O’Lakes is changing to, but without acknowledging what it’s changing from—arguably one of the more recognizable labels in the grocery store. To Keene, it’s a missed opportunity.
“It could have been a very strong and positive message to have publicly said, ‘We realized after a hundred years that our image was harmful and so we decided to remove it,” Keene said. “In our current cultural moment, that’s something people would really respond to.”