Environmental nonprofit Keep America Beautiful has transferred the rights of its famous “Crying Indian” anti-littering public service announcement to the National Congress of American Indians.
The ad, first aired on Earth Day in 1971, featured actor Iron Eyes Cody in a buckskin outfit, wearing a feather in his hair, paddling a canoe in trash-strewn water. At the end of the ad, after someone has just littered on the roadway he is walking on, Cody sheds a single tear.
On Thursday, Keep America Beautiful justified its transfer of the rights to the PSA on the grounds that Cody’s getup “stereotyped American Indian and Alaska Native people and misappropriated Native culture.”
“NCAI is proud to assume the role of monitoring the use of this advertisement and ensuring it is only used for historical context; this advertisement was inappropriate then and remains inappropriate today. NCAI looks forward to putting this advertisement to bed for good,” said NCAI Executive Director Larry Wright Jr.
The original PSA aired until 1983, according to the New York Times. After his death in 1999, it became known that Cody, who claimed indigenous ancestry while living and portrayed natives in numerous Hollywood Westerns, was, in fact, of Sicilian extraction.