“An authentic journey deep into the Native American soul in a sacred, founding and secular territory"

The Washington Post reports that Dior has come under fire for its new ‘Sauvage’ perfume advert.

The ad, titled We Are The Land, stars Johnny Depp and was promoted as “an authentic journey deep into the Native American soul in a sacred, founding and secular territory”.

Posted on the the French luxury company’s Twitter, the ad shows Depp walking around a desert in Utah when he encounters Native American dancer Canku One Star of the Rosebud Sioux tribe.

The dancer performs on a cliff with a woman played by Canadian actor of First Nations descent Tanaya Beatty. Depp is heard in a voiceover saying “we are the land. Dior.”

Dior’s Sauvage fragrance has been part of the brand since 1966, named after fashion publicist Percy Savage. Previous ad campaigns have featured Depp in the desert but this latest ad has been mired in controversy.

Firstly, “Sauvage” not only translates from French to “savage” or “wild” but it also harks to the term “noble savage”, which has been labelled to indigenes people since the 17th century.

After the ad surfaced online, critics slammed the brand for being racist and insensitive, accusing it of cultural appropriation.

“The ‘Sauvage’ campaign released by Dior today is offensive, racist and cultural appropriation at its worst by a corporation that is exploiting Native peoples and culture for profit,” said Crystal Echohawk, executive director of IllumiNative, a Native American advocacy group. “This is a company that is looking to profit off of advancing a harmful stereotype about Native people.”

“It’s an arrogant appropriation of imagery that is unimaginatively executed,” Hanay Geiogamah, a UCLA professor, playwright and historian who is a member of the Kiowa tribe. “What offends me is that they so casually appropriate imagery like that and blend it together for their own purposes.”

“That’s more insulting than anything else,” he said. “This calls attention to the ongoing reality that the ad industry nationally and internationally still thinks they can appropriate American Indian imagery when they see fit. Here they’re doing it in a very high-gloss way, but it misses the mark completely.”

Dior said in a statement that the company is “very proud of this collaboration with AIO (Americans for Indian Opportunity),” and that the campaign was “moving away from clichés in order to avoid the cultural appropriation and subversion that so often taints images representing Native peoples.”

The company has since pulled the ad.

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