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Crazy Horse Malt Liquor Protest

by Jim Postema
April 14, 1995

John Ferolito
Dominic Vultaggio
Ferolito, Vultaggio & Sons
5 Dakota Drive
Suite #205
Lake Success, NY 11042

Dear Messrs. Ferolito and Vultaggio:

We are writing to you, the owners of Hornell Brewing Company, to appeal to your sense of justice and rightness as fellow human beings. As you can see from the names and information included about people who have signed this letter, we come from all walks of life, from a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds. But despite our many differences, we share a common belief: that all of us, including you, are part of the vast interconnected web of life on this earth. With our actions we can, as can you, influence the lives and happiness of other human beings. On this basis, then, we ask you to change the name of your company's product, "Crazy Horse Malt Liquor," to a name that does not use Native American images or persons to sell the product.

We believe that by using Crazy Horse's name to sell alcohol your company is perpetuating the widespread ignorance about Crazy Horse and all Native Americans in two ways. First, in attempting to create a romantic image for your brand of alcohol, you have used stereotypes about "savage" Indian fighters, demonstrating and spreading a lack of understanding of who Crazy Horse was and what he was fighting for. Secondly, by using his name to sell alcohol you are further contributing to one of the worst stereotypes of Native Americans, that of the "drunk Indian."

You may be unaware of the sad history of the use of alcohol by Europeans as a tool to exploit Natives. Throughout the last four centuries, whites have distributed alcohol as a way of getting better terms from Indians in land deals, to lower prices in the old fur trade, and still today, to reap huge profits from liquor sales near reservations while contributing nothing to the Indian community. Not surprisingly, whites have twisted the history of this exploitation, by creating and perpetuating the stereotype that Indians are somehow natural alcoholics--when in fact there is abuse of alcohol in both white and Native communities. Naming an alcoholic product after an Indian only adds to this already widespread stereotype.

We also believe that your choice of brand name, even if inadvertently, degrades the man whose name you have used, Tashunke Witko. The man whose name is translated into English as "Crazy Horse" was renowned for his bravery and for his refusal to submit to white oppression. He was a visionary man, a spiritual leader for his people and, above all, a reverential man, with a profound awareness of the spiritual world. But because he has been both romanticized and vilified by an ignorant white world, most Americans do not know of these aspects of his nature.

Furthermore, Crazy Horse himself outspokenly denounced the use of alcohol by his people. So by putting his name on an alcoholic product, your company not only adds to the stereotype of the "drunk Indian," it also degrades the memory of a man who fought exactly the kind of exploitation that alcohol represents. We are confident that--of all people--Crazy Horse himself would never have allowed his name to be associated with your product, because it is something that has been used at times to subdue his people and to contribute to their occasional turning away from spiritual wellbeing. Your use of his name to sell alcohol goes against everything that he himself stood for, and everything for which he is remembered and honored.

Can you understand, Mr. Ferolito, how a devout Catholic might feel if someone were to open up an abortion clinic and name it the "Pope John Paul Abortion Center"? No matter what one feels personally about the issue of abortion, it would be clear that such a name for a clinic would be not only inappropriate but offensive. This example may help explain how Native people react to "Crazy Horse Malt Liquor," and may help you understand just how deeply offensive that product name is to Native Americans and others concerned with justice.

We want to offer a clear image of Crazy Horse to society and we would like to work with you to correct misconceptions. We ask you, then, Mr. Vultaggio, to reconsider your use of Crazy Horse's name. If our concerns are not clear to you, or if you would like to discuss this issue further, there are members of our group who would be very happy to do so. We would be available to help you educate your employees or stockholders, too, if you felt this to be necessary, and we can suggest resources or contact people in your area who could help you work towards positive change.

Mr. Vultaggio, Mr. Ferolito, you have an opportunity here to become true leaders in your industry: by moving beyond sales which benefit only your stockholders' pocketbooks, you could help create a spirit of cooperation and awareness that has yet to be seen in the history of the alcohol trade. We ask you, then, to have the courage to benefit others in non-material ways. Please take this opportunity to help educate the American people. Please stop manufacturing and selling malt liquor in the name of an esteemed spiritual leader of this continent.

Sincerely, the following concerned people, who have all asked to have their names included on this letter (Please note that, for everyone listed below, professional and other affiliations are included only to provide information about those individuals. That information is for identification purposes only, and does not imply any support from the organizations mentioned.): Signees

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