Dior 'Sauvage' ad with Johnny Depp is making the internet cringe: 'Misappropriation of Native American culture'

Tanya Edwards

When the latest campaign for Dior’s Sauvage cologne hit the internet on Friday — featuring a Native American man and actor Johnny Depp narrating — cries of cultural appropriation followed.

“An authentic journey deep into the Native American soul in a sacred, founding and secular territory,” read Dior’s caption alongside the since-deleted video clip. “More to come.” The post was originally shared by journalist Yashar Ali, who tweeted, “My god Dior/LVHM...haven’t you learned anything?”

Ali later tweeted the full-length version on YouTube, calling it “worse than the teaser.” In the ad, Depp, wearing a cowboy hat, rocks out on an electric guitar while Canku One Starreportedly of South Dakota’s Rosebud Sioux Tribe, dances to the rhythm. Twilight star Tanaya Beatty, wearing a furry hood, peeks through brush to spy on Depp.

“We are the land,” says Depp on the voiceover. “The new Sauvage perfume. Dior.”

The ad has been scrubbed from Dior’s Instagram and Twitter pages, likely in reaction to the Twitter response.

Others found the ad beautiful and defended the brand.

Not helping the matter were photos, seemingly from Friday’s launch party, featuring tee-pees, and guests in full Native American regalia, hosted at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The museum is currently featuring a Dior exhibit as well.

Dior worked with the non-profit organization Americans for Indian Opportunity, on the ad. Executive director Laura Harris spoke to the controversy in an interview with the Huffington Post. “The [Sauvage] name is the name and they weren’t going to change it,” she said.

The organization’s mission, according to its website, is to advance the cultural, political and economic rights of Indigenous peoples in the United States and around the world. Harris said it made sure Native American actors, artists and staff worked on the Dior project, something she says Depp insisted on as a working condition.

Depp has a history with the Native American community, dating back to his role as Tonto in the 2013 film The Lone Ranger. At the time, Harris adopted Depp as an honorary son and member of the Comanche tribe.

However, Hanay Geiogamah, a Kiowa tribe member and UCLA professor was offended. In 2013, he told NPR that Depp joins a long list of white actors playing Native Americans in movies, naming Burt Lancaster, Audrey Hepburn, and Burt Reynolds.

"We've got Johnny Depp with a taxidermied crow on top of his head and painted to the nth degree with paint, and he looks like a gothic freak,” Geiogamah said.

On Friday, Beatty, who is of Native descent, shared thoughts on Instagram about her participation in the project.

She wrote, “As an indigenous actress, my career choices often feel like compromises. On one hand, since I was a little girl in a small village in Canada I have loved film and wanted to be apart of it. On the other, being apart of it has often meant participating in stories that are racist, exploitative and reify the settler colonial framework.”

She continued, “I do believe Dior – although misguided – had every intention of showing indigenous culture in a beautiful light, while giving some jobs to some Indians in the process.”

Dior did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. A brand representative told People that the project was “developed as a close collaboration between the House of Dior and Native American consultants from the 50-year old Indigenous advocacy organization, Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO), in order to respect Indigenous cultures, values and heritage.”

The release also called Depp the “perfect embodiment of an intense Sauvage man.”

“This new film is an echo to a ‘declaration of love,’” read the release in part, per People. “A love letter to the spirit of a land that should be protected and cultures that should be celebrated, and to peoples that should be honored,”

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