American Indian College Fund Launches "This Is Indian Country"
New visibility campaign urges Americans to stop ignoring Indigenous people
November 15, 2021
Denver, Colorado-November 10, 2021- "This Is Indian Country," a new visibility campaign by the American Indian College Fund, is launching this Native American Heritage Month. The provocative campaign is designed to increase awareness of and conversation about Indigenous people and issues at a time when Native people are still not seen and heard by most Americans.
Last year there was a move towards national acknowledgment of the racial inequity that has been ignored, rewritten, or deleted entirely from history for 400 years. Despite this positive movement, Indigenous people and cultures remain largely out of sight and out of mind. They were undercounted in the U.S. Census, were undertreated during Covid, and continue to be underreported when it comes to murdered and missing Indigenous people.
Yet Indigenous people are Americans and Indigenous culture is American culture.
People live in places with names like Manhattan, Minneapolis, or Chicago; vacation in Montauk, and swim in Malibu. But they can't out of ignorance-or won't out of guilt-discuss the people whose lands they occupy. This campaign invites America to not only name check the rivers, lakes, schools, sports teams, and every single cabin at summer camp, but more importantly, understand Native people are here and acknowledge their contributions and their right to be fully visible and have their voices heard.
The American Indian College Fund is launching "This Is Indian Country" to ensure Americans think about Indigenous people every time they talk about them.
Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, "For the narrative of American history to be inclusive and for Indigenous people to have equity in all areas of American life, our neighbors must know that we are here and acknowledge that there is work to be done to build a better and more equal society. The 'This Is Indian Country' campaign is intended to be an entry point for all people to greater understanding across the United States. Through this entry point, all people can learn about the rich, diverse cultures of the original people of what is now the United States, and all people can take action to create a more just society. We can be united in our quest for abundant lives for ourselves and for future generations. We believe in education, both for the knowledge that education provides and for the opportunity it presents. We invite all learners to join us in this quest."
The campaign was created in partnership with advertising agency Wieden Kennedy, a 30+ year partner and collaborator with the College Fund. It soft-launched with a full-page public service announcement in The New York Times print edition on Indigenous Peoples' Day.
The full campaign is debuting this November, Native American Heritage Month. A website, series of films, social, print, and out of home public service announcements are geared to educate, inspire, and acknowledge people nationwide, including the American history, cities and monuments that depended on Indigenous people's contributions.
• "This Is Indian Country" - "Indian Country" is an official legal term, noted in numerous Supreme Court opinions and referenced in multiple areas of federal law. The term has been used in treaties, policies, and laws that ordered Indigenous assimilation and erasure. Yet, Indian Country is more than just a legal phrase. Indian Country is in the words we speak on reservations and the stories Native people tell. It is in community. It is empowerment. This term may have been used against Native people, but it has been reclaimed.
• "Manhattan" - New York City currently has the largest urban population of Native Americans in the United States. The presence of Indigenous people is evident in what is arguably the world's greatest city and exists in everything, right down to the history of its Indigenous name.
• Democracy, Indian Country" - The Iroquois Confederacy was united by the Great Law of Peace in 1722. The Stacked Government model of separate nations united for common good planted the seed for representative democracy in the United States. Yet, it is white leaders that are memorialized with monuments and in history books.
Over the years, for each College Fund campaign, W+K has made use of its relationships with generous media partners and legendary artists to produce sophisticated, cutting-edge advertising on a pro-bono budget. For "This Is Indian Country" W+K tapped television and film director Joe Pytka, who has played a pivotal role in the College Fund's advertising campaigns for several decades. The film "Democracy, Indian Country" was also co-directed by Indigenous filmmaker Robin Máxkii (Mohican), a Wieden+Kennedy copywriter who worked on the campaign, alongside Wieden+Kennedy art director Samantha Perry.
"We wanted to create something simple, provocative, and above all, empowering, which meant avoiding stereotypes that often exploit Indigenous pain, reduce cultures to background production design, or wield dehumanizing slogans. We are over begging people to acknowledge Natives as people. There is such a power in laying it out boldly with no ambiguity. These are Indigenous words. This is Indigenous truth," Máxkii and Perry said in a joint statement.
"I love the graphic nature of 'This Is Indian Country.' The very short, simple spots are special, too. They make their point in an imaginative and powerful way," said the campaign's director and filmmaker, Joe Pytka. "I'm grateful that I have been privileged to be involved in College Fund campaigns over the years, as these issues have become very close to my heart."
Individuals and organizations can support the movement for Indigenous recognition, representation, and equity by using resources and materials available at ThisIsIndianCountry.com.
Media outlets interested in running the artful print and video public service announcements can contact NancyJo Houk at the American Indian College Fund at 303-426-8900 or NHouk@collegefund.org.
Wieden+Kennedy is an independent, privately held global creative company with offices in Amsterdam, Delhi, London, New York City, Portland, São Paulo, Shanghai, and Tokyo. We believe in the power of creativity and influence to solve problems, build brands, change companies, and impact culture, something we have been fortunate to do for almost four decades as partners to some of the world's best-known companies. http://www.wk.com
About The American Indian College Fund
The American Indian College Fund has been the nation's largest charity supporting Native higher education for 32 years. The College Fund believes "Education is the answer" and provided $15.5 million in scholarships and other direct student support to American Indian students last year. Since its founding in 1989 the College Fund has provided more than $259 million in scholarships, program, and community support. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation's 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation's top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit http://www.collegefund.org.