Crazy Horse Malt Liquor
Hornell Brewing Company brews original Crazy Horse Malt Liquor. This simple product has been the center of a huge controversy concerning the rights of American Indians and the misappropriation of the name of a spiritual leader. The bottle depicts an Indian warrior wearing a feathered headdress, the classic image of Sioux warrior. This same image of a Dakota Sioux is often depicted in westerns as well as in bad flea market art. Crazy Horse was a leader of the Dakota and many feel Hornell Brewing Company has tarnished his image.
The drink itself is said to be very good for malt liquor. One reviewer called it "…smooth, slightly fruity with an extremely clean, almost zinfandel finish that holds together all the way to the dregs of the bottle. Personally we think the chief should be proud." Hatchets and stereotypical images associated with Indians cover the forty-ounce glass bottle. Hornell Brewing Company settled a lawsuit this January regarding the misleading names of their other products, RxMemory and Immune Elixir. They never admitted liability for these product names that resemble medical-like properties and only paid a $138,750 fine.
The image of a revered Native American leader is a strange choice to put on a forty when you consider it carefully. Crazy Horse was a member of the Oglala tribe, one of the seven bands of Sioux Indians. The Sioux are the Indian tribe most commonly depicted as the savage warriors of the Wild West in westerns. The costume they wear in battle is what is traditionally thought of as Native American dress. Crazy Horse was born in 1842 near present day Rapid City in North Dakota. His father was a well-known shaman also named Crazy Horse. When his son was young his name was Curly on account of his curly hair. He led a modest life – he refused to brag about his accomplishments of bravery. At an early age Curly killed his first buffalo and owned a horse before he was 12.
Crazy Horse went on to become a valued warrior and spiritual leader for the Sioux and the other Plains Indian tribes. He was the dominating leader with Sitting Bull at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Together they lead the army of Indian warriors that exterminated General Custer and his men. Crazy Horse died from a bayonet wound to the stomach – he had brought his sick wife to her parents near a white settlement. When scouts from Red Cloud’s Agency were sent after him he turned himself in to the soldiers at the guard post. He was stabbed in the side by a soldier with a bayonet and died that night from his wounds. His parents took his body to a place in the hills and buried it secretly.
A forty ounce bottle of malt liquor is generally consumed by high school students, drunks, and people who can not afford a better kind of alcohol. Crazy Horse Malt Liquor has a very high alcohol content – around 5.9% by volume. Forties are ingested to become drunk, not as a higher-class social libation like bourbon or champagne. Crazy Horse’s name used on a forty ounce is even more cheapening that it being used on a brand of wine or expensive hard liquor. The image of Native Americans has been deeply degraded by our culture.
In hotels and flea markets you can find poorly made paintings and posters of a noble looking Sioux Indian on horseback gazing soulfully over a tacky sunset. Chainsaw art, lawn ornaments, tacky bedspreads, and tourist knick-knacks are all freely available in most parts of the country – especially in places that sell them cheaply. While searching for information about Crazy Horse I also ran across bars, kennels, clothing designers, strip clubs, pornography, and casinos by the same name. I think part of the reason this is true is because it to really so easy to admire Indians for their stereotypical and trite image of being wild an untamed, savage, brave, and for leading simple spiritual lives. In movies and on TV Native Americans are always deep and mysterious – white man cannot possible comprehend their ways (he really can’t it turns out). On the walls of mobile homes in trailer parks it common to see one of these images – usually owned by poor white Americans.
What happened to the Indians after we defeated them with our army? The ones that were left were put on reservations where they make money selling their culture. Wild West theme parks hire “Indian Guides” and there are numerous shops where you can by authentic Indian Souvenirs. Casinos are extremely common on reservations because they are legal even when they are outlawed in that state.
The same brewers that sell Crazy Horse sold a similar product until 1991 when it was discontinued due to public out-cry. It was called Power Master and was marketed to black youth. The racist label of Crazy Horse is marketed mainly to Native Americans and black urban minority populations. The image it suggests is one of feral power gained from drinking the malt liquor. Objections were raised to the original company that produced Crazy Horse Malt Liquor and a lawsuit was filled. The main criticism of brand was the fact that Crazy Horse himself denounced the use of alcohol among his people and believed it would be harmful to them. The settlement with the original makers of Crazy Horse was for seven racehorses, 32 Pendlton blankets, and braids of sweet grass and tobacco. The company that makes the product now also makes Arizona Ice Tea. Arizona Iced Tea is also being boycotted because of its use of Native American designs on an inferior beverage.
Why isn’t there a greater public outcry against Hornell Brewing Company? Most of the descendants of Crazy Horse live in squalid conditions under the government’s control on reservations. Their children receive poor education and little health care. During the 60’s the Native American rights movement swelled with the civil rights movement, but since then it seems to be mostly forgotten. There are a few activists out there, but there are so many racist sports teams, movies, and consumer products that stopping the flow of stereotypes seems almost hopeless.
1. Driver, Harold E., Indians of North America – second edition revised, University of Chicago Press, 1961, Chicago
2. Doldoria, Vine; Custer Died for Your Sins, Avon Books, 1969, New York, New York
3. Welker, Glen, Crazy Horse, http://www.indians.org/welker/crazyhor.htm, February 1996
4. Wissler, Clark; Indians of the Untied States, Doubleday & Company Inc. 1940
7. http://www.40ozmaltliquor.com/crazyhorse.html 40oz Malt