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Land O'Lakes erases American Indian "butter maiden" from packaging

As it approaches its 100th anniversary, Lands O'Lakes is marking the occasion with a new look. Namely, it's kicking the American Indian maiden off the butter box holding its signature product. 

Land O'Lakes butter has been encased in packaging bearing the logo of a "butter maiden" since 1928. The American Indian woman depicted had a feather in her hair and was kneeling, holding up a container of butter in her hands. 

The logo had long been criticized as racist and stereotypical, with North Dakota Rep. Ruth Buffalo telling the Grand Forks Tribune the image goes "hand-in-hand with human and sex trafficking of our women and girls."

Reportedly a registered member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, Buffalo said "it's a good thing for the company to remove the image," but that the nation needs to "keep pushing forward to address the underlying issues that directly impact an entire population that survived genocide."

New packaging. Land O'Lakes Inc.

But the diary collective in February redid the design, with the new packaging showing an image of evergreen trees lining a body of water. The back of the package shows images of farmers. Land O'Lakes did not address the controversy in making the change.

Dubbed the "butter maiden" and named Mia, the illustrated character first showed up on Land O'Lakes packaging seven years after 320 farmers started the Minnesota Cooperative Creameries Association in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1921. Arthur Hanson, the first illustrator for the St. Paul advertising firm Brown & Bigelow, came up with the original design evoking rural Minnesota with a blue lake, green pine trees and the depiction of a woman in a buckskin dress, according to the Pioneer Press.

An old Land O'Lakes Sweet Cream Butter logo Villanova University's History Graduate Program

The packaging has been redesigned several times over the decades. In the 1950s, Patrick DesJarlait, an Ojibwe artist from Minnesota, was hired to revamp the depiction, according to a student-run blog of Villanova University's history department. 

More recently, Land O'Lakes packaging emphasized a head-and-shoulders view of the maiden, who was no longer obviously kneeling.

Land O'Lakes is a member-owned cooperative based in Arden Hills, Minnesota. It reported 2018 annual sales of $15 billion.

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