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Race Hustle: The Crying Indian

Iron Eyes Cody Sheds Glycerin Tear

1,631 words

The White Man as Environmental Malefactor

Older Americans will recall a famous TV commercial known as “The Crying Indian.” The 60-second spot debuted on Earth Day 1971, but ran from 1971–1983.

In the ad, a buckskin-clad Indian with a single feather in his raven hair paddles a birch bark canoe initially along a pristine waterway signifying the pure, clean America of its “indigenous,” wise, sensitive non-white stewards.

As the Indian proceeds, the water becomes littered. Soon he is in a dirty industrial port with large ships. A silhouette of the native canoeist is superimposed over the background of metal scaffolding and belching factory smoke as the music swells in intensity. The music drops suddenly as the native drags his canoe onto a dirty, heavily-littered shoreline.

The deep, baritone voice of actor William Conrad—radio’s Matt Dillon (Gunsmoke) and TV’s Cannon and “Fatman” (Jake and the Fatman)—intones: “Some people [Amerindians] have a deep, abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once [pre-white man] this country . . .”

As the Indian approaches the edge of a busy freeway, a white hand suddenly emerges from a car window, disdainfully expelling trash that explodes as dirty garbage around the Indian’s moccasins.

Conrad’s voice continues “. . . and some people [whites] don’t.”

The camera zooms in on a single tear rolling down the Indian’s cheek as Conrad concludes, “People start pollution, and people can stop it.” [1:00]

The stereotypes in the ad are broad and simple.

Whites = filthy slobs, racists, and thieves: they stole, then polluted, the land! Also implied: they killed and oppressed the natives, the land’s rightful owners.

The weeping Indian = the Noble Red Man of misty-eyed white mythology described long ago by Mark Twain:

He is tall and tawny, muscular, straight and of kingly presence; he has a beaked nose and an eagle eye. His hair is glossy, and as black as the raven’s wing; out of its massed richness springs a sheaf of brilliant feathers; on his arms and wrists and ankles are broad silver bands and bracelets; his buckskin hunting suit is gallantly fringed, and the belt and the moccasins wonderfully flowered with colored beads; he is a being to fall down and worship.

Though horribly wronged by his destroyers and oppressors, he harbors no animus toward them.

The ad was produced jointly as a public service announcement (PSA) (a noncommercial propaganda ad) by Keep America Beautiful, Inc. and the Ad Council.

It had a tremendous impact.

Keep America Beautiful received more than 2,000 letters a month from people wanting to join its local team after seeing it.

The anti-white Establishment loved the commercial, too. The spot won two Clio Awards, was named one of the top 50 ads of all time by Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide, and one of the top 100 advertising campaigns of the 20th Century by Ad Age Magazine.

Hollywood Indian Garners Worldwide Fame

The commercial made its star, Hollywood supporting actor Iron Eyes Cody (1904–1999), famous. He had appeared in minor roles in numerous TV and movie westerns over many decades, though his film credits become spurious the farther back in time you go. In 1983 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce honored him with a star bearing his name on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame.

Cody sported a grave, dignified manner. He’d solemnly say things like: “Nearly all my life, it has been my policy to help those less fortunate than myself. My foremost endeavors have been with the help of the Great Spirit to dignify my people’s image through humility and love of my country.”

Reader’s Digest published his “Indian” fable “But You Promised” for its large white readership in 1989.

The Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, guru of positive thinking and pastor of the Dutch Reformed Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, liked the tale so much that he printed it in Guideposts magazine for his extensive Christian audience, and used it again in his book The Power of Positive Living (1990).

Peale, not a stickler for authenticity when it came to anecdotal evidence, doubtless liked the multiracial aura it imparted, since there is nothing “positive” about it. The brief story is identical in essence to William Pierce’s “The Scorpion and the Frog” (2001), which has its roots in ancient Sanskrit lore (where, however, the victimized creature is a turtle rather than a frog), though Cody’s version is cast in terms of Amerindian legend and involves a venomous snake.

Iron Eyes’ rhythmic chanting can be heard on Joni Mitchell’s anti-white “Lakota” (Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm, 1988), harking back to the FBI/Sioux gun battle on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1973. Her repetitive “I am Lakota!” suggests that the Nordic songstress entertained a whacked-out notion that she was Indian—emotionally and psychologically, anyway.

The Los Angeles Times said of Cody, “As one of his people’s most visible figures, he traveled extensively on goodwill missions, meeting with presidents, popes and heads of state.”

Ephraim Katz in The Film Encyclopedia (1979) wrote that Cody was born a Cherokee Indian in Oklahoma, a claim repeated in the 1998 third edition edited after Katz’s death by Fred Klein and Ronald Dean Nolen.

The Los Angeles Times (whose beat includes Hollywood), likewise claimed in its 1999 Cody obituary, still online, unamended, that Cody was “part-Cherokee, part-Cree:”

Originally called “Little Eagle,” Oscar Cody was born on an Oklahoma farm. He received his first taste of movie-making as a child when a Paramount Pictures crew used his family’s farm for location shooting in 1919. Within a year, the Codys relocated to Hollywood where Iron Eyes’ father, Thomas Longplume Cody, worked as a technical advisor on many early westerns.

All of this is false, presumably gleaned from studio publicity handouts. But note the granularity of invented detail: “Little Eagle,” “Oklahoma farm,” “Paramount Pictures,”  “1919,” “Thomas Longplume Cody,” etc.

Many precise falsehoods closely packed into three short sentences! Just because you read something in a “respected” source is no guarantee that it’s true—or even approximately correct!

In reality, Iron Eyes was born Espera Oscar DeCorti in Kaplan, Louisiana to immigrants from Sicily, Italy. He was baptized at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Kaplan. His father’s name was Antonio DeCorti. In his earliest acting credits, Cody was identified as Tony DeCorti, which he later changed to “Cody.” It is unclear when he added the impressive-sounding “Iron Eyes.”

After his racial background was publicly exposed in 1996, DeCorti lied, saying it was untrue.

Accounts which correctly report DeCorti’s origins (many still do not) nevertheless emphasize that he married an Amerindian woman, adopted Amerindian children, lived (in some unstated way) as an Amerindian, and was active in Amerindian charities.

Assuming this to be true, DeCorti is a prime example of a man “going native.” According to his half-sister, even as a boy DeCorti would dress up as an Indian: “He always said he wanted to be an Indian. If he could find something that looked Indian, he’d put it on.” After he went to Hollywood and changed his name from DeCorti to Cody, he “turned 100 percent Indian,” she said.

Of course, one cannot entirely ignore the tangible benefits that accrued to him for doing so.

DeCorti’s story also graphically illustrates how a few simple, but false, cultural cues can completely mislead whites as to a person’s race. This is particularly true with Jews, Levantines, Mediterraneans (some), West Asians, Mestizos, Amerindians, and part-whites.

Indeed, wardrobe alone can serve as a highly misleading cultural marker, particularly when combined with Westernized (or non-Westernized) speech and manner resulting from conscious adoption or genuine assimilation. And simple theatrical disguise techniques can greatly enhance any deception. DeCorti, for example, wore a black wig and in some roles was body-painted in order to darken his skin color.

The Change Agents

One sponsor of the crying Indian commercial, Keep America Beautiful, Inc., is an environmental organization founded in 1953 by a consortium of businesses, nonprofit groups, government agencies, and high-status individuals.

Co-sponsor was the Ad Council, formed in 1942 as the War Advertising Council. Famous ad campaigns promoted by it are “Rosie the Riveter” and “Loose Lips Sink Ships” in furtherance of the war against Europeans; the United Negro College Fund’s “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” “I Am an American” (launched 10 days after 9/11, it showed people of every race and creed stating “I am an American”), and the homosexual-promoting, censorship-oriented “Think Before You Speak.”

According to an environmental writer who examined the Ad Council’s archives:

In the late 1960s, a noncorporate faction within the Ad Council, led by Dartmouth president John Sloan Dickey, began to call for Keep America Beautiful to move from litter to the larger problem of environmental pollution. They threatened to scuttle Ad Council support for further antilitter campaigns. Backed into a corner, KAB directors agreed to expand their work to address “the serious menace of all pollutants to the nation’s health and welfare.”


In 1967, meeting at the Yale Club, they decided to go negative. “There seemed to be mutual agreement,” wrote campaign coordinator David Hart, “that our ‘soft sell’ used in previous years could now be replaced by a more emphatic approach to the problem by saying that those who litter are ‘slobs.'” The next year, planners upped the ante, calling litterers ‘pigs.'”

The crying Indian commercial added the implicit epithet “racist”—if such toxic poison can be considered implicit.

The Ad Council assigned Keep America Beautiful’s new anti-pollution project to the ad agency Marsteller, Inc., which produced the pro-bono spot. The Council then distributed Marsteller’s finished product to media outlets.

Who actually wrote and directed the commercial for Marsteller I have been unable to discover.

Despite the spit-in-your-face racism of the offensive ad, millions of maudlin whites identified with the Indian. How many countless times this simple subliminal trick has been played on gullible audiences over the past 100 years!



  1. Posted October 21, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    “DeCorti, for example, wore a black wig and in some roles was body-painted in order to darken his skin color.”

    Body paint! Well, it was the 60s, suppose. And I bet no organization ever complained about a White actor playing a non-White part!

  2. Posted October 21, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Fascinating. I’ve got to share this with my brothers, who will remember it from our childhood.

    I’ve lived and traveled in various countries, and one thing I’ve concluded is that Whites are generally the CLEANEST people when it comes to the environment.

    This was driven home one summer when I visited Six Flags Amusement Park at Darien Lake near Buffalo. I was in the parking lot waiting for friends when I saw a large American car full of an extended family of people from India. They were all eating in the car. To my astonishment, when they were done they all opened the doors and set their trash on the pavement. Even Grandma did it. And then they drove off. Ah, we lucky Americans sure get some more wonderful immigrants.

    BTW, earlier in the day, hundreds of us Whites were waiting in line for the great roller coaster they have. (I’d estimate that 99% of the guests and workers there were White.) Next, a group of young black girls making all kinds of noise simply bustled to the front of the line and got on the next coaster. Not one White said a word. I’ll bet that most of us knew implicitly that society would punish us if we were to say or do anything.

    Great country, huh.

  3. Posted October 21, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Driving through the South West you know when you’ve hit a pueblo by the sudden increase in litter, then you start looking for someplace to grab some tax free smokes.

  4. Chip Farley
    Posted October 22, 2011 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    ‘In reality, Iron Eyes was born Espera Oscar DeCorti in Kaplan, Louisiana to immigrants from Sicily, Italy.’

    There are so many White people who have been brain-washed into running around claiming to be something else. It is really an astounding thing to behold. It further reinforces my notion that contemporary America is little more then an open air insane asylum.

    Anecdotal example: at the University I am employed at there is an individual with white skin and blue eyes who claims to be half-Native American!

    When he applied for, and was turned down for promotion to a supervisory-type position he immediately started complaining about ‘racism and discrimination’. Since then he has actually been demoted because he is just a crazed trouble-making racial fake that even the ultra-liberal diversity-mongering University Administration don’t want to deal with! haha.

  5. Petronius
    Posted October 22, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    “Iron Eyes” doesn’t even remotedly look like an ethnic Indian.

    Anyone remember Forrest Carter, the Kluxer and George Wallace speech writer who posed as an Indian?

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted October 22, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      Sure he does.

      • Petronius
        Posted October 23, 2011 at 4:25 am | Permalink

        Look like an Indian?

  6. who+dares+wings
    Posted October 22, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    CPUSA head Earl Browder’s granddaughter Dr. Laura Browder includes Kluxer Earl Carter in her
    book on ethnic impersonators Slippery Characters I asked her if she’d ever heard of any skepticism about the Munchausenesque life story of John Howard Griffin author of the popular high school tolerance text Black Like Me. She replied that she hadn’t. This year is the 50th anniversary of Griffin’s bestseller which, if one bothers to examine what else the man wrote about himself , must be one of the biggest literary hoaxes of the last century. If white people could really turn themselves black temporarily an entire generation of wiggers would be adding that to the menu of intemperate tattooing and piercing they go for. Hello?

  7. Andrew Hamilton
    Posted October 23, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Actually, the 50th anniversary of Griffin’s book is this month. Surprisingly, it is still being heavily-employed by the Establishment to instill and propagate anti-white racism.

    I agree that John Howard Griffin and Black Like Me look extremely vulnerable to any clear-eyed, objective investigation.

    Griffin was a novelist, and reading his credibility-stretching capsule biography sets off alarm bells.

    What is needed, however, is tangible evidence of falsification. It might be the sort of evidence that only an investigative reporter, or someone with equivalent resources, could ferret out—if it exists.

    One also has to contend with a white female reporter (like Grifffin a native Texan) who claimed to have done the same thing, after reading Griffin’s book and with his encouragement.

    She is Grace Halsell, possibly known to some C-C readers as the author of a couple of anti-Christian Zionist books from her later years (she died in 2000).

    Her “Griffin” book was Soul Sister: The Journal of a White Woman Who Turned Herself Black and Went to Live and Work in Harlem and Mississippi (1969).

    Halsell had a fascination with non-whites, penning a biography of Charles Evers and a book called Black-White Sex.

    “Doing research for books,” Publishers Weekly wrote, “she darkened her skin to live as a black woman; she crossed the U.S.-Mexican border as an illegal alien; and, passing herself off as a member of the Navajo tribe, she worked as a domestic.”

    That being said, I would wager that Griffin’s book—and, indeed, his entire life story—are laced with fabrication and falsehood.

    As for DeCorti, yeah, he looks Indian to me. But, regardless, he looked Indian to the vast majority of white people, which is where the problem in such cases really lies.

  8. Junghans
    Posted October 24, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this excellent, and very revealing article, Andrew. I well remember when this ad ran on TV for a long time. We were all pretty well taken in by this liberal/Jewish, moral sleight-of-hand. ‘Maudlin Whites’ pretty well describes the credulity of most Anglo-White people. We haven’t changed much from the ancient Tocharians of 6,000 years ago, and are, at present, heading for the same fate.

  9. Jaego Scorzne
    Posted October 24, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Yeah it’s a cryin’ shame White are such suckers. The earlier Aryans, often Red Heads, were the same fools as we. Always eager to help their Inca, Toltec, Paiute, Easter Island friends – they always ended up getting their throats cut in the end.

  10. Posted October 25, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I remember that commercial from when I was a kid. I never knew anything about DeCorti, so this was quite fascinating. It’s a bit surprising that there was never an outcry from Native Americans themselves, although I suppose they had too much invested in the myth to reject him.

    In a broader sense, however, Native Americans are an often-ignored category by racialists, I suppose because they have such low visibility in most of the U.S. Their culture did display some Aryan traits. It’s also the case that the majority of Native and Latin Americans today have at least some amount of European blood, given the Americas’ original (pre-British) colonists penchant for miscegenation. Jean Thiriart pointed this out in his writings, when he called on European nationalists to recognize Latin America as a part of the West and join with them against American imperialism.

    • White Republican
      Posted October 25, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

      It’s interesting to note that the contemporary French geopolitical scholar Aymeric Chauprade seems to have advocated geopolitical policies similar to those of Jean Thiriart, including European alliances with Latin America and Russia against the U.S.

  11. Posted October 25, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    This also reminds of the case of Rigoberta Menchu in Guatemala. When I took my mandatory freshman (and allegedly non-political) writing class in 1991, her autobiography, “I, Rigoberta Menchu,” was on the syllabus, along with Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Ceremony,” both being indigenous-Marxist indictment of Guatemalan and American society respectively (in fact, in one section she describes the Japanese who fought against the U.S. in World War II as “brothers”). Interestingly, this was a year BEFORE she won the Nobel Prize. Menchu claimed several atrocities committed by the Guatemalan military in her youth. In the years since, however, critics have proven that many of the incidents she described were inventions which the Guatemalan Marxists had asked her to include in the book.

    • Andrew Hamilton
      Posted October 25, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

      Rigoberta Menchu too, huh?

      There really is no end to it.

      Yet the falsehoods will go marching on, while the debunkings languish in obscurity.

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