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Case Study: BP Amaco and Crazy Horse

In 2000, deepwater developers for British Petroleum (BP)-America made an exciting discovery in the Gulf of Mexico: the largest oil and gas field ever identified. In keeping with the custom and practice of staking such claims, the company chose the name of "Crazy Horse" to represent this valuable discovery in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The family of Tasunke Witko (Crazy Horse) approached BP's Director of Public Relations, and asked the name be changed out of respect for the revered leader of the Lakota tribe. The name seemed harmless to the public, but "it proved offensive to the descendants of the Sioux war hero, who prohibit use of the name except during prayer or during meetings of the inner circle of Crazy Horse's family" (Biers). "BP became aware that the use of the Crazy Horse name for the identification and marketing of a corporate product was an affront to Lakota tradition and spirituality" (http://www.crazyhorsedefense.org/menu6b.html). The company subsequently changed the name to Thunder Horse.

The name-change was encouraged by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a group that represents a combined portfolio of $130 billion. The center uses its monetary power to influence investors' and company decisions concerning ethical and morally responsible choices. "We applaud BP's action," said Sr. Patricia Marshall, a Sister of the Blessed Sacrament from the Philadelphia Area Coalition for Responsible Investment. "It represents the kind of response we would like to see from all companies who are using and exploiting the Crazy Horse name without the permission of the descendents, the family. Until those of us who believe we are in the majority can actually experience the reality that Indigenous peoples are alive and well and our equals, we will continue to be unaccountable to our own faith traditions as well as to our democratic political philosophies. This is a strong step towards making right our relationship with the Lakota people" (http://www.crazyhorsedefense.org/menu6b.html).

Though this "ethical persuasion" is a largely unseen practice in the corporate world, it is also one that is beginning to gain recognition.
By taking an ethical stance on the name-change matter, BP established itself as a corporation that acknowledges the rights of indigenous people. To finalize the name-change, BP executive Bob Malone went to the South Dakota reservation to meet with Crazy Horse's descendants. Malone presented the Lakota tribe with a "Crazy Horse" plaque to "formally return the name to the family. In exchange, the Sioux leader's descendants presented Malone with a blanket" (Biers). BP spokesman Hugh DePland said the company regretted the misuse of the name, which he "likened to dubbing offshore projects after 'Jesus' or 'the Virgin Mary #3'" (Biers).

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This page last updated on: Friday, 20-Oct-2006 13:15:16 EDT