Case Study: BP Amaco and Crazy
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"
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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