Mountain Valley Spring Company (Hot Springs, Arkansas), the nation's first coast-to-coast bottled water company, ran an advertisement in 1939 that conflated American Indians and the natural world. While the company thought that it was selling bottled water by drawing upon a local myth that Hernando De Soto visited the area in 1541, in actuality it tapped into darker themes of conquest, exploitation, and co-opting the bodies of indigenous peoples into white American cultural conceptions of nature and health. This article contends that the Mountain Valley advertisement is indicative of many other advertisements at the time that functioned as the last step in normalizing indigenous people's conquest by the United States into dominant U.S. culture. Doing so allowed whites to experience both their conquest and the natural world in new ways by paying homage to the land's seemingly long-gone original inhabitants. The advertisement not only reflected dominant ideas about American Indians in U.S. society but actually helped to metaphysically reconquer peoples who were physically conquered long before.
Neil Oatsvall is Instructor of History and Social Science at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts. He has published in Environment and History, Agricultural History, the edited collection Proving Grounds: Weapons Testing, Militarized Landscapes, and the Environmental Impact of American Empire (University of Washington Press), and elsewhere. His book manuscript, Atomic Environments: Nuclear Technologies, the Natural World, and Policymaking, 1945–1960, is currently in contract with the University of Alabama Press, for consideration in the Nexus: New Histories of Science, Technology, the Environment, Agriculture, and Medicine series.
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Neil Oatsvall; Advertising Indians. Gastronomica 1 May 2018; 18 (2): 11–18. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2018.18.2.11
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