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Federal gov't removes poster after online backlash over Indigenous stereotypes

The poster showed three people, including a woman who some say resembles Disney's Pocahontas. Others say the background resembles previous posters about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Critics say depiction of Indigenous woman on poster reminiscent of Disney's Pocahontas

A photo of this poster outside the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada office in Yellowknife was posted on Facebook and drew outrage. A spokesperson for the department says it has since been removed. (Alyssa Jean/Facebook)

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada took down a poster advertising Indian status cards after receiving backlash online for stereotyping Indigenous people.

The poster was posted outside the Indigenous Affairs (INAC) office in Yellowknife. It depicted three people with status cards, but it was the woman in the middle who prompted anger.

A screen grab from INAC's website. The photo has since been removed from the page. (CBC)

Alyssa Jean, who posted a photo of the poster on Facebook, wrote, "that image representation mimics Pocahontas, which is a misrepresentation of this status."

On that post, Jessi McLeod wrote "just a weird coincidence?!" and posted a side-by-side photo of Pocahontas.

Charlotte Overvold, a North Slavey Dene woman who lives in Ontario, says the representation of the Disney film Pocahontas is a 'horrific' misrepresentation of Indigenous women. (Submitted by Charlotte Overvold)

Charlotte Overvold, a North Slavey Dene woman who lives in Ontario, said the representation of the Disney film Pocahontas is a "horrific" misrepresentation of Indigenous women.

"As an Indigenous woman who has often had to fight this racist stereotype of an outdated portrayal of an Indigenous woman, this is a huge part of the problem."

Overvold was so offended by the poster that she went to the INAC office in Gatineau and asked them to take it down. But she was told she would have to contact her member of Parliament and petition to have it replaced, taken down, or improved.  

The photo of the woman was also posted on INAC's website, but it was taken down sometime on Monday.

'Policing our identities'

Crystal Fraser, a historian of Canadian history and Indigenous issues, said the poster had a few other problems, like the background, which she says resembled previous posters for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.  

Autumn Schnell standing beside a sign designated to her grandfather. She said INAC's poster makes her feel separate from the rest of Canadian society. (Submitted by Autumn Schnell)

The poster included images of a bison, eagle, bear and wolf. Fraser questioned the inclusion of the animals and a mountain scene because she says there's a "growing urban population of Indigenous people who don't really foster this connection to the land and to wildlife anymore."

"The federal government is still concerned with policing our identities, with presenting static images of Indigenous people that don't reflect our lives anymore," Fraser said.

Autumn Schnell, Indigenous collective co-ordinator for CiTR, a University of British Columbia radio station, said, "that picture made me feel very separate from the rest of Canadian society."

"It still kind of makes us seem and feel like the other."

INAC did not provide CBC with an interview, but a communications advisor said in an email, "in light of the reactions shared on social media, the banner was taken down and will not be used in the future."

With files from Kayla Rosen