Airbnb removes tone-deaf teepee ad after Native American activist backlash

Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Airbnb is in hot water over its clumsy treatment of Native American culture.

The housing rental service hastily scrubbed an ad from its social media profiles on Tuesday after Native American scholars and activists slammed it for racial insensitivity.

The post featured a listing for an “off-the-grid” teepee, where visitors are promised a “true Sioux style” experience.

Never mind that the Joshua Tree, California dwelling is thousands of miles away from the historic territory of the Great Plains-based Sioux.

“Airbnb is profiting off of racist stereotypes and that is unacceptable in a democratic society,” Judith Le Blanc, director of the Native Organizers Alliance and a member of the Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma, told BuzzFeed.

Other critics, like Brown University American Studies professor Adrienne Keene, drew comparisons to the brutal crackdown on Native pipeline protests at Standing Rock earlier this year.

In their eyes, the ad is an example of how mass media commoditizes a stereotypical, glamorized version of Native American culture while ignoring the people themselves.

Airbnb removed the ad from its Facebook and Instagram channels on Tuesday after Buzzfeed broke the story.

“We should not have used this language and we want to apologize to everyone for our poor judgement,” an Airbnb spokesperson said in an email. “We have deleted these posts.”

The misstep comes as Airbnb is still reeling from widespread accusations of racism on the platform that came to a head last year.

The company has sought to address that ongoing controversy with a host of service policy changes and damage-control advertising that stresses diversity.

Airbnb chief marketing officer Jonathan Mildenhall has doubled down on calls for diversity in the advertising industry in recent weeks.

Airbnb’s ill-conceived ad underscores his point.

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