The flavor of the week at the Udder Side is swirling up controversy, as some local residents complain the name of the “Red Indian” soft serve is racially insensitive.
The cinnamon-flavored ice cream with a pinkish hue is being offered exclusively Sunday through Saturday as a part of the Jonesville ice cream shop’s weekly promotion. Joining a national discussion over the appropriation of Native American culture, some local residents have complained the flavor’s name is disparaging. Meanwhile, others have gone out of their way to support the Udder Side and grab a small serving for $1.59.
“We’re selling the [heck] out of it,” said Julia Bauer, who owns the Udder Side with her husband, Dave. “It’s been more popular than ever. We were busier than normal on Mondays when it was freezing cold outside.”
Others, however, are not so eager to buy the flavor. Hillsdale resident Natasha Crall, who said she has Cherokee heritage, commented on the Udder Side’s Facebook post announcing the flavor of the week and shared the post in the group Hillsdale’s Hot Debates on Sunday. Crall said the flavor was in bad taste, given that Hillsdale County used to be inhabited by the Potawatomi tribe before settlers began coming in 1827.
She added that her family loves the Udder Side and suggested it sell the ice cream flavor under a different name.
“The National Coalition for American Indians has said that the term red skin is inappropriate,” Crall told The Collegian. “Red Indian: It refers to red skin. It’s bigoted and offensive.”
More than 300 people replied to Crall’s comment in Hot Debates before the group’s administrator turned off commenting on the post. Most people said they did not find the name offensive or ridiculed Crall’s questioning of it in the first place.
“Just because it doesn’t hurt them, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt other people,” Crall said. “That wouldn’t fly in other places outside of the Hillsdale bubble.”
Bauer said the Udder Side did not come up with the name Red Indian, and it is not the only shop to sell the flavor in Hillsdale County. Bobbeye’s Pizza Place & Dairyland in Hudson also sells the ice cream flavor under that name. The business did not respond to request for comment.
It is the name its maker, National Products, used for the flavor 27 years ago when the Udder Side began selling it. There is no ice cream company with that name now, but Kalamazoo-based National Flavors used to be called National Products before changings its name 10 years ago, according to Najee Lazarus, a customer service representative for the company. National Flavors does sell a cinnamon spice flavor, but Lazarus was unable to say on Wednesday if it had been called Red Indian previously.
Dave Bauer would not confirm the name of the company that supplies the ice cream flavor, adding that for as long as he owns the Udder Side, Red Indian will be the flavor’s name.
Julie Bauer agreed: “We could change it, but it’s the name we’ve been selling it as for 30 years. It’d just be the flavor that used to be known as Red Indian.”
As a graduate of Central Michigan University, whose mascot is the Chippewas, Julie Bauer said she is familiar with the controversy. She said, however, she thinks the controversy of the ice cream’s name is ridiculous.
“I shake my head; I have nothing to say,” she said. “I have never seen anything like that as putting someone down. It’s what it’s called. It’s a flavor of ice cream.”
Many people agreed with her. Bauer said one customer earlier this week paid $20 in advance for the next customers who purchased the Red Indian ice cream.
Osseo resident Tracy O’Haver visited the Udder Side on Sunday and ordered the flavor after seeing the posts about it on Facebook. She posted that she ordered a Red Indian cone following the complaints made.
“It’s just ice cream,” O’Haver said. “I think it’s ridiculous, all the words we have to change. All of our lives we’ve used it. Why does it have to change now?”
Either way, Bauer said the debate over the flavor has turned into free advertising for the local dairy shop.
“It’s what the company originally called it,” Bauer said. “If you don’t like it, don’t eat it.”