A man dressed in Native American clothing paddles a canoe toward a tableau of environmental degradation: waters strewn with trash, a person throwing garbage out of a car window on a traffic-choked highway and spewing smokestacks on the horizon.

A percussion-driven score dramatically resolves with a close-up shot of the man shedding a single tear. “People start pollution,” the actor William Conrad says. “People can stop it.”

The lone tear, the touchstone of a 60-second public service announcement by the anti-littering organization Keep America Beautiful that first aired on Earth Day in 1971, found a place in American television iconography. The ad’s portrayal of litter as desecration of nature and an affront to conscientious citizens won Marsteller, the agency that created it, accolades in the advertising world.

It also heralded the beginning of a modern environmental movement in the United States that focused on changing consumer behavior.

But more recently, the ad has drawn criticism for its stereotypical trope of Indigenous culture, becoming fodder for mockery on TikTok. The single teardrop has also been parodied on “South Park” and “The Simpsons.”

Keep America Beautiful announced on Thursday that it transferred the rights to the ad to the National Congress of American Indians Fund, the educational arm of the group based in Washington.

The group said it would retire the ad, which it said was “inappropriate” then and now, restricting its use to settings where it can be understood within its “historical context.”

“N.C.A.I. looks forward to putting this advertisement to bed for good,” the group’s executive director, Larry Wright Jr., said in a statement.

It was not clear in what context the ad might be used in the future. Mr. Wright did not respond to requests for additional information.

The ad’s star, an Italian American from Louisiana who claimed Cherokee heritage known as Iron Eyes Cody, was typecast in dozens of television shows and films over a lengthy career in Hollywood, often appearing in the role of an unnamed “Indian.”

While many viewers found the ad moving, others saw it as a misappropriation of a culture that was little understood.

“Those leather-clad, war-painted Indians on TV? Well, that wasn’t me,” said Patty Loew, a professor at Northwestern University and a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, recalling seeing the ad while growing up in Milwaukee.

The ad — and the cultural myths about Native Americans that critics thought it perpetrated — propelled Professor Loew to a career writing books and producing public television programs and documentaries about Indigenous history and culture.

“The whole Crying Indian thing is pretty crystal clear — wrong, wrong, wrong,” she said. “And it opens my eyes to all the cultural appropriation around me. I’ve tried to address the stereotypes and tropes involving Native people that messed me up as a kid. Native America sure could use a confident, well-adjusted next generation.”

Keep America Beautiful teamed up with the Ad Council to create the ad. Ad Age called the piece — which aired until 1983 — one of the top 100 advertising campaigns of the 20th century.

In the wake of the ad’s success, Iron Eyes Cody, in long braids and buckskins, filmed three follow-up P.S.A.s. He spent more than 25 years making public appearances and visits to schools on behalf of the anti-litter campaign before his death in 1999, The Associated Press reported.

In a statement on its website, Keep America Beautiful said the ad, “which became synonymous with furthering environmental protection and awareness in popular culture at the time of its creation, was later known for featuring imagery that stereotyped American Indian and Alaska Native people and misappropriated Native culture.”

The nonprofit “decided it was time to officially retire the advertisement,” the statement said.

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