The Minneapolis-based shoe company Minnetonka isn’t actually run by Native Americans, its CEO acknowledged Monday.
David Miller released the statement on Indigenous Peoples Day apologizing for profiting from native culture and pledging to do more to support indigenous communities in the future. He noted that Minnetonka first publicly apologized for this appropriation in the summer of 2020, calling that step “long overdue”.
“We recognize that our original products, some of which are still sold today, were taken from Native American culture,” Miller wrote. “We deeply and significantly apologize for benefiting from selling Native-inspired designs without directly honoring Native culture or communities.”
Miller said he was issuing the statement to “directly answer two questions we have often been asked (rightly): Is it owned by Minnetonka Native? Does Minnetonka support Native American peoples or causes?”
Native culture has been at the heart of the brand for 75 years
Minnetonka began in 1946 as “one of many companies that sold handcrafted loafers and native-inspired accessories to roadside gift shops,” explained Miller, and is now in its fourth generation of family ownership. It originally manufactured its products in Minnesota, but has since moved manufacturing operations to factories in China and the Dominican Republic.
While the company has since evolved to sell other types of shoes and accessories, it has recognized that “moccasins remain a key part of our brand.” And it’s not just the product that was appropriate, Miller said: the word “moccasin” itself is an Anglicization of the Ojibwe word “makizinan.”
The company actually redesigned its logo in 2008 to get rid of the word moccasin, which had previously appeared under its name in a slightly smaller font. Another redesign last year removed the Native American-inspired symbols above and below the letter “T”.
“For many years, we have privately supported Native causes in our home state of Minnesota, but simply giving back isn’t enough,” Miller wrote. “We are taking a more active and public stance in supporting native communities.”
The company is hiring a “reconciliation consultant”
He said the company developed an action plan last fall and is working with native community members to make it happen and expand. He brought in one of his advisers, Adrienne Benjamin, as a “reconciliation consultant”.
Benjamin, who is Anishinaabe and a member of Ojibwe’s Mille Lacs Band, is an artist and community activist. In a blog post for the company, she wrote about overcoming her initial hesitations and outlined several priorities for her new role.
“When a company is called upon, there are always words, but the real change and effort undoubtedly begins with the redistribution and sharing of resources,” he wrote. “Since much of this company’s wealth has come from appropriation, it would be fitting for this company to truly reinvest in those communities it stole from… For me, this has to come first and foremost. No artist, activist or similar will want to work with or trust an organization that is not putting its money where its mouth is in reference to its appropriation and the benefits they have experienced from it.
Minnetonka’s action plan includes five central commitments for the Native American community: personal, brand language, design partnerships, business relationships, and philanthropy.
These pillars involve more active recruitment from Native American talent pools and other underrepresented groups, the use of more transparent language to describe the company’s background and Native American influence, collaboration with local Native designers on futures shoe collections, researching multiple Native-owned companies as potential partners and contributing financially to Native organizations in and out of Minnesota.
“There are many things to be excited about the future of this company and the opportunities for indigenous artists to be part of the progress,” wrote Benjamin.
Minnetonka made the announcement on Monday, the first day for indigenous peoples to be recognized by a US president.
[ https://rocetoday.com/minnetonka-ceo-apologizes-for-profiting-off-native-culture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=minnetonka-ceo-apologizes-for-profiting-off-native-culture https://d26toa8f6ahusa.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/30214746/a-quiet-place-part-2-bigs-16.pdf