Minnetonka CEO: Sorry We Appropriated Native Culture

Company promises to do better
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 13, 2021 3:00 AM CDT
Minnetonka CEO: Sorry We Appropriated Indigenous Culture
A screenshot of the Minnetonka website.   (Minnetonka)

You might think Native American people are in some way involved in Minnetonka moccasins, but you'd be wrong. And on Indigenous People's Day, the CEO of the Minneapolis-based company formally apologized for its cultural appropriation, NPR reports. "We recognize that our original products, some of which are still sold today, have been appropriated from Native American culture," David Miller said in a statement issued Monday. "We deeply and meaningfully apologize for having benefited from selling Native-inspired designs without directly honoring Native culture or communities." The company first apologized for cultural appropriation last year. In 2008, it removed the word "moccasins" from its logo, though it still sells the Native American-inspired shoe; it's now officially going by just Minnetonka in all communications, the Star-Tribune reports.

Back in 1946, when it was launched by a white family, Minnetonka was "one of many companies who sold handcrafted moccasins and Native-inspired accessories to roadside gift shops," Miller said, noting that "moccasin" is an anglicization of the Ojibwe word "makizinan." He said the appropriation was due to "ignorance" rather than "maliciousness," but still must be rectified. While the company has privately supported indigenous causes in Minnesota, Miller acknowledged that's not enough, and said Minnetonka is implementing a plan, developed last year, to more actively and publicly support Native American causes. As part of that, it is working with indigenous people, including its new reconciliation advisor.

"Real change and effort undoubtedly starts with the redistribution and sharing of resources," she writes in a blog post for the company. "Since much of this company's wealth came from appropriation, it would only be right for this company to truly invest back into those communities from which it stole." Specifically, Minnetonka will recruit more employees from underrepresented groups including Native Americans, be more transparent in how it describes its background, collaborate with indigenous designers, look to partner with businesses owned by Native Americans, and give money to Native American organizations. Even so, some on Twitter were not impressed: "Minnesota shoe company Minnetonka apologizes, keeps money from appropriating First Nations moccasins," reads one response to the news. (More cultural appropriation stories.)

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