Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star by way of Getty Pictures
The Minneapolis-based footwear firm Minnetonka shouldn’t be really run by Native People, its CEO acknowledged on Monday.
David Miller issued the statement on Indigenous Folks’s Day apologizing for profiting off Native tradition and pledging to do extra to assist Indigenous communities going ahead. He famous that Minnetonka first publicly apologized for this appropriation in the summertime of 2020, calling that step “lengthy overdue.”
“We acknowledge that our unique merchandise, a few of that are nonetheless offered right now, have been appropriated from Native American tradition,” Miller wrote. “We deeply and meaningfully apologize for having benefited from promoting Native-inspired designs with out instantly honoring Native tradition or communities.”
Miller stated he was issuing the assertion with the intention to “instantly tackle two questions which have typically been requested of us (rightfully so): Is Minnetonka Native-owned? Does Minnetonka assist Native American peoples or causes?”
Native tradition has been central to the model for 75 years
Minnetonka began in 1946 as “one among many corporations who offered handcrafted moccasins and Native-inspired equipment to roadside present outlets,” Miller defined, and is now in its fourth technology of household possession. It initially made its merchandise in Minnesota, however has since shifted manufacturing operations to factories in China and the Dominican Republic.
Whereas the corporate has since developed to promote other forms of footwear and equipment, it acknowledged that “moccasins stay a core a part of our model.” And it isn’t simply the product that has been appropriated, Miller stated: The phrase “moccasin” itself is an anglicization of the Ojibwe phrase “makizinan.”
The corporate really redesigned its logo in 2008 to take out the phrase moccasin, which had beforehand appeared beneath its identify in a barely smaller font. One other redesign final yr eliminated Native-American impressed symbols above and beneath the letter “T.”
“For a few years, we have now privately supported Native causes in our house state of Minnesota — however merely giving again shouldn’t be sufficient,” Miller wrote. “We’re taking a extra lively and public stance in supporting Native communities.”
The corporate is bringing on a ‘reconciliation advisor’
He stated the corporate developed an motion plan final fall, and is working with members of the Native group to ship and broaden on it. It is introduced on one among its advisors, Adrienne Benjamin, as a “reconciliation advisor.”
Benjamin, who’s Anishinaabe and a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, is an artist and group activist. In a blog post for the company, she wrote about overcoming her preliminary hesitations and outlined a number of priorities for her new function.
“When an organization known as out, there are at all times phrases, however actual change and energy undoubtedly begins with the redistribution and sharing of sources,” she wrote. “Since a lot of this firm’s wealth got here from appropriation, it could solely be proper for this firm to actually make investments again into these communities from which it stole … To me, that should come in the beginning. No artist, activist, or the like will need to work with nor belief a company that’s not placing its cash the place its mouth is in reference to its appropriation, and the advantages, they’ve skilled due to it.”
Minnetonka’s motion plan includes 5 central commitments to the Native American group: staffing, model language, design collaborations, enterprise relationships and philanthropy.
These pillars contain recruiting extra actively from Native American expertise swimming pools and different underrepresented teams, utilizing extra clear language to explain the corporate’s background and Native American affect, collaborating with native Native designers on future footwear collections, in search of out extra Native-owned companies as potential companions and contributing financially to Native organizations in and past Minnesota.
“There are lots of issues to be enthusiastic about with the way forward for this firm and the alternatives for Indigenous artists to be part of the transfer ahead,” Benjamin wrote.
Minnetonka made the announcement on Monday — the primary Indigenous Peoples’ Day to be acknowledged by a U.S. president.