Our Commitment to the Native American Community
Updated: Fall 2023
Minnetonka has been a family-run company since its founding 77 years ago. Four generations in, we are proud of the business we have built and humbled by the decades-long loyalty of so many of our customers. However, we would like to directly address two questions that have often been asked of us (rightfully so): Is Minnetonka Native-owned? Does Minnetonka support Native American people or causes?
Minnetonka is not a Native-owned business. When we started in 1946, Minnetonka was one of many companies who sold handcrafted moccasins and Native-inspired accessories to roadside gift shops.
We recognize that our original products, some of which are still sold today, have been appropriated from Native American culture. Not just the products have been appropriated; we have also come to learn that even the word “moccasin” is an anglicization of the Ojibwe word “makizinan.” We first publicly acknowledged our appropriation in the summer of 2020, but it was long overdue. We deeply and meaningfully apologize for having benefited from selling Native-inspired designs without directly honoring Native culture or communities. While Minnetonka has evolved beyond our original product set, moccasins remain a core part of our brand, and in 2020 we began to step up our commitment to the culture to which we owe so much. We are dedicated to honoring our commitment to Native American communities with our actions going forward.
For many years, we have privately supported Native causes in our home state of Minnesota — but simply giving back is not enough. We are taking a more active and public stance in supporting Native communities.
We have been listening to and learning from voices in the Native community to live up to and expand upon the action plan we originally developed in fall of 2020. We are grateful to our Native American advisors, who continually provide valuable insight and counsel on our plans and the specifics of its execution. To deepen our commitment, we have hired one of our advisors, Adrienne Benjamin, to be our Reconciliation Advisor. Adrienne is an artist and community activist who is Anishinaabe and a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. She has been an integral part of Minnetonka’s commitment planning. Click here to read more about our partnership with Adrienne in her own words.
Together with the insight from our advisors, we have created a plan with five key commitments to the Native American community. Here are the steps we’ve taken in the last year and insight into where we’re headed:
1. OUR PEOPLE: We are making a concerted effort to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion of underrepresented groups at Minnetonka. In the last two years, our entire company has participated in five different employee education sessions with leaders of American Indian OIC, Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, MIGIZI, Adrienne Benjamin, and Native Governance Center to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of Native issues. We are actively recruiting from Native American talent pools by attending job fairs and building relationships with people and organizations who can help us connect with Native candidates. If you or someone you know would like to work at Minnetonka, please view our careers page.
2. OUR BRAND LANGUAGE: In 2021, we redesigned our logo to remove culturally appropriated symbols. You can see more about our logo redesign here. To do our part in raising awareness, sharing knowledge, and broadening perspectives, we are also continuing to make updates to the language we use in telling our story and describing our products. These updates will provide greater transparency and more direct acknowledgment of Native American influence across our website, packaging, and other communication channels.
3. DESIGN COLLABORATIONS: Design collaborations: As a footwear company, our design collaborations provide opportunities for talented artists, designers, and creators to receive recognition for their work and be paid for it through design fees and royalty payments on product sales. We are committed to collaborating with local Native artists/designers and exploring potential partners for future collections. So far, our collaborations include:
- Adrienne Benjamin, a Minnesotan, Anishinaabe, and a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Adrienne Benjamin is a multifaceted artist whose designs encompass personal experiences and traditional cultural teachings.
- Launched Dec 2021: Adrienne Benjamin x Hand-Beaded Hats, Collection 1 (sold out)
In honor of this collection, Minnetonka donated to Minnesota Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC) and Niniijaanis
- Launched April 2022: Adrienne Benjamin x Hand-Beaded Hats, Collection 2 (sold out)
In honor of this collection, Minnetonka donated to Mni Sota Fund.
- Launched Summer 2023: Minnetonka x Adrienne Benjamin - Bepeshaa Moc, Collection 1
In honor of this collection, Minnetonka donated to Onamia Public Schools Indian Education Program.
- Lucie Skjefte is a citizen of the Red Lake Nation Anishinaabeg, and a Minneapolis-based designer, mentor, and educator whose work is rooted in activism that challenges the status quo with positivity.
- Launched Oct 2022: Minnetonka x Lucie Skjefte — Ziigwan Waabigwan Moc, Collection 1 (sold out)
In honor of this collection, Minnetonka donated to MIGIZI.
- Launched Spring & Summer 2023: Minnetonka x Lucie Skjefte — Ziigwan Waabigwan Moc, Collection 2 & Collection 3 (sold out)
In honor of these collections, Minnetonka donated to MIGIZI.
- Launched Fall 2023: Minnetonka x Lucie Skjefte – Ziigwan Waabigwan Slipper
In honor of this collection, Minnetonka donated to MIGIZI.
- Launching Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2023: Minnetonka x Lucie Skjefte Ayashe Moc
In honor of this collection, Minnetonka will be donating to Native Sun.
- To keep up to date on our latest collaborations, join our email list or follow us on Instagram or Facebook.
5. PHILANTHROPY: Over the years, both the Miller family and Minnetonka have contributed financially toward Native causes. We continue to actively support a number of Native organizations doing important work in Minnesota and beyond. You can learn more here.
We will continue to move forward in a manner that acknowledges and honors the Native American culture, design, and people who have influenced our brand and business. This journey will remain important to our company forever.
Thank you for inspiring us to do better.
David Miller, CEO