Our Commitment to the Native American Community
Minnetonka has been a family-run company since its founding nearly 75 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 peoples 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:
- Our people: We are making a concerted effort to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion of underrepresented groups at Minnetonka. In the last year, our entire company has participated in two different employee education sessions with leaders of American Indian OIC and Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource 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.
- Our brand language: Words are powerful in their ability to raise awareness, share knowledge, and broaden perspectives. We have made updates to the language we use in telling our story and describing our products, Our updates will provide greater transparency and more direct acknowledgment of Native American influence across our website, packaging and other communication channels. We are committed to constantly re-examining all of this as we continue to learn more. This year, we redesigned our logo to remove culturally appropriated symbols. You can see more about our logo redesign here.
- Design collaborations: As a footwear company, our design collaborations provide opportunities for talented artists, designers, and creators to receive recognition for their work. We are committed to collaborating with local Native artists/designers and are currently exploring potential partners for future collections. One of our first collaborations (to be launched December 2021) will be with our Reconciliation Advisor, Adrienne Benjamin, a Minnesota based Anishinaabe artist. To keep up to date on our latest collaborations, join our email list or follow us on Instagram or Facebook.
- Business relationships: We work with a wide range of vendors and suppliers, for everything from footwear materials to packaging to paper products. In the past year, we have done business with two different Native-owned companies (Visions Printing and Skyy Screen Printing) and we will continue to seek out more and more Native-owned businesses as potential business partners.
- 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.
Please feel free to share any questions, comments, concerns or suggestions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for inspiring us to do better.
David Miller, CEO