Minnetonka Moccasin issues apology for appropriation of Native American cultures

Minnetonka Moccasin Co., a local footwear company, is acknowledging and apologizing for Native American culture appropriation over the last 75-plus years.

The company dropped the "moccasin" from its logo in 2008, and has removed the word from the majority of its corporate messaging and will now refer to only "Minnetonka" going forward.

"We (Minnetonka) deeply and meaningfully apologize for having benefited from selling Native-inspired designs without directly honoring Native culture or communities," the statement reads on the company’s website. It also states, "we are dedicated to honoring our commitment to Native American communities with our actions going forward."

The business states that when it first opened in 1946, Minnetonka was one of many companies that sold handcrafted moccasins and Native-inspired accessories to roadside gift shops. The company also says for many years, they have privately supported Native causes in the state, but add "giving back is not enough."

"We are taking a more active and public stance in supporting Native communities," the post reads.

The company said it started to develop a plan of action in the fall of 2020, and ended up hiring Adrienne Benjamin to be Minnetonka’s reconciliation advisor. Benjamin, an Anishinaabe artist and member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, is planning on a launch of a limited-edition products with the company this winter.

"To change even one mind, to be given a chance to educate others, and to open doors for other Native people through the same channel was an opportunity that I couldn’t refuse," Benjamin said, in part, of her hiring at the company.

The news was announced on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. David and Jori Miller, the company’s firm chief executive and president, respectively, said they looked more into the issue in the spring of last year. Benjamin says George Floyd’s death is what opened eyes, with many seeking more background information on the company’s doings.

"In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, these issues had become front and center, not just locally, but nationally as well," Benjamin said. "Many inquiries started to come into the company about their appropriation, whether or not their products were ‘Native-Made,’ and even questioning the validity of other partnerships that they had taken part in. Prior to this, Minnetonka had then begun doing internal work on a plan to deal with these issues in small steps, but with the tide of change happening across the country, they knew that now was the time to be brave and move ahead with more bold approaches, moves, and changes."

To read Benjamin’s full statement regarding the changes and initiatives underway for the company, click here.