Moccasin maker Minnetonka apologies to Native Americans

Minnetonka is apologizing for profiting off of Native American culture without acknowledging its role in the 75-year-old Minnesota company’s line of moccasins and other footwear products. 

“We recognize that our original products, some of which are still sold today, have been appropriated from Native American culture,” David Miller, Minnetonka’s CEO, said Monday in a statement. “Minnetonka deeply and meaningfully apologizes for having benefited from selling Native-inspired designs without directly honoring native culture or communities.” 

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Infant wearing moccasin-style shoes made by Minnetonka. Minnetonka

Minnetonka’s mea culpa came on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, proclaimed a holiday to honor the country’s first inhabitants by President Biden and now celebrated by multiple states instead of Columbus Day.

The family-owned business first publicly acknowledged its cultural appropriation in the summer of 2020, and for years has supported Native causes in its home state, according to Miller.

The fourth-generation-run company is now actively seeking to hire Native Americans and form business partnerships with Native-owned vendors and suppliers. It’s also working to more directly acknowledge Native American influence in its marketing efforts. 

Minnetonka in December plans to launch a design collaboration with Adrienne Benjamin, an artist and member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, as its reconciliation advisor. 

Minneapolis-based Minnetonka, which dropped the word “moccasin” from its logo in 2008, started in 1946, one of many companies at the time selling handcrafted moccasins and Native-inspired accessories to roadside gift shops.

Its manufacturing operations are now based in the Dominican Republic and supplemented by factories outside Shanghai, China, according to its website.

Minnetonka is not the first fashion brand to appropriate Native American culture. Urban Outfitters was called out for selling products including a Navajo drinking flask and in 2016 reached a legal settlement with the Navajo Nation.