Minnetonka shoe brand apologizes for profiting off Native American imagery

Minnetonka, a popular Minnesota-based shoe brand known for its moccasins, has apologized to Native communities across the country for profiting off of designs inspired by Native culture.

The apology from Minnetonka came on Monday, celebrated as Indigenous People’s Day in the state.

“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,” the company wrote in the statement. “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.”

Minnetonka has been a family-owned business since 1946, and in the statement the family noted that they had been asked in the past if the brand was Native-owned. It is not.

Moving forward, the brand has hired a Reconciliation Advisor and also created a plan to conduct business with Native-owned companies, work with Native artists and update the language on its website to directly acknowledge the Native influence.

“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,” the statement read.

The announcement from Minnetonka comes as groups across the country reckon with its usage of Native American imagery. The Washington Football Team, for example, got rid of its previous name, a slur for Native Americans, and mascot, a caricature of a Native American man. Elsewhere in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs banned fans from wearing headdresses and other appropriative traditions. For years, Native designs have shown up in fashion and others facets of popular culture without appropriate credit or context — to much criticism.

Ten states, including Minnesota, and Washington D.C. have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, to recognize the Native populations that were displaced and decimated after Christopher Columbus and other European explorers reached North America.

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