NEW YORK (AP) – Moccasin maker Minnetonka has publicly apologized for making money from indigenous culture and has pledged to do more to support indigenous communities in the future after 75 years of operation.
In a statement released Monday on the company’s website, Minnetonka CEO David Miller said the company was not owned by indigenous people. He noted that the Minneapolis-based company confirmed its assignment in the summer of 2020, but Miller said the public apology was long overdue.
“We deeply and meaningfully apologize for benefiting from the sale of indigenous inspired designs without direct respect for indigenous culture or communities,” Miller said. “Even though Minnetonka has gone beyond our initial product line, moccasins remain a core part of our brand, and in 2020 we have begun to reinforce our commitment to the culture we owe so much.”
The company has timed the apology for Indigenous Peoples Day. On Friday, President Biden issued a proclamation to mark October 11 as a day in honor of Native Americans, marking the first President of the United States to do so.
Minnetonka said it has hired Adrienne Benjamin as a reconciliation advisor to better meet the needs of the Indian community. She is a resident of Minnesota, Anishinaabe, and a member of the Ojibwe Mille Lacs Band.
The company said it is also making a concerted effort to improve diversity, fairness and inclusion of under-represented groups on Minnetonka. He added that he made changes to the language in which he tells his story and describes his products. He also noted that he is looking to collaborate with local indigenous artists and designers and is looking for potential partners for future collections.
Minnetonka will also seek to expand partnerships with Aboriginal-owned businesses as vendors and suppliers. The company said it did business with two different indigenous-owned companies last year.