Moccasin brand apologizes to Native Americans for making the shoes

Now moccasins are racist! Minnetonka APOLOGIZES for making the traditional shoes for 75 YEARS because it is NOT a Native American-owned business

  • Minnetonka issued a statement Monday saying it had made money off the back of its ‘appropriation’ of Native American culture   
  • CEO David Miller admitted his firm is not a Native-owned business, and promised to do more to support Indigenous communities in the future
  • The company has also hired Adrienne Benjamin – a member of the tribe Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe – as a reconciliation advisor
  • Minnetonka timed the apology to coincide with Indigenous Peoples’ Day  
  • The move is the latest to tackle brands’ use of Native American culture with NFL team the Washington Redskins rebranding as the Washington Football Team

A Minnesota-based shoe firm has apologized for making moccasins because it is not owned by Native Americans, who pioneered the design of the traditional footwear. 

Popular brand Minnetonka issued a statement Monday admitting the company had made money through ‘appropriation’ of Native American culture over the last 75 years.  

‘We deeply and meaningfully apologize for having benefited from selling Native-inspired designs without directly honoring Native culture or communities,’ the statement read.  

Minnetonka, which has been making its popular shoes since 1964, timed the apology to coincide with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

Minnetonka President Jori Miller Sherer, Reconciliation Adviser Adrienne Benjamin and CEO David Miller (from left to right)

Minnesota-based shoe firm Minnetonka has apologized for making moccasins despite not being owned by Native Americans, who pioneered the design of the traditional footwear

CEO David Miller said was issuing the statement to acknowledge that the company is not a Native-owned business, and said he promised to do more to support Indigenous communities in the future.

Miller explained that the company first publicly conceded its use of Native culture in the summer of 2020, and added that he now wanted to make a public apology.

Cultural appropriation is the term used to describe when person or group adopts visual elements of an often-persecuted ethnicity’s identity without acknowledging it. It has become a hot-button issue in recent years. 

White people wearing traditionally-black hairstyles like cornrow braids, or people dressing in Native American headgear, or as Mexican Dia De Muertos figures for Halloween have all sparked anger.

Critics of that outrage say people accused of cultural appropriation are often ‘appreciating’ other aspects of a culture, and not mocking it. 

‘We first publicly acknowledged our appropriation in the summer of 2020, but it was long overdue,’ Miller said in his apology. 

‘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.’    

Minnetoka announced that it had also hired ‘reconciliation advisor’ Adrienne Benjamin to help with its outreach to Native American people. 

She is a Minnesotan, Anishinaabe, and a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe – a federally-recognized American Indian tribe based in east-central Minnesota.

The shoe firm went on to say that it is boosting its ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ efforts in a bid to ensure minority groups are better represented.

And it says it plans to partner with Native American artists to try and bring a more authentic slants to future collections.  

To better address the needs of the Native American community, Minnetonka has hired Adrienne Benjamin (above). She is a Minnesotan, Anishinaabe, and a member of the tribe Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe


The company has been making moccasins (including the one’s above) since 1964 and admitted it has profited from ‘appropriating’ Native American culture

In the past year, Minnetonka has done business with two different Native-owned companies, the company said.

It will now seek out more partnerships with Native-owned businesses as vendors and suppliers. 

The company has been making moccasins since 1964.  

The move is just the latest in a string of efforts by brands condemned for using Native American iconography despite the persecution inflicted on the ethnic group that inspired them. 

NFL team the Washington Redskins recently rebranded as the Washington Football Team after years of criticism from Native American groups, who said the term is a racial slur. 

Action was finally taken after Native leaders and organizations wrote to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in July 2020 demanding an immediate end to Washington’s use of the name.

The move is just the latest in a string of efforts by brands to acknowledge and deal with their use of Native American culture. NFL team the Washington Redskins recently rebranded as the Washington Football Team. Pictured a Washington Redskins Fan at a 2019 game

THE HISTORY OF MOCCASINS:

Moccasins were originally made and worn by North American Indians, with different tribes having their own variations on the style. 

The footwear was made using the leftover hide of animals – typically deer – which was then hand sewn to make shoes. 

Traditionally, moccasins had gathered toes which create a puckered U-shape.

Some shoes were fitted with sheepskin inside to keep the wearer warm in the cold and fringes were also often attached on the heel to help cover up the footprints of the wearer.  

The upper part of the shoe was often adorned with embroidery or beading.

European settlers and fur traders then adopted the shoes when they traveled to America in the 1500s. 

The moccasin then became more mainstream when G H Bass launched its Weejun shoe in 1936, which was based on the traditional moccasin style.

Today, several Western brands have launched their own fashion lines of moccasin style shoes. 

In August, the club went one step further by banning Native American-inspired face paint and headdresses at home games.  

Last week, Joe Biden became the first US president to recognize October 11 in honor of Native Americans, rather than Christopher Columbus.

Biden issued a presidential proclamation on Friday commemorating the day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

October 11 has long been celebrated as Columbus Day, honoring the Italian colonialist and explorer who traveled to North America in the 1500s. 

Biden acknowledged the suffering of Native Americans after Columbus and other European settlers invaded.  

‘Today, we also acknowledge the painful history of wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities. It is a measure of our greatness as a Nation that we do not seek to bury these shameful episodes of our past — that we face them honestly, we bring them to the light, and we do all we can to address them,’ Biden wrote.  

Ten US states including Minnesota, as well as Washington DC had already replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in recent years.  

Kamala Harris raised eyebrows after she vowed to address the ‘shameful past’ of America’s European explorers as she spoke at the National Congress of American Indians 78th Annual Convention, in Portland, Oregon, Tuesday.

Harris saying the explorers ‘ushered in a wave of devastation’ for Native Americans when they arrived 500 years ago. 

‘Since 1934, every October, the United States has recognized the voyage of the European explorers who first landed on the shores of the Americas,’ she said.

‘But that is not the whole story. That has never been the whole story.

‘Those explorers ushered in a wave of devastation for Tribal nations — perpetrating violence, stealing land, and spreading disease.’ 

Harris said that the Biden administration would work to right the wrongs inflicted on Native American communities for generations. 

She has been repeatedly condemned for failing to tackle the ongoing southern border crisis, which has seen migrants arrive in the US in their thousands, with many forced to live in appalling and dangerous conditions.  

Kamala Harris on Tuesday addressed the National Congress of American Indians, and promised to work to right the historic wrongs committed by European explorers

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