By Lee Egerstrom
The holiday season brings a cultural mix of gift-giving with friends and loved one and celebrating specials foods. Tribal and Indigenous entrepreneurs are making it easier for online shoppers to find special Indigenous products to send this year.
Osage entrepreneurs from a base in Denver offer nationwide distribution of prominent Indigenous food products and ship meals through their Tocabe Indigenous Marketplace.
Some of these products come from Minnesota tribes and Native farms. Tocabe lists Red Lake Nation Foods, Wozupi Tribal Gardens, and Spirit Lake Native Farms as “partners,” or as key suppliers.
Also marketing through the Internet, Red Lake Nation is a large supplier of food products, art gifts and other Indigenous produced products through Nawapo, its Bemidji based marketing company. Like Tocabe, Nawapo vets its suppliers to guarantee authentic foods, ingredients, art works and other gifts.
Both these marketing companies share some suppliers listed as business partners. For Tocabe, Red Lake Nation Foods has a variety of products including wild rice and syrups on its menu and product offerings. Wozupi Tribal Gardens, a unit of Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and Spirit Lake Native Farms on the Fond du Lac reservation, both have maple syrup products on that firm’s lists.
Cheyenne River Buffalo Co. of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota is a supplier of bison meat products for Tocabe. Others vendors include Sakari Farms, a women-owned Native food company from Tumalo, Ore., that provides salts, teas and hot sauces; and Navajo Mike’s, from Arizona, that supplies hot sauce and barbeque sauces along with herbs and spices.
Two companies offer blue corn, white corn and yellow corn products. They are Ramona Farms and Bow & Arrow, units of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in Colorado.
Seka Hills, from the Yocha Dehe tribe in Northern California, makes olive oils, elderberry balsamic vinegar and honey.
The Tocabe Indigenous Marketplace is an extension of a Denver restaurant owned by Matt Chandra and Ben Jacobs (Osage Nation). They explain their venture was inspired by another restaurant, Grayhorse: An American Indian Eatery, which the Jacobs family started in 1989.
“Founded over 14 years ago as Tocabe: An American Indian Eatery, our mission has always been to remove the barriers and challenges that make Native foods inaccessible,” they explain. The Marketplace business aim is to simplify the supply chain “by building relationships between local communities and Native producers,” they said.
Nawapo, which means “to take provisions along” in Ojibwe, states its purpose is to serve both buyers and sellers by authenticating the merchandise.
With that, it markets artworks and gift item products beyond its Native food offerings. It explains:
“By choosing Nawapo, you not only get access to a wide range of authentic and culturally significant products but also contribute to the preservation of Native American heritage. Our vendors’ dedication and craftsmanship shine through in every item they create, making each purchase a meaningful and impactful experience.
“We invite you to explore the profiles of our vendors, learn about their artistic journey, and understand the cultural significance behind the products they offer.”
Those outside vendors include Seka Hills and Sakari Farms, suppliers to Tocabe as well.
Other Native-owned vendors Nawapo lists include Native American Tea Co. of Aberdeen, S.D.; KC’s Best Wild Rice, a Bemidji-based brand of Red Lake Foods; Thunder Island Coffee from the Shinnecock Indian Reservation in New York, and Woodenknife Co, a Lakota fry bread mix maker from the Badlands. Tribal stores and select retailers have special Native food and gift items available for the holidays and year around.
Nawapo products can be accessed at https://nawapo.com.
And Tocabe Indigenous Marketplace products and prepared meals can be accessed at https://shoptocabe.com.