From coffee to clothes, and from anti-aging serum to IT services, there’s often a Native alternative to mainstream shopping. Here’s a list of 6 things you didn’t know you could buy Native:
The Chickasaw-owned company known for its decadent chocolate-enrobed potato chips is now offering gourmet chocolaty coffee.
Bedre Fine Chocolates, located on I-35 in Oklahoma, has gained a reputation for melt-in-your-mouth delicacies that often combine salty with sweet. Purchased by the Chickasaw Nation in 2000, Bedre operates a retail store in Oklahoma—where visitors can also watch the chocolate being made—and ships to locations across the nation. Customers can also buy online.
“We focus on gourmet-style chocolate,” said Niclas Carlsson, interim general manager. “It’s a very clean chocolate, not a lot of additives. Mainly our focus is geared toward the chocolate connoisseur, the people who really understand good chocolate.”
The company last year unveiled its new line of premium coffees mixed with velvety milk or dark chocolate.
“It’s been a good seller,” Carlsson said. “People love the combination of chocolate and coffee.”
Owner Jessica Metcalfe launched the store in May 2012 in response to the highly publicized legal case that pitted the Navajo Nation against Urban Outfitters in a lawsuit over trademarks.
“At that time, there wasn’t a space for the average person to buy Native-made fashion,” Metcalfe said. “I decided to create that space.”
About 50 artists contribute apparel to the boutique, and prices range from $10 to $2,000. Customers can shop for everything from Columbus T-shirts to one-of-a-kind beaded purses.
“My idea was to go beyond the expected, beyond the stereotype, to allow any Native artist to make fashion,” Metcalfe said. “The stereotype is that everything Native has to have fringe, feathers and turquoise. We go beyond that.”
Created by a set of triplets in Bethel, Alaska, the serum is available online and in high-end stores throughout Alaska.
“We call it Quyung-lii, which means ‘the potent one,’” said Michelle Sparck, president of Arxotica. “We’ve always had gorgeous skin as a people, so we’re offering that to everyone else.”
The serum is an expensive pick, however, Sparck said. Vials sell for as much as $300 each. For the smaller budget, the company also sells soap and lip balm.
NOVA Corporation, wholly owned and operated by the Navajo Nation, bases its business model on the famed Navajo Code Talkers who served during World War II. Established in 2004, NOVA offers IT services to government and commercial customers, as well as cybersecurity, infrastructure development, facility construction and secure data center services.
“In World War II, members of the Navajo Tribe were called upon to utilize their language in transmitting sensitive military intel,” said Oscencio Tom, a spokesman for the company. “Today, NOVA Corporation carries that same legacy.”
NOVA also holds an exclusive agreement to resell Apple products in Indian Country. As an Apple-authorized reseller, the company offers a full range of iPads, iPhones, Macs and accessories.
An agreement with Hewlett-Packard also allows NOVA to sell laptops and printers to Native customers.
At the heart of Seminole country in Florida are citrus groves.
The tribe, always in the citrus business, in modern history has grown oranges, lemons and tangerines. Now the majority owner of Seminole Pride Noble, the tribe sells specialty juices to grocers as far north as Washington, D.C.
The signature product is the tangerine juice, said John Dembeck, chief operating officer of Seminole Brand Development.
“It’s the best in the world,” he said. “That’s been the staple for the product line since 1992.”
Seminole Noble Pride is a partnership between the Seminole Tribe and Roe Citrus Grove, a family-owned business operating since 1927. The company processes fruit from 4,000 trees every year—with 20 percent of those trees growing on tribal land, Dembeck said.
In addition to tangerine juice, the company sells orange and grapefruit juices, a royal mandarin greens juice with kale and spinach, and an organic lemonade with aloe and mint.
America’s first meat and fruit energy bar, Tanka combines buffalo meat and cranberries for an all-natural, protein-packed snack. The bar is based on the Native concept of “wasna,” or using fruit to preserve meat.
Tanka Bars, Tanka Bites and Tanka Sticks are available in three flavors and sold at more than 10,000 grocery stores, whole food outlets and REI locations spanning all 50 states. They can also be purchased online.
“It’s a 1-ounce bar with a huge mission and goal,” said Mark Tilsen, president and co-founder of Native American Natural Foods. “We wanted to create a brand that was powerful enough to change the situation on the reservation.”
Based on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Native American Natural Foods also strives to help Native buffalo producers be successful.
“We wanted to create a brand that could give the producers better money, return buffalo to the land and restore the prairie,” Tilsen said. “Restoring buffalo is key to restoring the economy and health of the land and people.”