Here at Trade, we value our relationships with each of our roasting partners. Just as we are committed to making specialty coffee accessible for everyone, we recognize when those efforts are echoed from our roasters as well.
Kickapoo Coffee, based in Viroqua, Wisconsin, has a longstanding commitment to sustainability and social change. They're the first roaster in the country to be completely solar-powered, and they maintain a transparent and high minimum payment for farmers they source coffee from.
Now, after 14 years of operation, Kickapoo Coffee has decided to change their name, citing cultural appropriation of The Native American Kickapoo Nation. In a conversation with Shizue RocheAdachi, Communication and Outreach Specialist, she likened the conversation to a peeling back of the layers of issues within specialty coffee, such as various forms of appropriation within a white-male dominated industry. We are so proud of our partnership with this team, and greatly appreciate their thoughtful approach to these important and difficult conversations.
Below is the announcement in their own words, and in addition to this, they are hosting a session on Instagram Live at 12 pm CDT, which you can find at @kickapoocoffee.
Kickapoo Coffee’s Founders Announce Name Change
Rural Wisconsin-Based Roaster Cites Their Intention to Honor the Kickapoo Valley Led to Appropriation of Kickapoo Nation’s Name
Kickapoo Coffee’s founders and co-owners, TJ Semanchin and Caleb Nicholes, announced today their decision to change the name of their company after fourteen years.
“When Kickapoo Coffee was founded in 2005, we chose the name with the intention of honoring the place where our business has its roots: the Kickapoo River Valley,” Semanchin explains, “But Kickapoo is not simply the name given to a river. The Kickapoo are a People.”
The Native American Kickapoo Nation is composed of the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, and the Mexican-Kickapoos.
“By using Kickapoo,” says Semanchin, “we claimed a name that was never ours to take. The decision to use the name, and to continue to roast under it, was an act of appropriation.”
Semanchin and Nicholes have apologized directly to the three US-based Kickapoo Tribes, all of which were unaware of the name use until the company reached out last fall, and have shared their decision to change the company’s name with each Tribe’s leadership.
"It was surprising in this modern day that they didn't know about the Kickapoo Tribe, and not just us, but also in Kansas and Texas," commented David Pacheco, Chairman of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma.
“This announcement is just the first step,” Nicholes noted. “We are dedicated to educating ourselves and approaching this work with humility and vulnerability. It is our intention to hold space for a thoughtful dialogue. As a company committed to social justice and the pursuit of a more fair and equitable world, we recognize that this work begins with us.”
On their new name, Semanchin stated the company does not have one to announce at this time. “We have just begun the process and will roll out our new brand in early 2020. A pride in the place where we live, roast, and raise our families remains at the heart of what we do. Our new name will better reflect this in an honest, authentic, and respectful manner.”