Wisconsin-based roasting and retail company Kickapoo Coffee has announced it is changing its name, citing appropriation of the Kickapoo people. The new brand has yet to be announced.
Kickapoo Coffee, now 14 years old, is based in Viroqua, a small town in Southwest Wisconsin’s picturesque Driftless region, where the winding Kickapoo River Valley is surrounded by forested hills and sandstone cliffs.
“By using Kickapoo, we claimed a name that was never ours to take,” Kickapoo Coffee Co-Founder and Co-Owner TJ Semanchin said in a company announcement of the forthcoming name change. “The decision to use the name, and to continue to roast under it, was an act of appropriation.”
Kickapoo is a name for the Algonquin-speaking Native American and Indigenous Mexican people of the Kickapoo Nation. There are currently three federally recognized Kickapoo tribes in the United States — in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas — plus indigenous Kickapoo people in parts of Mexico.
The company has not yet announced a new name, though Semanchin said a new brand should be introduced in early 2020. The coffee company has been wrestling with the cultural concerns surrounding its name since at least December of last year, when it wrote on its website, “Now many of our consumers might not recognize Kickapoo Coffee as a company from the Kickapoo River Valley of Wisconsin, but as a coffee company with the name of an American Indian tribe with no real connection to speak of.”
The company said it reached out to each of the three Kickapoo tribes in the United States to apologize for using the name. In today’s announcement, the company said none of the tribes were aware of the name usage, and that the company itself had not previously been aware of the existence of the tribes. However, a simple Google search of the word “Kickapoo” shows prominent results for both uses.
“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,” David Pacheco, chairman of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, said in the company’s release.
Since its earliest days, Kickapoo has remained one of the most progressive coffee companies in the country. Two years ago, Kickapoo announced it was initiating a floor FOB price of $2.75 for its green coffee, in order to ensure better ensure farmers in its supply chain can maintain a profit. In 2015, the company became one of the first commercial roasters in the country to be powered entirely by solar energy.
Today, Kickapoo Coffee maintains its Viroqua roastery, which supplies wholesale clients throughout the country, plus three branded cafes of its own, in Milwaukee’s Third Ward, on Viroqua’s Main Street, and in the Lake Superior town of Bayfield.
Nick Brown is the editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. Feedback and story ideas are welcome at publisher (at) dailycoffeenews.com, or see the "About Us" page for contact information.