Kickapoo Coffee founders plan name change after acknowledging unintended appropriation
Owners of southwest Wisconsin’s specialty coffee roaster announced that after 14 years it will change the company name, citing appropriation as the reason.
TJ Semanchin and Caleb Nicholes released a statement on April 17 about their decision. Kickapoo Coffee also co-own and operate three cafes across the state, in Milwaukee, Viroqua, and Bayfield, and will continue to operate under the name Kickapoo Coffee until January of 2020.
“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 explained, “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 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.”