Southwest Wisconsin’s Kickapoo Coffee have announced that after 14 years in existence, the specialty coffee roaster will change names. In a statement released yesterday, April 17th, owners TJ Semanchin and Caleb Nicholes cite appropriation as the reason the company has opted for the wholesale change.
According to the press release, Semanchin and Nicholes chose the name Kickapoo when starting their coffee company back in 2005 “with the intention of honoring the place where our business has its roots: the Kickapoo River Valley.” They were at that time unaware that Kickapoo—an Algonquin word meaning “one who goes there, then here”—is also the name of an indigenous people that once inhabited the area. There are currently four tribes in the Native American Kickapoo Nation: the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, and the Mexican-Kickapoos.
“Holding onto the name was not consistent with our values,” Semanchin tells Sprudge. “We really started asking ourselves the hard questions within the last year… one question led to another… and once we allowed ourselves to take the blinders off of some willful ignorance, it just seems like something we had to do.”
Per the company’s statement, “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.” Semanchin tells Sprudge that the coffee company has a face-to-face meeting with the leadership of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma in the coming weeks as part of an ongoing conversation with the different tribes. The point of these conversations, according to Semanchin, is to own up to their mistake and keep the lines of communication open. Semanchin goes on to make clear that the company isn’t seeking any labor, emotional or physical, from the Kickapoo Nation: “we know this is our problem not [theirs].”
The new name for the coffee company has yet to be decided and is expected to roll out in early 2020. According to the press release, the new name will seek to accomplish Semanchin and Nicholes’ original intention in picking the Kickapoo name: “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.” Semanchin tells Sprudge that the announcement of the change doesn’t coincide with the rebrand itself to allow their mistake to be seen in its own light. “We didn’t want a new name and marketing blitz gloss over [this issue].”
In an effort to remain transparent about everything associated with the Kickapoo name, Semanchin and Nicholes will be hosting a Q&A session via Instagram Live at 12:00pm CST today, April 18th. The company will also respond to questions, comments, or concerns sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read the full statement, visit Kickapoo Coffee's official website.
Top image via Milwaukee: Inside Scott Lucey’s New Kickapoo Coffee Cafe