Native-based coffee company works to create sense of community, ownership

August 09, 2013

Hoka! Coffee is a brand new Native company on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Photos are from the by Hoka! Coffee Facebook page and used with permission.
When Sharice Davids wanted to start a business to help the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where she lives, she chose one of her biggest passions -- coffee.

"I think as Native people we need to really start to grow businesses and economy for ourselves and with each other," she said. "I want Hoka! Coffee to be a mechanism by which young people learn about what it takes to start something. It doesn't have to be a business but starting a business can be a great tool for people to learn a lot of life skills."

Hoka! Coffee Company operates out of space in Pine Ridge Village on the reservation. The company has two missions -- "to create a roasting company on the Reservation, which will provide jobs and economic growth for the Pine Ridge Reservation and its community" and to buy its beans from indigenous smallholder farms "who guaranteed fair working conditions and a fair share for their product."

Hoka! made its debut at the recent Oglala Lakota Nation Wacipi (Pow Wow) in Pine Ridge, SD, where they sold freshly made hot and iced coffee as well as bags of the Hoka! coffee beans. They went through so much coffee at their service station that they had to close early on one of the nights. The team did not want to have to turn anyone away the next day so our president Mark Tilsen grabbed more supplies (milk and syrups) for the Hoka! team to make more coffee so they wouldn't run out again.

Sharice Davids at the Hoka! booth at the Oglala Lakota Nation Wacipi.
Sharice Davids at the Hoka! booth at the Oglala Lakota Nation Wacipi.

Gabby Rodriguez, a senior at Red Cloud School in Pine Ridge, SD, and local clinical psychologist Dr. Alicia Mousseau working the booth.
Gabby Rodriguez, a senior at Red Cloud School in Pine Ridge, SD, and
local clinical psychologist Dr. Alicia Mousseau working the booth.


The students working with Hoka! said they have already gained some life experiences from being on the team.

"I really enjoyed being a part of a young enterprise with such great potential," Gabby said.

Another Red Cloud senior, Colton FourFive Sierra, said, "I was excited to help so much on the start up of a small business."

When Ms. Davids asked what they learned, Colton said he learned about resilience, which Ms. Davids told them prior was an indicator of success. He said he felt resilient because sometimes people didn't want to try or buy the coffee but he wasn't discouraged.

"What better life skill for someone to take away from this than resilience," Ms. Davids said.

Colton and Gabby pack bags of Hoka! coffee beans.
Colton and Gabby pack bags of Hoka! coffee beans.

Pow Wow dancer Cante Knight shows his Hoka! support.
Pow Wow dancer Cante Knight shows his Hoka! support.

Tanka team member and Hoka! supporter, Mark Kenneth, at the Hoka! stand.
Tanka team member and Hoka! supporter, Mark Kenneth, at the Hoka! stand.

Elaine YellowHorse and Tate' Locust -- satisfied customers!
Elaine YellowHorse and Tate' Locust -- satisfied customers!

"I am so excited to see what this community can do with this company," Ms. Davids said. "It's not just mine or me, it's ours and it's us."

Hoka! Coffee Company's goal is to put a roasting facility on the reservation. You can connect with them and order at Hoka! Coffee Company

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