It all began in 2013 with a vision to create an online marketplace that offered a wide variety of Native products – everything from soaps to sweet grass tea.
Owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, SweetGrass Trading Company – www.sweetgrasstradingco.com, is a subsidiary of Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development arm for the Winnebago Tribe. The online store offers Native American products from Tribes across the United States and was developed after the Ho-Chunk Trading Group noticed there was no place to buy Native products all in one place. The Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) is also proud to have SweetGrass as members of our organization.
“We have attended the IAC annual conference and presented as exhibitors,” noted Adam Bowen – Ho-Chunk Trading Group Director. “The relationships we have made attending these events have been very valuable in helping SweetGrass grow and evolve.”
Molly Roe is an Account Manager and spokeswoman for SweetGrass. Roe is a member of the Ioway Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and grew up in Falls City, Neb., and began her service with SweetGrass as a brand ambassador before moving into her manager role, “I grew up about 30 minutes away from the reservation. Working for SweetGrass has been a really good way to connect with my culture.”
Roe has been pivotal to a SweetGrass recipe video project that highlights traditional ingredients sold by SweetGrass in some “modern” dishes, “The videos are my hands making the foods, using our traditional ingredients in recipes with a modern spin. Using traditional ingredients is a way to heal and connect more with our Native culture.”
Products sold from the SweetGrass website are purchased from Native producers and then stored at a SweetGrass warehouse at Winnebago and distributed from there. Roe said they are currently working with 20 to 25 Native sellers and their team wants to expand their reach.
Some examples of SweetGrass offerings include: ArXotica – an Alaska-owned business by Native triplet sisters who forage all their own plant and flower materials to make soaps, oils, and serums. Another business, Ioway, located in White Cloud, Kan. produces honey and makes various products such as lip balms and lotions. SweetGrass works with numerous other Tribes and Tribal entities to offer Native American products. Overall, SweetGrass currently offers primarily non-perishable items on their website.
Roe is enthusiastic about building their online presence from her home office based out of Northern California where her husband serves as a percussionist in the Air Force Band. She admitted, “I am really ready to get back to in-person conferences. I love networking face-to-face and meeting people. I really love that I get to meet with all sorts of different types of people. I hope to continue to help SweetGrass grow and bring on more customers.”
“Native food is really important for Native people to eat. It has a positive impact on our health after years of turmoil,” Roe said in closing. “It is a really important tradition to keep going.”
Connect with SweetGrass and Roe at:
Molly Roe, M.A. | Account Manager | 402-619-0320 | firstname.lastname@example.org