Healthy Snack Invented on Indian Reservation Now Faces Stiff Corporate Competition


| 8/15/2016 1:37:00 PM


Tags: Pine Ridge Reservation, Native American, Natural Foods, Jay Walljasper,

Pine Ridge Reservation Flag 

The Pine Ridge Indian reservation is not the first place you’d look for good news about creating a new kind of economy that works for everyone. 

This corner of South Dakota includes several of the poorest counties in America, according to census figures. Ninety-seven percent of Pine Ridge’s Lakota Indian population lives below the federal poverty line, reports the American Indian Humanitarian Foundation.  The unemployment rate is well over 50 percent.

Yet these dire conditions—compounded by public health problems like diabetes and addiction—have not snuffed hope.  Growing numbers of Pine Ridge residents are embracing their own traditions as a path toward healing and economic self-sufficiency. 

The Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, for instance, is moving forward on an ambitious set of projects, including a worker-owned construction company, a worker-owned IT firm and  a farm to combat lack of access to nutritious food.

Even more surprising, Pine Ridge is home to a fast-growing natural foods food company, which created a healthy new product in the booming snack food industry. Native American Natural Foods was inspired by wasna (a concoction of cured buffalo meat and berries) to invent the Tanka bar—which is now for sale at Whole Foods, Costco, Amazon.com, natural food stores and other groceries across the nation.  Available as a protein bar,  a meat stick and in bite-size bits packaged with Lakota-style trail mix, the all-natural snack features flavors like spicy pepper, apple orange peel, jalapeno and slow-smoked original.