Chairman Lester Randall
Published November 26, 2019
VIROQUA, Wis. –– This past April, Kickapoo Coffee announced they would be changing their name. Countless questions about the history of the Kickapoo name and it’s connection to the region followed.
On December 5th, Tribal Chairman, Lester Randall, of the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas will headline a public event in downtown Viroqua at the historic Temple Theatre. In the Kickapoo River Valley, countless businesses and organizations use “Kickapoo” in their name to pay homage to the local Kickapoo River. This will be the first time a representative of the Kickapoo Nation has been invited to publicly address the history and use of their name in the region.
The Indigenous Kickapoo Nation is composed of the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma and the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas. The Kickapoo originally lived in lands around the Great Lakes. They were first encountered by Europeans near Lake Erie in modern-day northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan, but were forced to relocate to modern-day Wisconsin during the 17th century.
The event is being hosted by Kickapoo Coffee Roasters, a Viroqua-based coffee company that announced their commitment to change their name in 2020 this past April, citing the unintended appropriation of the Kickapoo name. In the following months, they traveled to visit the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma and hosted Chairman Lester Randall at the roastery.
“Our identity as a proud Indigenous Nation today is intimately tied to the story of our ancestors. So when we visited the Viroqua area this past summer, it was pretty unsettling to see our name everywhere, used outside of the context of who we are as a people,” explained Chairman Randall. “We certainly aren’t the only Tribe to learn that our name exists today as a reference to geographical features, like the Kickapoo River; this is a reality that exists across Indian Country. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share our story in our own words with the community and begin this important healing process together.”
Modeled after a fireside chat, Chairman Lester Randall will be joined on stage by Kickapoo language instructor, Mosiah Bluecloud, of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, and Jenny Flinders of the University of Kansas. Flinders has been working closely with Chairman Lester Randall to research the history of the Kickapoo in the Upper Midwest and recently partnered with him to open the Kickapoo Tribal Museum on the Kickapoo Reservation in Kansas.
“When we announced our name change, there were lots of questions that arose about why we had done it and whether is was fair to call our use of the name an ‘appropriation.’ After getting to know Lester and Jenny, and learning more about the Kickapoo Nation’s history in modern day Wisconsin, it became clear that we needed to bring this conversation back to our community,” explained Shizue RocheAdachi, the Brand and Marketing Manager for Kickapoo Coffee who was instrumental in the company’s decision to change the name and who will be moderating the event.
“Our hope is to invite the story of the Kickapoo People back into our story of the Kickapoo River Valley and the place we all call home,” shared Kickapoo Coffee co-owner, TJ Semanchin, when asked about the company’s intentions for the event. “This event also gives us an opportunity to share our path as a company––and as individuals––towards a greater awareness of our shared history and an owning of our blindspots. We are immensely grateful for Chairman Randall’s partnership and hope this marks the beginning of a renewed relationship with the Kickapoo Nation for our community.”
The free event will take place at the Temple Theatre in downtown Viroqua on Thursday, December 5th from 6:00-7:30 p.m. Complementary hors d’oeuvres will be available in the lobby of the Temple Theatre prior to the event and a reception will immediately follow at the Kickapoo Cafe, located at 302 S. Main St., Viroqua. Individuals can reserve their seats at kickapoocoffee.com/events