tanka cafe - KOTA Territory News

New business on Pine Ridge promotes entrepreneurship and healthy lifestyles


Katy Eisenbraun

Entrepreneurship and employment opportunities are sparse on KOTA Territory Indian Reservations.  That plays a large role in the high unemployment rate there. But that troubling trend may be turning around.

The E-Tanka Cafe brings more than just healthy food to Kyle.  It gives Native American youth the rare opportunity to work on the reservation.  

'There is not that many places on the rez where we can employ young people," Thunder Valley Director Nick Tilson said.   

"That's why Native American Natural Foods Company and a non-profit group named Thunder Valley, partnered to open the café.  

"For 90-percent of them this will be the first job they ever had and it's something simple that gives them chance to get out and learn customer service and financial skills," Tilson said. 

Tilson says the café not only gives these youth a chance to work, but provides people in the community internet access and healthy food alternatives.  

"We're trying to change the bad habits especially staring at a young age," Stephanie Pourier, the Project Manager said.  

The Tanka Café offers only healthy food and drinks, which include sports drinks, baked chips and all-buffalo 'Tanka Dogs.'  Their low fat menu is part of the Tanka Café project to promote healthy lifestyles and financial growth on the reservation.  And if recent statistics are any indicator, their dual objective is a worthy cause. 

Almost half of the Pine Ridge population has Diabetes and their unemployment rate is 15 times higher than the national average. 

Those are problems Tilson says they must combat themselves. 

"Nobody is going to do it for us.   If we are going to change our reservation we are going to have to do it ourselves," Tilson said. 

One child and one business at a time.   

The café plans to hire 15 teens this summer.  They are open Monday through Friday from 11 to 5 and on Saturdays beginning next month.

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