Have you noticed new items from Lakota Made around the St. Peter Food Co-op? We spent some time chatting with founder Megan L. Schnitker about her Indigenous-woman-owned LLC that provides wild plant medicinals and eco-friendly personal care products to the Co-op and others. Schnitker is an Indigenous Herbalist who has been studying plant medicinals for about 14 years. Read on to learn more about the mission, products, and goals of this important Mankato-based organization…
What inspired you to start your own business?
Necessity and experience. Necessity because we are a single income family with the obvious responsibility to provide for our six daughters.
Experience because I have been making salves and herbal products for close to 14 years. I had previously made salves for a tattoo shop in Rapid City, South Dakota, as well as for my own home for all those years. My husband, Ethan, helped me with the idea of a full business for Lakota Made as something I could do from home and earn a little extra income to help with household expenses. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in my products, but Ethan encouraged me to try it for a year. A year and a half later, I’m running a successful business—I never thought that would be possible.
I also wanted to spread the knowledge of plant medicine, as it’s not common knowledge anymore. People can hugely benefit from plant medicine growing in their own yards and gardens. The push for pollinator gardens also was an inspiration—I believe people should know more about plant benefits not only for themselves, but for the little ecosystems in their yards.
What is the mission of Lakota Made?
Lakota Made’s mission is to sustainably harvest wild plant medicinal and eco-friendly personal care products. By providing plastic and chemical-free products, we can help people transition from large, corporate, mass-produced products that harm the environment to small, locally-made, eco-friendly products. All of our personal care products are made in Mankato, Minnesota using glass or tin packaging—basically anything but plastic. Our packaging must be re-useable or at a minimum, recyclable.
Lakota Made isn’t just products—it’s teaching that plants have a purpose and that they are viable spirits for food and medicine. The intentions of both our products and our teachings are to be more than a consumer—to be aware of plants and their uses while being eco-conscious.
How is Lakota Made different from The Mahkato Revitalization Project (MRP)?
Lakota Made was originally the fundraising effort of Mahkato Revitalization Project. The joint venture was that Lakota Made was an income source for my work in the community, teaching Lakota/Dakota history and culture for MRP. Thanks to the success of Lakota Made, MRP has been able to move forward with bigger projects and collaborations. The two have legally separated into two separate ventures.
Mahkato Revitalization Project’s mission is revitalizing the indigenous culture in south-central Minnesota through art and education. Since the beginning of MRP, the goal has always been to teach about indigenous history and culture to all audiences. MRP has held over 25 classes in the last year with over 300 people in attendance at most. The classes have ranged from Dakota 101 with the Blue Earth Historical Society to Indigenous Wild Plant Medicine classes that individuals in the Mankato area have really shown interest in.
An article in The Free Press this past fall helped launch both entities into what they are today. That article brought a lot of exposure to both efforts which had been slowly gaining speed since their conception.
Tell us more about your bars and salves.
Lakota Made’s soap line is made from a glycerin base with the addition of different organic essential oils and herbs from my garden. Each soap is made in small batches, with the highest quality essential oils, sourced locally or third party verified as organic/eco-friendly. Shampoo bars are plastic-free, easy to use, easy to travel with, and made with quality ingredients. Minimal chemicals are used in the process of creating our products, meaning minimal absorption through the customer’s skin.
Lakota Made’s salves are made from ethically and locally sourced plants, beeswax, and organic carrier oils. The healing properties come from the plants we use—plants combined for their medicinal qualities. Nature provides amazing healing powers through plants and bees. Again, there are no chemicals used in the process to make or preserve the salves, so each one is even safe enough for even consumption (although we don’t recommend it). My 2-year-old has tested this out! My children have been using my salves since they were born for everything from dry skin, scrapes, cuts, and lotion, to diaper rash remedies. It’s incredibly common for my children to tell each other “Just put salve on it”. We joke in my house “Got a rash? Just put salve on it. Bug bite? Just put salve on it. Dry skin? Just put salve on it”.
Why is it important to source local, sustainably-harvested, and wild plants for Lakota Made products?
Plant medicine adhered to the same concepts as local honey. What better to help you than what currently grows in your environment?! I have used plant medicine for most of my life and most things are assisted through the plants that grow near me. There is not a lot of illnesses or injuries that can’t be helped by plants that grow nearby. Mother nature does an amazing job of providing everything we need in our own immediate areas.
It is incredibly important to sustainably harvest so our needs don’t deplete the resources. We have been fed the lie that “more is better” which is not true when it comes to plant medicine. At Lakota Made, we only take what we need and make sure that we leave enough for the generations to come. We also save seeds and over plant. Many of our products are taken from our own garden or wild-harvested, but we are incredibly careful to seek out ingredients in overpopulated or well-established plant colonies so that what we take doesn’t negatively impact the ecosystem in place.
What can we look forward to from Lakota Made in 2020?
Lakota made is constantly evolving—new and better products are always my goals. I am constantly researching and reading to come up with new recipes for products made from local plants. There are lots of classes in the works, as well as new places to obtain products. Weekend vendor events will be picking up as the weather gets warmer. Lakota Made is a member of the River Valley Makers, so we’ll be at their upcoming events.
This interview has been edited. All photos courtesy of Lakota Made.