NDN Fund • Stories

The Sustainable Lakota Business Bringing Indigenized Products to the World

NDN Fund, the impact investing arm of NDN Collective, is excited to close its first 2024 loan with Native Botanicals. Our newest loan relative is a Lakota family-owned business that provides traditional Indigenous remedies using sustainable practices.

Native Botanicals was founded by Shilo and Shawna Clifford, who began creating traditional remedies with the goal of sharing the healing benefits of Lakota medicines with their family. Shilo and Shawna have been growing medicines for about 15 years, using knowledge that was passed down to them from mentors and elders in their community. 

They started with remedies like wahpé waštemna (wild bergamot) for their twins’ colic in 2017. During the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, their business grew in response to the need for traditional medicines and products that were easy to share with their community. Since then, Native Botanicals has focused on increasing access to traditional Indigenous medicines and giving their community the ability to have more health and wellness choices.

“Native Botanicals uses a portion of their profits for replanting initiatives, ensuring medicines are replanted for future generations.”

Shawna & Shilo Clifford of Native Botanicals with their twins. Photo courtesy of Native Botanicals.

Native Botanicals now offers a variety of products, ranging from liquid smudges to herbal tinctures and hand-crafted topicals, all made with homegrown herbs. In addition to their traditional remedies, Native Botanicals also uses a portion of their profits for replanting initiatives, ensuring medicines are replanted for future generations. The replanting efforts also aid with habitat loss and overharvesting, which has been a threat Indigenous medicines in recent years. 

“By reintroducing Native plants and enhancing biodiversity, we’re fostering a healthier ecosystem and a deeper understanding of our interconnectedness with the land. The full circle of planting, harvesting, using medicines, and healing strengthens our relationship to the land and to each other,” the Cliffords said. 

Their replanting initiative is an example of what it means to operate regeneratively, creating models for sustainable land use and management.

Shawna Clifford gathering sage with a Native Botanicals tote bag. Photo courtesy of Native Botanicals.

Being based in South Dakota, Native Botanicals found alignment with NDN Collective through projects that shared similar goals of defending the land, developing Indigenous sovereignty, and decolonizing ways of being. Shilo and Shawna connected with NDN Fund, the lending and impact investing arm of our Collective, which provided the power building and access to capital the business needed to grow and meet rising demand for their products.

NDN Fund worked alongside Shilo and Shawna to provide power building resources that helped build the capacity of the business and prepare for the loan. After some preparation, the SEEDING (Social Enterprise & Economic Development for Indigenous Growth) loan from NDN Fund was ready to be underwritten and funded. 

“The NDN Fund loan is a game-changer for us, providing the necessary capital to scale our operations thoughtfully and sustainably.”

– Shawna Clifford, Native Botanicals

Native Botanicals plans to build a small manufacturing facility on the reservation to increase production capacity and be a hub for replanting initiatives and educational efforts. The expansion will allow Native Botanicals to share the healing power of Lakota medicines with more communities. 

Shilo Clifford gathering wild bergamot. Photo courtesy of Native Botanicals.

In the future, Native Botanicals envisions expanding and scaling their land to support growing operations. Eventually, Shilo and Shawna hope to establish a healing center focused on Lakota healing practices and philosophy. This center would also be a place where they can continue to share the power and wisdom of traditional medicines, implementing community education. 

“We are profoundly grateful for the opportunity to pursue this work and for the support of our community, NDN Collective, NDN Fund, and all our partners. It’s something that’s very close to our hearts,” they said. “Our journey with Native Botanicals is a testament to the power of dreams, community, and the enduring strength of our cultural heritage. Our children and all youth are what inspires us to keep going. Wopila for the continued support and belief in our vision.” 

For more information and to support our newest loan relative, go to https://realnativebotanicals.com/

To read more about NDN Fund, other businesses and loan relatives, visit https://ndncollective.org/loans/