Cultural heritage months are usually a time to focus on small businesses that are owned and operated by communities of color. Yet, Native American heritage month is often overshadowed by other November holidays and shopping seasons. The effort to reclaim the month in the interest of Indigenous narratives has helped shed light on Indigenous business owners and the challenges they face. According to an October 2021 U.S. Census small business report, “there were an estimated 26,064 American Indian and Alaska Native-owned businesses with $35.8 billion in receipts, 215,049 employees and about $8.7 billion in annual payroll.” The American Indian Business Association has created a searchable business directory and the Beyond Buckskin boutique has made a similar effort for apparel brands. However, some industries are harder to find representation than others. Chenae Bullock, a lead member of the Shinnecock Nation based in the Hamptons, recently partnered with cannabis company TILT to launch Shinnecock’s very own cannabis operation, Little Beach Harvest.
The Little Beach Harvest (LBH) partnership is designed to see the TILT and the Shinnecock Nation cooperatively build and operate cannabis cultivation, processing, dispensaries, and consumption lounge facilities on Long Island. LBH is fully owned and operated by the Shinnecock Nation on its sovereign land. The lounge is set to offer various cannabis products, medical marijuana consultations, community outreach, and educational events about plant medicines.
As the Managing Director for the Shinnecock Nation’s cannabis business, Bullock has helped establish this operation on traditional lands on Long Island. The Aboriginal tribal territory in the Hamptons sits just east of South Hampton, some of the highest valued real estate in the New York City area. Bullock maintains various identities as an enrolled member of the Shinnecock Nation, descendant of the Montauk Tribe, and African American, and understands the stakes of representation as a result. After 15 years in the museum space, she brings an acute sense of the importance of both land rights and cultural production. In 2019, she opened Moskehtu Consulting, LLC; its website describes it as a Native American owned Cultural & Heritage Preservation firm “that addresses the global urgency of social and environmental change.” This cannabis venture is aligned with that mission and stands to spur job creation within the Shinnecock community and broadly for Indigenous cultivators.
Bullock stands at the helm of DEI efforts that are truly forward leaning and comprehensive. According to Grand View Research, in 2021 the U.S. cannabis market was valued over $30 billion. Although BIPOC owners are few and far between, CNBC reported that as of 2017, “81% of marijuana business owners in the U.S. were white, 5.7% were Hispanic, 4.3% were Black and 2.4% were Asian.” The lack of statistics on Indigenous owners only compounds their invisibility. Although the developments in the cannabis industry are focused heavily on the social justice and incarceration systems, there are multifaceted equity gaps in the growing ecosystem around the lucrative industry. Little Beach Harvest stands to open the space to discuss prison pipelines, environmental sustainability, and Native representation in the supply chain around wellness products and pharmaceuticals.