Tanka Bars

SweetGrass Trading Company is proud to offer Tanka Bars, meat bars made with bison and cranberries, in a variety of flavors. Tanka Bars are similar to traditional pemmican or Lakota wasná, which is a pounded mix of dried buffalo meat and berries. Loosely translated in Lakota, “wasná ” means “all mixed up.” 

The Tanka Bar was created in 2006 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation by Mark Tilsen and Karlene Hunter (Oglala Lakota), co-founders of Tanka’s parent company Native American Natural Foods. It took them nearly two years to perfect the recipe and make it as close to the traditional dish as possible.  

According to the Tanka Bar website, the company provides customers with “the very best foods that are sustainably grown by Native American producers, minimally processed with care and respect, to help you feed mind, body and spirit.” 

Tanka was founded as a way to bring buffalo back to the prairies. The buffalo is sacred to Native people; every part of the buffalo is used in some way. Many years ago the U.S. government launched an attack on buffalo in an effort to starve Native people.  

Part of Tanka’s mission is to reverse those effects and bring the buffalo back. This not only restores traditional food systems and major parts of Native culture, but also regenerate the prairies’ ecosystems. As Mr. Tilsen has said, “When buffalo live on the grasslands, the prairie becomes reborn. Plant diversity and predators come back; the prairie comes to life.”   

Native American Natural Foods, a certified minority/native-owned and operated B Corporation, has also established the Tanka Fund and Tanka Regenerative Agriculture Cooperative (TRAC) to bring the buffalo back to the Oglala Lakota nation and the Northern Plains. As Tanka’s CEO Dawn Sherman often says, “We’re bringing the foods back to our people and building an ecosystem, bridging the gap between the brand and the Nation.” 

CEO Dawn Sherman

Buffalo is a heart-healthy, nutrient-dense, lean protein that contains mono and polyunsaturated fat, as well as Omega-3 fatty acids. It is also naturally low in sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat. This makes Tanka Bars a healthy alternative to sugary snacks with no nutritional value.  

Today, Tanka Bars are sold all over the United States –– online including costco.com and in grocery stores. SweetGrass proudly offers three flavors of Tanka bars: slow-smoked original, spicy pepper, and apple orange peel.  

“We truly value our relationships with companies like SweetGrass Trading because they believe in our vision and the importance of what we are doing,” Mrs. Sherman said. “It is that kind of support that helps us keep this company growing successfully and with great heart.” 

Learn more on the Tanka website

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