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News 5 Investigates: Online shop cheats consumers and Native Americans

COLORADO SPRINGS- The Better Business Bureau is issuing a warning about an online Native American jewelry business. The company “Native American Soul” promises buyers that they will donate a portion of its profits to help the Native American Heritage Association, but that organization tells Investigative Reporter Patrick Nelson that they haven’t seen a penny of the money. Our month long investigation found not only is none of that money going to support the charity, but we discovered multiple customers aren’t getting the jewelry they ordered either.

Every year in Colorado Springs people of Native American descent come together for a powwow celebrating their culture. It’s a culture featured by an online company called Native American Soul, which sells specialty jewelry and clothing. While the website may look legitimate, the Better Business Bureau says it’s receiving numerous complaints about the company not delivering the products people ordered.

“So a lot of people when they order these products they are NOT receiving anything at all which is most scenarios. Or the people who do get products they are the wrong ones and they are unable to correct the order, get their money back, or contact the business whatsoever,” said Southern Colorado Better Business Bureau Investigations Specialist Alexxis Barton.

Under the “About Us” tab Native American Soul says it supports Native American rights and promises to send a portion of the proceeds to the Native American Heritage Association. That organization helps roughly 45,000 people living on reservations in conditions comparable to third world countries. However, the Native American Heritage Association told News 5 Investigates that they haven’t received a single donation from Native American Soul.

“We have no contact whatsoever with them and it’s totally false,” said Tim Curns of the Native American Heritage Association.

Patrick Nelson of News 5 Investigates replied, “So you guys haven’t seen a dime of this money?”

No,” said Curns.

The web site lists it’s business address right here in Colorado Springs, but when we plugged in the address in our GPS, it took us to a mail center business. A dead end. The BBB says the losses keep adding up.

“I would say it’s somewhere in the tens of thousands of dollars lost. People are spending 100 to a couple hundred bucks an order,” said Barton.

In Colorado Springs Eddie Three Eagles has spent his life giving back to people on Native American reservations. He was upset to find out a company is promising to help Native Americans struggling with poverty and selling false hopes.

“You really don’t realize what the poverty, or the hurt, or the harm that is done here to the people unless you go for the first time and you look for yourself and you see it. Then you know.” said Three Eagles fighting back tears. “They are putting a big knife through your heart and soul. They are cutting you”

Christina Leza, a Colorado College Professor of Native American descent believes Native American Soul likely chose a Colorado Springs address since our region doesn’t cater to large Native American population.

Had the company listed an address near Native American reservations, Leza believes the scheme would have been easily discovered.

“You do not have a tribal nation here,” said Leza. “Native American cultural exploitation has become so common in the United States that you don’t tend to see a lot of push back against this, even a lot of push back from Native Americans themselves.”

Three Eagles says his work will continue to try to unify Native Americans from all backgrounds in Colorado Springs to strengthen that voice.

“You’ve heard our voice, you’ve heard these things, you’ve seen it. You’ve proved it. You’ve proved the point these people are low life man,” said Three Eagles.

Three Eagles is calling out Native American Soul and anyone who disparages their culture.

The BBB says Native American Soul may be operating outside the country, possibly in Spain.

We did get an email back from Native American Soul that said:

“Hi there,

Alex here of Native American Soul. We are so sorry to hear that and we truly apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you. I will escalate this to the management so they can double check and follow up with the shipping carrier with regards to your order.

We are one with you in making sure that you receive your item as soon as possible and we will not stop until this is resolved.

Thank you,

Alex”

clearly, they didn’t read my message to them about our investigation.

As for members of our Native American community I’ve been provided with these resources to get involved and support those who need it most.

 

One Nation Walking Together:

http://www.onenationwt.org/

One Nation Walking Together strives to make a positive impact in the lives of Native Americans. A people that are greatly underserved and misrepresented, ONWT is an organization about People helping People—not a cause. By addressing the specific needs of each community we serve, One Nation is able to be more than a “dump and run” charity. We deliver the basic necessities of life while uplifting the lives of the most impoverished people in our country.

White Bison:
A Native American operated non-profit company based in Colorado Springs. Offers wellness and healing resources for Native Americans. Welcomes non-Native community members to also use its healing resource products, attend learning circles and volunteer their services in support of its work.
Colorado Springs Indigenous Community group:
A forum for Native people in the Pikes Peak area to connect through pow wows, classes, potlucks, exhibits and social gatherings. The group often announces events for both Native and non-Native community members.
Indigenous Environmental Network:
Native non-profit organization that addresses Indigenous environmental and economic justice issues.
Indigenous Alliance Without Borders:
An Indigenous non-profit organization on the U.S.-Mexico border that promotes, and educates the public about, indigenous rights.

 

Patrick Nelson

Patrick Nelson

Patrick Nelson is an investigative reporter for News 5 in Colorado Springs.
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