Our Company

Native American Natural Foods, LLC, is focused on creating a family of nationally branded food products that are delicious and that promote a Native American way of wellness that feeds mind, body, and spirit.

Beginning with its first product line, which features Tanka Bar™, Tanka Bite™, and Tanka Trail™, Native American Natural Foods provides a category of natural healthy choices in the marketplace that currently does not exist. By adding value to traditional Native food products, using modern scientific methods and the least amount of processing possible, Native American Natural Foods innovates value-added products for the U.S. consumer marketplace.

Founded in 2005 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, owners Karlene Hunter and Mark Tilsen imagine a world filled with healthy foods that add to the restoration and preservation of our lands and ecosystem -- a world without the pain of starvation or obesity. The world they imagine embraces the lifestyle that Native American people lived just over a century ago.

The vision at Native American Natural Foods is not to go back to a traditional way of life but to bring the heritage of wisdom from the Native American traditional healthy lifestyle into the 21st century and into the lives of those who share that vision.

In addition to online ordering via the company’s easy-to-use web site,
www.tankabar.com, the Tanka™ product line will be available in a variety of convenience stores, grocery stores, natural food stores and specialty markets across the country.

Our Leadership

KARLENE HUNTER is CEO and co-founder of Native American Natural Foods. A member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Ms. Hunter has more than 25 years of experience working on educational and economic development on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where Native American Natural Foods is based. The Kyle, S.D., company, founded with her longtime business partner Mark Tilsen, is the second business Ms. Hunter has started on the reservation.

In 1996, Ms. Hunter and Mr. Tilsen created Lakota Express, a direct marketing and customer care management company. Focused primarily on fund-raising for non-profit organizations, Ms. Hunter has led the direct marketing campaign for Oglala Lakota College for more than 21 years. More than $25 million has been raised under Ms. Hunter’s leadership, including raising the funds for the establishment of the first library on the reservation and the creation of new college centers in each of the nine districts on Pine Ridge.

Well-known throughout the Native American community for her local and national
service record, Ms. Hunter serves on the Board of Directors of the National Center
for American Indian Enterprise Development. She has also served on the Board of Directors for the Native American Rights Fund; the National Indian Business Association; and the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce.

Ms. Hunter, who holds an MBA from Oglala Lakota College, has received numerous awards, including the 2007 SBA Minority Business Woman of the Year for South Dakota.

Recognized in 2003 as one of the 100 Best Minority Suppliers by the Minority
Business Network, Ms. Hunter received the National Director’s Pioneer Award
in 2006 from then-Department of Commerce Secretary Ronald Langston.

She has also been awarded the President Harry S. Truman Foundation Scholarship; Indian Business Woman of the Year from the National Indian Business Association; and the Rising Star Award from the Business Women's Network and Diversity Best Practices.

MARK TILSEN is President of Native American Natural Foods and a longtime
business partner with Karlene Hunter in Lakota Express, Inc., a direct marketing and customer care management company. Mr. Tilsen has more than 25 years of experience in nonprofit fundraising, marketing community development, and 18 years in special events marketing and productions.

A recipient of numerous marketing awards, most recently, Mr. Tilsen and Lakota Express were featured as the lead story in the Mal Warwick Associates newsletter, Successful Direct Mail, Telephone and Online Fundraising.

A lifelong supporter of Native American causes, Mr. Tilsen began working as a volunteer in 1973 for the Wounded Knee Defense Offense Committee, which his parents co-founded. Since that time, he has honed his skills coordinating award-winning, database-driven direct marketing campaigns that have raised more than $25 million for Native American educational and environmental organizations. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Seva Foundation, an organization focused on alleviating suffering caused by disease and poverty.

Mr. Tilsen has co-founded several successful community organizations and businesses, including:

  • KILI Radio, the largest indigenous community-owned radio station in North America.
  • The Black Hills Alliance. a coalition of Native and non-Native Americans that had a major impact on changing the environmental policies and practices in the Black Hills.
  • Direct Expressions, the company that launched the first direct marketing campaigns for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., and Oglala Lakota College.
  • Direct Events, now the largest independent music promotions group in Austin, Texas.
  • Manager of Indigenous, the first Native American musical group to have a Top 10 hit on radio since the ‘70s.
  • Lakotamall.com, a web portal providing Internet market access to small businesses and non-profit organizations serving Indian Country.
  • Lakota Express Inc., the only reservation-based Native American-owned direct marketing firm in the nation.
  • Maz, Inc., a talent management group based in Minnesota.