Food News

Co-Owner of Tocabe Offers Reward for Stolen Native American Family Heirlooms

Ben Jacobs, in the middle on the left side, wearing the suit his grandmother made — the last before she passed away in 1986.
Ben Jacobs, in the middle on the left side, wearing the suit his grandmother made — the last before she passed away in 1986. Tocabe
Update: The car was found on July 1, and most of the contents recovered. The Jacobs family issued this statement: "All members of the family have spent the morning celebrating the return of their Osage family treasures. While the thought of the potential loss was unfathomable, their gratitude for the safe return of these heirlooms is immeasurable. They are currently awaiting the arrival of cedar from their homelands in Oklahoma so that they can smudge and cleanse this regalia and belongings."

Keep reading for our original story, posted June 28:

The owners of popular American Indian restaurant Tocabe need the Denver community's help in getting back some of their family heirlooms.

Known for being an ingredient-driven place that promotes the stories and history behind the food they serve, Tocabe opened in 2008 and also sells its food through Tocabe Indigenous Marketplace, where people can buy the same Native American ingredients used at the restaurant. A pillar of the American Indian food scene in Denver, it also donates frequently to Native American organizations, but now the Tocabe team needs the community's help.

Tocabe co-founder Ben Jacobs's mother's car was stolen from her driveway in southeast Park Hill on the night of June 27. More concerning than the loss of the car itself, though, are the priceless and irreplaceable family heirlooms that were inside. Jacobs's mom had just returned from a trip to Oklahoma for the Osage tribe's I’nlonshka ceremonial dances. She makes the drive in order to take her family's traditional clothing to the event, because checking it at the airport is too risky. 
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A pair of hand-beaded moccasins.
The ceremony is usually a four-day dance filled with celebration, where members of the village dress in the traditional clothing. "It's a renewal for us each year," Jacobs says. "My mom drove back from Oklahoma, drove twelve hours, got home at midnight," he continues. His mother called him the morning of June 28 after realizing the car had been stolen sometime between midnight, when she went to bed, and 7 a.m., when she woke up.

Inside the car were suitcases filled with traditional Osage regalia. The items stolen are described as "two finger-woven women’s belts, girl’s broadcloth ribbon work skirt, man’s suit (leather leggings and broadcloth ribbon work breechcloth), boy’s broadcloth suit (leggings and breechcloth), man’s horsehair roach and spreader, boy’s horsehair roach and spreader, man’s and boy’s moccasins, eagle wing fan, beaded bandoliers, women’s beaded leggings (moccasins), and various adornments and jewelry. These items were in two vintage brown and blue hard-sided suitcases."
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A finger-woven women's belt
A roach is what men wear on their heads, and a spreader is what goes inside the roach and spreads the eagle feather, according to Jacobs, whose son was supposed to wear his roach and suit this year — the last one Jacobs's grandmother made before she passed in 1986. Jacobs remains the only person to have ever worn it.

All of the stolen items have been in the family for multiple generations, and they are devastated at the loss of them. Jacobs says the family doesn't care about the car, just getting the items inside back.

The car is a navy-blue Honda CRV with the license plate 988-WET. The family asks that if anyone finds the items to please return them to Tocabe (3536 West 44th Avenue and 8181 East Arapahoe Road), the Denver Police Department, or to message Tocabe on Instagram. There is a $5,000 reward for the return of the items.
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Katrina Leibee, a recent graduate of Colorado State University, is an editorial fellow at Westword, covering politics, business and culture.
Contact: Katrina Leibee