Local Briefs
Who will win the 2016 presidential vote in Indian country?
Tuesday, March 08 2016
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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Bernie or Hillary?

On the GOP side, I’m sure that some Indians like what they are hearing from the five contenders still standing, as of late February. The Republicans inhabit a political continuum from daffy to dangerous; but different strokes for different folks, I guess.

For example, Donald Trump, an equal opportunity offender, seems to hate Indians because tribal casinos compete with his gaming operations. In 1993, Trump testified before House Native American Affairs subcommittee, which was investigating press reports on organized crime and policing in Indian casinos. “They don’t look like Indians to me,” said Trump, regarding the leaders of the Mashantucket Pequot Nation, which runs the lucrative Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. “They don’t look like Indians to Indians.”

According to a report in the Huffington Post last year: “Trump’s remarks went on for an hour, and included unsubstantiated allegations that the mafia had infiltrated Indian casinos. Many in Congress were shocked by Trump’s irresponsibility.”

Then there’s Ted Cruz, who recently has become the champion of the Sagebrush Rebellion in Nevada – Cliven Bundy and his comrades. In a recent 30-second TV spot, the ultra-right-wing Texas senator takes the side of those Nevadans, the Bundys and their ilk, who have been fomenting some kind of anti-federal uprising. “If you trust me with your vote, I will return full control of Nevada’s lands to its rightful owners, its citizens. Count on it,” Cruz proclaims.

“Count on it? Rightful owners? The whole Sagebrush Rebel narrative misses the point that tribes in the region have called the area home for more than 10,000 years and if there’s any claim to rightful ownership then it’s the first owners who have the rightful claim,” Mark Trahant recently responded on his blog (

Trahant, a distinguished journalist and member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, went on to mention that William Anderson, a former Moapa tribal chairman, asked Sen. Bernie Sanders about extending stronger federal protection to lands in Nevada, including Gold Butte, which the Nuwuvi, the Southern Paiutes, and others, would like to be classified as a national monument.

At an MSNBC Town Hall, Sanders responded positively to Anderson’s informed question about how the U.S. government could do more to stop corporations “from destroying Mother Earth.”

“I don’t have to explain to you, or I hope anybody in this room, or anybody watching the outrageous way, unfair way, that governments have treated Native Americans from day one,” Sanders responded. “It is a disgrace.”

Sanders is now running a TV commercial that proclaims his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and fracking for natural gas, and promotes his vision of a shift to a “clean energy future.”

At the beginning of the Sanders spot, there’s a brief glimpse of Tara Houska, who was named as a Native American advisor to the Sanders campaign in late February. She will join Nicole Willis (Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation) in writing a Native American policy platform and recruiting members for a policy advisory committee for the Vermont senator’s presidential campaign.

During a recent phone chat, Houska, who’s Ojibwe from the Couchiching First Nation (north of International Falls in Canada) mentioned that she spoke alongside Sanders at a Capitol Hill press conference last November. “That’s actually how I got involved in the campaign,” Houska commented. The press conference publicized Sanders’ sponsorship of the Keep It in the Ground Act, “which bans fossil fuel construction on public lands and waters, and stops Arctic drilling.”

As the national campaign director of Honor the Earth, the Indigenous environmental group founded by Winona LaDuke, Houska provided information on pressing environmental issues to Sanders’ Senate office. A graduate of the University of Minnesota and the U of M Law School, Houska also mentioned that she has been active in the campaign against Indian mascots and symbols in sports.

Regarding the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, Houska noted that Sanders, in his congressional career, has made environmental justice and economic equity, reining in the influence of Wall Street, the “foundational cornerstones” of his politics.

“He is not afraid to recognize that climate change is, first of all, real, and second of all, that we have to do something about it in a very significant way,” she said.

Referring to the previously mentioned TV commercial, Houska pointed out that Sanders states that he is “against fracking, entirely… Hillary Clinton just came out in support of natural gas; that’s not indicative of a move away from fossil fuels to a green economy.”

Native women’s “Sinew” art exhibit defies stereotypes
Tuesday, March 08 2016
Written by Andrea Carlson,
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sinew-exhibit-erdrich.jpg1992 marked the quincentennial of Columbus’s ruinous landfall. As state-sponsored anniversaries go, National pride and patriotic excitement was on a high that year. But, so was the critical voice. Natives did what they’ve done since 1492 and resisted triumphant expressions of colonization. Curators and some artists looked to frame many exhibitions with meaning derived from a critical, Post-Colonial context.

But not performance artist, James Luna. He viewed the swell of interest in Native Art as a fleeting “gold rush” as he fielded many call from curators suddenly looking for Natives to include in their exhibitions. He said “no” to 1992, refusing most exhibitions he was invited to participate in, with the simple phrase “Call Me in ‘93.” He was effectively asking if anyone would still care the following year.

“Call Me in ‘93” has been on my mind lately. Currently, the Guerrilla Girls are in town, a radical artist group that exposes sexism and racism in the arts industry. As part of the Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover, a year-long residency where the Guerrilla Girls have spotlighted sexism in Twin Cities art institutions, many art institutions and galleries are presenting sympathetic exhibitions that focus on art made by women. The exhibition ‘Sinew: Female Native Artists of the Twin Cities’, on view at Artistry in Bloomington, is part of the takeover programming. I agreed to be one of the artists in this exhibition, but I’ve been wondering, as James Luna did, will anyone care next year?

The answer is assuredly, “no.”

In the wake of the Guerrilla Girls residency, The Walker Art Center released its plans to expand the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, adding new works of art and redesigning its grounds. Under the subtitle “A Diverse Collection,” The Star Tribune reported that, “With the new work, women and artists of color will have made about a third of the garden’s art, roughly double their previous tally.” In other words, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden went from having sculptures by 17% women/POC to a whopping 33%.

Furthermore, women and persons of color as a single category is another way of not having to say “white male” artists, who make up the lion’s share of the collection. By not uttering the category “white men” we are affording them the power to make work beyond their experience, they have the authority to not have their ideas bound to the “white male perspective.” It is hard to imagine a show subtitled, “White Male Artists of the Twin Cities.” Exhibitions that specify race and gender is something afforded to women and minority artists.

How is all of this related to Sinew? This exhibition might be the first exhibition to exclusively feature female Native artists of the Twin Cities. It might be the very first of its kind. It also may, at first, seem narrow in focus. Specifying a location, race and gender of the included artists brings many assumptions to the table, and one might expect to find a succinct, codified voice. On the contrary, Sinew is rich in materials and defies stereotype. This is a point of pride in the exhibition. Everything is allowed.

No truer example can be found than in the work of Heid Erdrich and Louise Erdrich. Here is their materials list for Advice to Myselves (an art instillation): “manufactured typewriter, table and chair; BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) school coatrack; commercial clothing, mask, and mittens; mukluks by Nancy Jones; vintage ephemera; hand-lettering by Heid E. Erdrich; photos by Louise Erdrich; commercial watercolor set with photos by Anne Marsden and hand-lettering by Louise Erdrich; reproduction telephone with Louise Erdrich audio re-fabricated by Pallas Erdrich.”

At MAIC, new Gatherings Café lives up to its name
Tuesday, March 08 2016
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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Howasta-Means-gatherings-cafe.jpgFor many South Minneapolis area residents, the urban setting has done little to numb their taste buds or their cravings for foods they remember from back home on the prairies or from the north woods of Minnesota.

Since mid-February, a steady stream of customers has come to Gatherings Café in the Minneapolis American Indian Center (MAIC), 1530 East Franklin Ave., to grab specialties such as the Bison Melt and the Red Lake Walleye Melt.

“Those are the two favorites so far,” said Howasta Means, the café manager. “Our menu will change from time to time, and with the seasons. But those two items are here to stay.”
MAIC owns Gatherings Café but it is also a culinary arts training program. Among partners in the training program are the American Indian OIC, the Waite House programs in the surrounding Phillips Community, and the Little Earth of United Tribes.

At its opening on Feb.16, the café started serving breakfasts and lunches with two employees and two culinary students, said Mary LaGarde, executive director of the center. Word spread by social media and word of mouth.

“We’ve been surprised at the turnout,” she said. Only one week into operation, the Gatherings Café staff started seeing regular customers stopping in for breakfast on their way to work on Franklin Avenue.

The center hasn’t had a restaurant on the premises for the past two years. But with the new regulars starting to make nearly daily visits, and the senior citizens now starting to gather regularly for breakfast and lunch, the café is taking on a gatherings role commonly found at restaurants in small towns all over America.

For Means that is as it should be. “I’ve been coming here (the center) all my life,” he said.

The center was founded in 1975 and has served the Native American community of Minneapolis with educational, cultural and social services in the years since. Means was among neighborhood young people who would gather at the center.

Means has worked for seven years in the restaurant industry and is a 2011 graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. While that casts images of upscale cuisine, the early offerings on the Gatherings Café menu suggest a fusion of tastes and recipes that will have special appeal to Native Americans.

The Bison Melt, for instance, includes pulled bison meat, blueberry-horseradish sauce, and provolone cheese. The Red Lake Walleye Melt contains roasted walleye from the Red Lake Nation, cream cheese, lemon, capers, tartar sauce and provolone. Both sandwiches come on whole wheat, wild rice bread and are moderately priced at $8 each – the high end of the menu.

Wild rice is a staple with other luncheon offerings, and locally raised greens and vegetables will be used in season, Means said.

Breakfasts (7:00 to 11:00 a.m.) vary from standard offerings found at most restaurants and coffee shops, to another fusion of upscale with Up North. The Ave Omelet, for instance, contains wild rice, bacon, carrots and craisins with béchamel sauce; there’s a Blue Corn Wild Rice Waffle, and there is a Roasted Sweet Potato Hash, with bacon, bell peppers, onion, cheese and two eggs.  
There are no plans to extend the café hours beyond the 3 p.m. lunch closing, Means said. But Gatherings Café will do special events at the center, or off premises, and offers a catering service.

One early customer who is especially pleased the café opened is Charlie Stately, proprietor of Woodland Crafts, a retail gift and crafts store also in the Minneapolis American Indian Center. The café brings people to the center, and that is good for both commercial enterprises.

“It makes us a destination point,” Stately said. “It’s been busy here since the café opened.”

The restaurant’s “good reviews” from early visitors is strengthening traffic in and out of the center, he said.  

Native American economic condition still nearly invisible in Minnesota
Tuesday, March 08 2016
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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Nonprofit organizations that deliver social services to Native Americans in Minnesota still struggle to quantify economic conditions for the Native population. They grapple for ways to measure social successes in economic terms and, at the same time, appeal for resources that haven’t fully recovered from the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

It’s not that money from foundations and government programs are just now catching up, said Joe Hobot, president and chief executive officer at American Indian OIC (AIOIC)  in Minneapolis. Information on current conditions for the Native population is lacking when compared to other racial and ethnic groups, he said.

Grant programs from government agencies and the philanthropic foundations were changed over the past eight years, often from mission-driven to program-driven goals that need measurement, he said. While measured outcomes can justify support for the programs, it can also make finding support to cover overhead expenses more difficult.

“We can’t show jobs gained from training programs in one year when you are helping unemployed people with third grade math and fourth grade reading skills,” he said. We don’t have a way to show progress from our ‘wrap-around’ services that get people into the workforce.”      

Meanwhile, U.S. Census Bureau and state monitoring agencies come up short in actually tracking data on Native American unemployment, joblessness, household incomes, and even identifying who is a Native American.

By extrapolating data that is available, however, Hobot said it appears one in two American Indians living in Minnesota are “jobless.” That combines people who are officially listed as unemployed with those who aren’t considered to be part of the workforce. 

Patina Park, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center in Minneapolis, said funding support for her social service programs are now just getting back to pre-Great Recession levels. That recovery is fueled by federal funds, she said, and not by more local sources of financial support.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis reported in April 2015 that foundational assets in general had recovered to pre-2008 levels. In its Fedgazette magazine, the Fed noted the recovery was uneven for groups and geographies. The lingering economic disparity from the recession had created more need for services even as funding support dwindled.

The Fedgazette article, All In The (nNonprofit) Family, quoted Katie Barr of the Nonprofits Assistance Fund in Minneapolis in saying service delivery models in the social services sector are labor intensive so program and productivity efficiency gains over time are small.

This is the reality facing Hobot, Park, and at least 20 other social services providers for the Native American communities in the Twin Cities and statewide.

“We’ve been helped by some federal grants,” Park said. “That brings us back to about where we were before the recession.” At the same time, she added, foundations that support social service programs are slowly recovering their own budgets. Local government support, especially from counties, still lags where government budgets reflect problems from the housing market’s collapse and its spillover on property taxes, she added.

While economists and political scientists would predict a lag time for recovery from something as severe as the Great Recession, the impact on communities in need is predictably greater than for a state’s general population. It also contributes to the income inequality that continues to divide the state and nation.
Park joined Hobot in presenting brief testimony in January at a Legislative Working Group on Disparities and Opportunities hearing in St. Paul. The Working Group and other governmental responses are largely the result of the Census Bureau and its ongoing American Community Survey tabulations that follow demographic and economic data for various American ethnic communities.

“More vocal groups brought greater awareness to their communities’ disparities,” Hobot said. For instance, cities, counties and state institutions such as the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) all became alarmed when last September’s ACS report showed household incomes for African Americans in Minnesota declined by 3 percent from 2013 to 2014.

Native American service organizations, however, are still searching for ways to read, analyze and advocate based on available data and on what statistical information is still missing.
As February came to an end, executive directors of 20 American Indian nonprofit service providers (501c3 organizations) were drafting a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton and to state DEED officials calling for more data gathering and for more collaboration on programs. That joint letter from directors of the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID) was to be sent to state officials in early March.

From available data, MUID affiliated organizations and AIOIC have concluded that Native American households in Minnesota have an annual median income of $32,000, or 48 percent less than the state’s median household income of $61,500. The unemployment rate for American Indians was 10.8 percent at year’s end, while it was 3.7 percent statewide. Government measurements also considered 40.8 percent of working age American Indians in the state as “not in the labor force.”

Hobot said this latter category is especially troubling in that there are no good definitions or data on why this is so. In some cases, he said, there are wealthy people who aren’t looking for employment. For far too many, however, it means long-time unemployed have given up looking and therefore aren’t counted as being part of the potential workforce.
Combine the data, “and we can say that one in two, or 52 percent of working age American Indians, are jobless in Minnesota,” he said.

While they work with DEED and government agencies to make American Indian data more visible and understandable, service provider groups are taking steps to make their own programs more efficient, less duplicative, and better at information and service sharing.

AIOIC, Park’s women’s group, United Tribes of Little Earth and the Minneapolis American Indian Center, all of Minneapolis; and the Northwest Indian Community Development Center at Bemidji are currently forming a new referral and collaborative entity labeled the Indigenous Organizational Network, or ION.

All participating organizations have training programs that help the jobless return to the workforce. All have so-called wrap-around programs that are culturally sensitive to help American Indians prepare for meaningful jobs and careers.

On top of that, more collaboration among groups will lead to more information sharing so “the indigenous population won’t be such an invisible group,” Hobot said.    

March What's New in the Community
Tuesday, March 08 2016
Written by The Circle,
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ihb-buys-restuarant.jpgIHB Buys Prime Franklin Avenue Real Estate
Dr. Patrick Rock (Leech Lake), CEO of the Indian Health Board of Minneapolis (IHB), announced that the Minneapolis-based health clinic recently acquired the former Blue Nile restaurant property on East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis.
“The Indian Health Board sees this as a sound investment to continue improving our work in Native Healthcare and further indigenizing our services to meet community needs,” said Dr. Rock. Rock says the IHB will continue working in partnership with the local Native community and neighborhood partners in developing the property for a future expansion of holistic-oriented, Native-based services.
Dr. Laiel Baker-DeKrey (Nueta/Hidatsa), IHB Psychologist and Training Director, said. “With the help of our elders, we provide services that incorporate traditional Native practices promoting health and wellness that are also balanced with Western practices. The combination creates a strengths-based and affirming space for healing, and there’s definitely demand for more.”
IHB has no set timeframe for property and expansion planning, but the development will be careful and intentional, so that Native community needs are at the forefront.  IHB provides culturally-appropriate, full-service outpatient medical, dental, and counseling services. For more information, contact Dr. Patrick Rock at 612-721-9843.

joe_hobart.jpgJoe Hobot Honored as ’40 Under 40′
American Indian OIC president and CEO, Joe Hobot (Lakota) was named a Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal “40 Under 40” honoree. Each year the publication honors 40 leaders under the age of 40 who have “already accomplished much in their professional lives while also taking a leading role in the Twin Cities community.” Hobot was selected among 550 other nominations for his charismatic leadership and his contributions at AIOIC and beyond. Hobotwill receive his award on March 10.

New Board Members Appointed to Tiwahe Foundation
The Tiwahe Foundation, located in Minneapolis, has recently appointment four new board members.
Monica Flores (Three Affiliated Tribes) currently the Executive Director of Bii Gii Wiin Community Development Loan Fund, Flores has many years of experience working in Native American communities and Tribal governments. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and is pursuing a Masters of Business Administration and Certified Public Accountant certification.
Paul Meyer (White Earth Band of Ojibwe) is the President and CEO of Meyer Contracting. A graduate of the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering, he has vast experiences in starting and growing businesses.
Amanda Norman (White Earth Band of Ojibwe) is the Executive Director of the soon-to-be Thor Foundation, the corporate foundation arm of Thor Construction, Inc. She has a degree in Psychology from the University of Minnesota-Morris and is currently pursuing a Masters in Education at Augsburg College.
Joseph Regguinti (Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe) served on the Leech Lake Local Indian Council from 2012-2015, as a liaison between urban Leech Lake citizens and the Tribal council. He currently works as the Father Project Coordinator at the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches. He holds a degree in English and American Indian studies from Augsburg College.

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