Urban News
Where building a business is also building for people
Friday, October 06 2017
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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lofflerwoman.jpgTammy Loeffler is owner of Loeffler Construction and Consulting. (Photo by Lee Egerstrom.)

MIddle photo: The Shooting Star Casino at Bagley.

Bottom photo: The Lower Sioux Health Care Clinic at Morton. (Photos courtesy of Loeffler Construction and Consulting.)

For an entrepreneur like Tammy Loeffler, opportunities and problems have always been two sides of the same coin.

You seize the opportunities where they exist, she said. At the same time, doing so usually means helping someone or some group overcome problems.

Loeffler Construction and Consulting, based in Lakeville, does that whether serving as a general contractor on a construction project or as a partnering consultant helping others on project design or managing costs.

“We get to help people with everything we do,” she said. “All our Indian projects are exciting to me because I know it helps the tribe and the community members.”

Loeffler is an enrolled member of the White Earth Ojibwe Nation. Through her ownership position, Loeffler Construction and Consulting is certified as both a minority-owned and as a woman-owned enterprise.

This create opportunities when government agencies and various groups want to contract with minority businesses, she said. That is especially so for Native American groups contemplating business ventures or building service facilities.

Nearly universal problems in Indian Country include affordable housing, housing tailored for seniors, and economic developments that lift community standards of living. Client and project lists for Loeffler show how opportunities and problem solving are bound together.

Among recent tribal projects, Loeffler Construction was the general contractor for the new Apache Casino Hotel’s Event Center at Lawton, Okla., for the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, that makes the tribe’s hospitality sector a major conference and convention center for Central Oklahoma. A similar project was the White Earth Nation’s satellite Shooting Star Casino and its Little Dipper Restaurant at Bagley, Minn.

Building or remodeling medical facilities also brings a great sense of accomplishment, Loeffler added. Among recent projects in those categories was the Lower Sioux Health Care Clinic, completed in 2015 at Morton, Minn., and several updates and expansions of medical labs and centers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

loefflershootingstar.jpgHousing projects for Native elders and neighborhoods of Native people are another area that has attracted Loeffler and her firm’s partners and managers.

Loeffler was the general contractor for Elders Lodge, 1500 Magnolia Ave. E., St. Paul, which provides 42 units of affordable housing for people age 62 and older. The company received national awards for work on Piccadilly Square Redevelopment, a

79-unit affordable housing development in the St. Paul suburb of Mahtomedi.The national Association of Women Contractors saluted Loeffler Construction and partners with its 2016 Small Project of the Year award for renovation of 45 units and new construction of 32 additional units at Anishinabe Bii Gii Wiin, a special housing complex in Minneapolis owned by the American Indian Community Development Corp. and Project for Pride in Living Inc.

Earlier this year, the Red Lake Nation identified the Loeffler firm as a partner in planning Mino-bimaadiziwin, a tribal-owned housing project to be built at 2105 Cedar Ave. S. near the Franklin Avenue Metro Blue Line station and the American Indian Cultural Corridor in Minneapolis.

The Red Lake Band is planning to develop a 109-unit to 115-unit mixed use complex, primarily for senior housing, at a former hardware warehouse site. Construction is to begin in 2018.

Other, non-Native projects serve similar lofty goals for communities. For instance, construction began in September to expand the Valley Natural Foods cooperative in Burnsville.

Another current project is a reconstruction and remodeling project for Minneapolis Fire Station #15, at 2701 Johnson Street NE. This historic fire hall, built in 1889, is having floor reconstruction, mechanical and electrical upgrades, and remodeling of a second floor sleeping area.

Loeffler doesn’t just work on building structures.

“When Tammy speaks, everyone listens,” said Roland Hill of First Peoples Insurance Services at Brainerd. “That’s the respect she has built,”

Hill serves with Loeffler on the board of directors of the Minnesota American Indian Chamber of Commerce.

loefferclinic.jpgHer business success over the past 24 years is a tremendous help to “upstart” and younger entrepreneurs and newer members of the Chamber, Hill said. Whether people realize it or not, most successful people have had mentoring from helpful people.

For the Chamber and its members, Loeffler is one of those mentors, Hill said.

There aren’t a lot of construction firms like the Loefflers with ties to the Native communities, he added. “What she and her colleagues show is that you can be Native and play with the big guys if you keep your nose to the grindstone and keep doing good work.”

Big projects for reservations, especially in the past five years, keep building that reputation.

Loeffler said her mother was the biggest influence on her life and was the “driving force” to pursue education and careers in business. Family, friends and colleagues keep adding to that drive.

She worked for a developer and learned about real estate development, contracting, construction and real estate law while a college student. She received a degree in court reporting, then started her own court reporting company and has served as a court reporter for the Mdewakanton Sioux Judicial System for the past 20 years.

One thing led to another, she said, and her background in real estate and working with attorneys led to meeting people in construction and development, including Doug Loeffler. That led to Loeffler Construction and Consulting where Doug is a partner and serves as president.

“I’ve owned a business since 1987. Mom gave me the drive and I’ve always wanted to be entrepreneurial. Getting into construction wasn’t my first calling, yet everything connected.”

Evolutionary or gravitational, life experiences led to construction and real estate development consulting. Underlying these business experiences, however, was an appetite for entrepreneurship.


Reconciling history: Views on two Minnesota paintings
Tuesday, August 08 2017
Written by The Circle,
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father_hennepin.jpgTwo paintings that once hung in the Governor’s Reception Room, “Father Hennepin Discovering the Falls of St. Anthony” and “The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux,” are moving to newly created exhibit space on the third floor of the renovated Capitol where expanded interpretation can be provided.

The new exhibit “Reconciling History: Views on Two Minnesota Paintings,” opening Aug. 11, focuses on multiple perspectives on the paintings and on their history, meaning and context within the Capitol.

Visitors will be able to see the paintings up close and explore interpretive panels that feature biographical information about the artists, a description of each artwork, and multiple current perspectives on the pieces. The exhibit was developed by conducting video interviews with historians, art experts, Ojibwe and Dakota community members and descendants of European Americans who settled in Minnesota. Excerpts from the interviews are featured in the exhibit, and the video interviews will be accessible online at beginning in August.

In addition, visitors will learn about American Indians in Minnesota, including their history and contributions today, and the importance of sacred sites, ties to place, communities and identities for Minnesota’s Native peoples.

The renovation of the Minnesota State Capitol provided an opportunity to address issues relating to the Capitol’s extensive artwork – specifically, its historical significance and how it reflects all Minnesotans. Following public input, decisions were made in December 2016 to relocate these two paintings from the Governor’s Reception Room because of their inaccurate depictions of American Indians and because of their prominent placement in a room where government business is regularly conducted.

Another painting “Attack on New Ulm” was removed from display at the Capitol because it was not original to the space and represents a single painful moment in American Indian history. This fall, visitors can see Attack on New Ulm: One Painting, Many Perspectives on exhibit at the James J. Hill House art gallery, Sept. 16, 2017 through Jan. 18, 2018. The painting will be supported by additional historical context and multiple interpretations, and visitors will be asked to share their own thoughts about its meaning.

The painting “The 8th Minnesota Infantry (Mounted) in the Battle of Ta-Ha-Kouty” was also removed from the Capitol because it was not original to the space and represents a single painful moment in American Indian history. It is not currently on exhibit.

For more info, contact Lauren at 651-259-3137 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

A brief history of American Indian boarding schools
Tuesday, August 08 2017
Written by Dr. Denise K. Lajimodiere,
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boarding-school-boys.jpgAmerican Indian boarding schools, which operated in Minnesota and across the United States beginning in the late nineteenth century, represent a dark chapter in U.S. history. Also called industrial schools, these institutions prepared boys for manual labor and farming and girls for domestic work. The boarding school, whether on or off a reservation, carried out the government's mission to restructure Indians’ minds and personalities by severing children’s physical, cultural, and spiritual connections to their tribes.

On March 3, 1891, Congress authorized the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to create legal rules that required Indian children to attend boarding schools. It also authorized the Indian Office to withhold rations, clothing, and other annuities from Indian parents or guardians who would not send and keep their children in school. Indian Agents forcibly abducted children as young as four from their homes and enrolled them in Christian- and government-run boarding schools beginning in the mid-1800s and continuing into the 1970s.

Captain Richard H. Pratt’s boarding school experiment began in the late nineteenth century. A staunch nineteenth-century assimilationist, Pratt advocated a position that diverged slightly from the white majority’s. Convinced of the U.S. government’s duty to “Americanize” Indians, he offered a variation of the slogan – popular in the American West –  that stated the only good Indian was a dead one. The proper goal, Pratt claimed, was to “kill the Indian…and save the man.”

Pratt founded a school in 1879 at the site of an unused cavalry barracks at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, organizing the institution along rigid military lines. Pratt’s program of half days in the classroom and half days spent at some form of manual labor soon became standard boarding school curriculum. Government expenditures for boarding schools were always small, and the schools exploited the free labor of Indian children in order to function.

Minnesota had sixteen boarding schools that drew students from all eleven of the state’s reservations. The earliest was White Earth Indian School, begun in 1871. In 1902, St. Mary’s Mission boarded an average of sixty-two students, Red Lake School seventy seven, and Cross Lake forty two. At Morris, more than two thousand children attended the school during its history. White Earth had room for 110 students. Clontarf housed an average of 130 children from reservations in Dakota Territory. By 1910, Vermilion Lake held 120 students. Cass/Leech Lake opened with a capacity of fifty students. Pipestone housed children from Dakota, Oneida, Pottawatomie (Bodéwadmi), Arikara, and Sac and Fox (Sauk and Meskwakwi) tribes.

A typical daily schedule began with an early wake-up call at 5:45 am, most often announced by a bugler or bells. Students marched from one activity to the next. Every minute of the day was scheduled; mornings began with making beds, brushing teeth, breakfast, and industrial call (“detail”). School began around 9 am. Afternoons were spent in school and industrial work, which were followed by supper, up to thirty minutes of recreation, a call to quarters, and “tattoo.” Pupils retired to the sounds of taps at 9 pm.

boarding-school-girls.jpgMethods of discipline at Minnesota boarding schools were harsh. Some schools had cells or dungeons where students were confined for days and given only bread and water. One forced a young boy to dress like a girl for a month as a punishment; another cut a rebellious girl’s hair as short as a boy’s. Minnesota boarding schools recorded epidemics of measles, influenza, blood poisoning, diphtheria, typhoid, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, pneumonia, trachoma, and mumps, which swept through overcrowded dormitories. Students also died from accidents such as drowning and falls.

Boarding school staff assigned students to “details”: working in the kitchen, barns, and gardens; washing dishes, tables, and floors; ironing; sewing; darning; and carpentry. The schools also extensively utilized an “outing” program that retained students for the summer and involuntarily leased them out to white homes as menial laborers.

One of Minnesota’s most famous boarding school survivors is American Indian activist Dennis Banks. When he was only four years old, Banks was sent three hundred miles from his home on the Leech Lake Reservation of Ojibwe, in Cass County, to the Pipestone Indian School. Lonesome, he kept running away but was caught and severely beaten each time. Another student, at St. Benedict’s, recalled being punished by being made to chew lye soap and blow bubbles that burned the inside of her mouth. This was a common punishment for students if they spoke their tribal language.

Many students’ parents and relatives resisted the boarding school system. In letters sent to absent children, they delivered news from home and tried to maintain family ties. In messages sent to school administrators, they arranged visits, advocated for improved living conditions, and reported cases of malnourishment and illness.

In 1928, the U.S. government released the Meriam Report, an evaluation of conditions on American Indian reservations and in boarding schools. The critical study called the schools grossly inadequate. It presented evidence of malnourishment, overcrowding, insufficient medical services, a reliance on student labor, and low standards for teachers. As a result, the government built day schools on reservations. The original boarding schools began closing their doors as parents increasingly kept their children at home. By the end of the 1970s, most of them had shut down. In 2016, though tribes and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) continue to run fifty schools nationwide, no Indian boarding schools remain open in Minnesota.

There has been scant recognition of the boarding school era by the U.S federal government and church denominations that initiated and carried out the schools’ policies. Neither has acknowledged, as the Canadian government did for its own boarding school program in 2008, that those policies’ purpose was cultural genocide or accepted responsibility for their effects. Pratt’s contemporaries viewed him and other enforces of assimilationist policies as heroes.

Few textbooks discussed Indian boarding schools before the twenty-first century. In the 2000s, however, many historians study them as the tools of ethnic cleansing. The genocidal policies the schools’ staffs carried out aimed to destroy the essential foundations of the lives of American Indian students. Their objective was the disintegration and destruction of the culture, language, and spirituality of the American Indian kids under their care. The policies they implemented led to the deaths of thousands of students through disease, hunger, and malnutrition, and have left a legacy of intergenerational trauma and unresolved grieving in many boarding school survivors and their families across Indian country.

Reprinted from .


Cherokee artists denounce Jimmie Durham as a fraud
Monday, July 03 2017
Written by brian boucher/new.artnet,
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durham_cover.jpgHot on the heels of the opening of Jimmie Durham’s touring retrospective at the Walker Art Center, 10 Cherokee artists, curators, and other professionals have published a forceful editorial disputing the artist’s Native American heritage. Durham has long claimed to be Cherokee, was involved with the American Indian Movement in the 1970s, and has made issues of colonialism and Native American identity the center of his work.

Titled “Dear Unsuspecting Public, Jimmie Durham Is a Trickster” and published by Indian Country Today, based in Verona, New York, the editorial is blunt:

“No matter what metric is used to determine Indigenous status, Durham does not fulfill any of them. Jimmie Durham is not a Cherokee in any legal or cultural sense. This not a small matter of paperwork but a fundamental matter of tribal self-determination and self-governance. Durham has no Cherokee relatives; he does not live in or spend time in Cherokee communities; he does not participate in dances and does not belong to a ceremonial ground.”

The signers of the editorial include America Meredith, an artist and publishing editor of First American Art Magazine; Cara Cowan Watts, a former member of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council; Luzene Hill, artist and former deputy speaker of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council; and Kade Twist, an artist and co-founder of the group Postcommodity, featured in the recent Whitney Biennial and current documenta 14.

First American Art Magazine has also published a detailed fact sheet about Durham. It includes a striking graph looking at JSTOR listings, and showing that Durham is by far the most mentioned artist when it comes to Cherokee art, with 81 references, compared to the next-mentioned artist, Kay WalkingStick, with just 18.

The controversy over Durham’s identity comes just weeks after an uproar at the Walker Art Center over a sculpture by Sam Durant. Scaffold (2012) was, in part, modeled on a gallows where some 38 Dakota Indians were executed in 1862, and provoked major protests for being offensive. Durant ultimately agreed to allow the work to be removed by local Dakota community and burned.

Long discussed in indigenous art circles, Durham’s claims have come under renewed scrutiny on the occasion of his traveling exhibition, “Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World,” originally organized by the Hammer Museum, in Los Angeles, and set to show to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and Remai Modern, a new private museum set to open this year in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, after its run in Minnesota.

“I am perfectly willing to be called Cherokee,” said Durham in a recent article in the New York Times, though he went on to muddy the waters by adding, “But I’m not a Cherokee artist or Indian artist, no more than Brancusi was a Romanian artist.”

The signers of the editorial say that Durham’s claims are not only untrue, but actually damaging to other Cherokee artists: “These false claims are harmful,” they write, “as they misrepresent Native people, undermine tribal sovereignty, and trivialize the important work by legitimate Native artists and cultural leaders.”

Critics and writers also come in for criticism. “While [Durham] has toned down his positioning of himself as the representative of all things American Indian,” they write, “art writers now do the job for him…, That scholars writing about Durham repeatedly fail to fact-check any of Durham’s claims is egregious, especially when a multitude of research and resources are available. The Cherokee Heritage Center, Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and John Hair Cultural Center and Museum all strive to provide accurate information to the public.”

The Walker now features the following note at the bottom of the website for his retrospective:

“Note: While Durham self-identifies as Cherokee, he is not recognized by any of the three Cherokee Nations, which as sovereign nations determine their own citizenship. We recognize that there are Cherokee artists and scholars who reject Durham’s claims of Cherokee ancestry.”

Reprinted with permission from Art Net News at .

Editor’s note: Durham’s show is scheduled to run at the Walker Art Center June 22nd through Oct 7th, 2017.

Mankato hangings an uneasy topic for MN schools
Monday, July 03 2017
Written by solvejg Wastvedt/MPRnews,
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dakota_hangings_color.jpgIt’s a troubling piece of Minnesota’s past: Thirty-eight Dakota men hanged from a Mankato gallows in December 1862. Their deaths scarred generations of Native people and cemented Minnesota as home to the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

Despite that infamy, if you’re a Minnesotan in your 30s or older, it’s likely you were never taught about the hangings – or the prairie war between the United States and the Dakota that led to them. Minnesota didn’t require students to study that tragic chapter in the state’s history.

That past, and how it’s taught, surfaced again recently with installation of “Scaffold,” a Walker Art Center sculpture built in the shape of a gallows with a reference to the Mankato hangings. It led to an outcry from Dakota community members. While “Scaffold” has been torn down, the controversy has called into question how much Minnesotans know about what happened at Mankato.

Historians say younger Minnesotans get more teaching on the topic than their parents or grandparents ever did, but that the executions, and the whole Dakota story, still don’t receive the treatment in school they deserve.

“I think it’s getting better than it used to be, but there’s a long way to go,” said Kate Beane (Flandreau Santee Sioux), outreach and program manager for the Minnesota Historical Society.

Beane also teaches about Dakota culture and history at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. She said every year she asks her students if they know about the U.S.-Dakota War.

“Seven years ago when I started teaching that class maybe one or two hands would be raised. Now I’m seeing more hands being raised,” Beane said.

Still, Beane said very few recall learning the content in school.

The war has been part of Minnesota’s grade school social studies standards for more than a decade. After a 2011 revision, the content is now taught in sixth grade.

The updated standards don’t mention the hangings at Mankato specifically. They do say students must learn “reasons for the [war]; compare and contrast the perspectives of settlers and Dakota people before, during and after the war.”

A widely used sixth grade social studies textbook published by the Minnesota Historical Society describes how U.S. Army officers “rushed through” trials of the Dakota men who “had no lawyers to present their case” and calls it “the largest mass execution in U.S. history, before or since.”

But while it’s made it into textbooks, responsibility for teaching everything in the standards rests with individual school districts.

State law requires inclusion of American Indian history and culture across subject areas. Beane and others said it’s important to teach that broader context. The state Education Department said it isn’t able to police how schools and districts teach the standards, although it does follow up with districts if there’s a complaint.

There’s no state social studies test, as there is for reading, math and science. And the U.S.-Dakota War itself isn’t required in social studies outside of sixth grade.

That lack prompted Mankato West High School teacher Matt Moore to build his own lesson for his Advanced Placement U.S. History class.

“For a Mankato student, I don’t think it’s right for the last time for them to go in-depth and learn about the U.S.-Dakota war to occur in sixth grade. I just think that’s kind of an injustice to the local history,” Moore said.

Moore said his students come into the eleventh-grade class with a range of knowledge about the war and the hangings at Mankato. “Likely the same will result in my class,” he admitted.

Still, Moore said students need to revisit a history that’s too complex for sixth graders to grasp fully.

It’s also a traumatic history. “We have to make sure that in presenting this material to children that we remember that there can be Dakota children in that classroom. How do you teach this history in a way that helps protect their spirit as well?” Beane said.

Beane and others said it’s a matter of how to teach it, not whether to present the story.

“We all learn how to teach what we’re teaching ... We learn how to teach chemistry. We learn how to teach rocket science. We have to learn how to teach Minnesota Indian history,” said Osseo Area school district secondary Indian education director Ramona Kitto Stately (Santee Sioux).

Stately said her great, great grandmother was one of a group of mostly women and children force-marched to a prison camp at Fort Snelling following the end of the U.S.-Dakota War.

“I have teachers who ask me, ‘When is it appropriate to tell kids this story?’” she said. “My answer is always the same: ‘When is it appropriate to lie to them?’”

Minnesota  Public Radio News can be heard on MPR’s statewide radio network or online at .


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