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Red Lake housing project in Mpls to house elders, wellness center
Monday, July 03 2017
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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red_lake_story_2.jpgThe city of Minneapolis has approved more than $2.7 million from its Affordable Housing Trust Fund to assist the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe in launching its Mino-bimaadiziwin housing project on the edge of the American Indian Cultural Corridor in South Minneapolis.

The Red Lake Band announced in July last year it had purchased a former hardware warehouse site at 17th Ave. S. and Cedar Ave., near the Franklin Avenue Metro Blue Line light-rail station, to develop the housing project.

Current plans call for a complex of 109 housing units, and the complex will also house the Red Lake Nation Embassy and a Wellness Center in the six-story building.

Sam Strong, director of Economic Development and Planning at Red Lake, said the band has been working with other groups on finance and planning since that initial announcement. The city’s support is an important part of the financing plan, he said.

Mino-bimaadiziwin, meaning “the good life” in Ojibwe, will have 10 efficiencies and 15 one-bedroom units. These are to encourage elders to live in communities with young families, the band said. It will also have 29 three-bedroom and 55 two-bedroom apartments for families.

Fabian Hurd, director of the Red Lake Nation Embassy office in Minneapolis, said plans include a walkway to the Franklin Avenue Blue Line station for convenience of tenants and their visitors.

The hardware warehouse complex consists of four separate but connected buildings that will be demolished for new construction, said George Spears, the embassy’s housing advocate.

Like other tribes in Minnesota and throughout Indian Country, Red Lake now has more enrolled members – not even counting descendants – living in urban areas than back home on its sovereign land. Red Lake counts slightly less than 6,000 living at home and 6,000 or more living away.

Minneapolis is the largest non-reservation urban center for Red Lake Ojibwe and other Upper Midwest Native people. Current U.S. Census data show there are 10,591 people living in Hennepin County and 4,043 residents of Ramsey County, across the Mississippi River in St. Paul and suburbs, who identify themselves as American Indians to Census takers.

“The location on the Cultural Corridor along Franklin Avenue represents an opportunity for Native Americans to create a community destination of pride. Mino-bimaadiziwin augments the Cultural Corridor through creating a comprehensive, holistic living environment that blends housing and traditional healing practices with contemporary therapies,” the Red Lake Band’s statement said.

Plans for the housing complex include green space, underground parking and amenities such as the wellness center. It will also provide housing for low income individuals and families on up to households with incomes in the 50 percent and 60 percent of area medium income levels.

That puts Mino-bimaadiziwin within the scope of Minneapolis’ Affordable Housing Trust Fund program (AHTF), said Angie Skildum, manager of residential finance for the city’s Housing Policy and Development office. The fund was started in 2003 to help affordable housing development and rehabilitation of properties serving various population groups, including seniors, homeless, AIDS, families, workforce, veterans, artists and others deemed to have special needs.

The program is also used to help create developments along transportation systems, called Transit Oriented Developments (TOD) by urban planners and city officials, that in Minneapolis’ case involves light rail, bus rapid transit and local mass (bus) transit service. The Red Lake development is just 200 feet from the Franklin Avenue Blue Line station.

By Red Lake’s reckoning, the Cedar Avenue project represents the first direct investment in housing off sovereign land by a Minnesota tribe. It addresses a need for affordable housing by Red Lake members and descendants living in the Twin Cities metro area while also further diversifying Red Lake’s investment portfolio.

Other Minnesota-based tribes, however, are partners and participants in housing projects in the Twin Cities and Duluth although that assistance doesn’t make them sole owners and their stakes in projects aren’t listed among tribal-owned enterprises.

Skildum said the Red Lake award of $2,718,591 is the 11th new construction or rehab project supported by city AHTF funds aimed at improving affordable housing for Native Americans. It is the largest of Native related projects. 
Other projects where financing was assisted by the city’s fund include:

  • The Indian Neighborhood Club expansion, 2101 S. 5th Ave., for 20 sober housing and support of chemically dependent men. 20 units. It has various government and non-profit partners. 2014.
  • Anishinabe Wakiagun rehab (45 units) and new construction of Anishinabe Bii Gii Winn (32 units), in the American Indian Corridor, for homeless and near-homeless people with disabilities. American Indian Community Development Corp. (AICDC) and Project for Pride in Living (PPL) are partners. 2013.
  • Bii Di Gain Dash Elder Housing, 2401 Bloomington Ave. S., for new construction of 47-unit apartment complex for Native elders. AICDC and CommonBond Communities are partners. 2009.
  • Rehabilitation work at Anpa Waste House, 10th Ave. S. Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches/ Division of Indian Work. 2008.
  • Noko-Wakiagun Elder Housing, 1919-1929 Columbus Ave., and 726-30 E. Franklin Ave., new construction of 32 apartment units for Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe elders. AICDC. 2005.
  • Pokegama North, 2111 14th Ave. S., and Pokegama South, 2313 13th Ave. S., new construction of 23 affordable single-family homes for home ownership. AICDC. 2004.
  • Anpa Waste Apartments, 3146 Cedar Ave. S., for rehabilitation of an 11-unit apartment building for chronically homeless teen parents and their children. The Division of Indian Work, and the Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation. 2004.
  • Maynidoowahdak Odena, 1321-1351 E. 23rd St., rehabilitation and stabilization of 15 units for Native families and individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Indigenous Peoples Task Force and partners. 2002.
  • Indian Neighborhood Club, 1805 Portland Ave. S., rehabilitation of housing for 16 Native Americans recovering from substance abuse. 2001.
  • Little Earth of United Tribes Housing Corp., 2501 Cedar Ave. S. for rehabilitation and stabilization work on the 212 units of affordable housing Little Earth purchased from the city. 1995.

Dates shown above were for applications for AHTF financial support. Approval, construction and rehabilitation work often came in later years.

Skildum said Minneapolis awarded $7.8 million for eight projects in 2016 across the spectrum of groups and individuals working to provide affordable housing in the city. These projects are developing and rehabilitating 569 affordable housing units, she said.

As with any large development, Red Lake’s Mino-bimaadiziwin has partners in its planning, financing and development stages.

Red Lake said its team includes Cunningham Group Architects, an international architectural and consulting firm temporarily headquartered in St. Paul; Loeffler Construction, a minority-owned (White Earth Ojibwe member) and woman-owned regional construction company that does extensive work with Native communities; Plumer Law Office, Bemidji; Woodstone Builders Inc., Bloomington; Westwood Professional Services, an Eden Prairie-based surveying, engineering and consulting firm; and Landon Group, a St. Paul-based women-owned business enterprise (WBE) that specializes in helping secure financing for affordable housing projects.


Am. Indian Cultural Corridor to be part of Minneapolis “Green Zone”
Thursday, June 01 2017
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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The city of Minneapolis has designated the Phillips Neighborhood, including the American Indian Cultural Corridor along Franklin Avenue, as one of two geographic areas to be “Green Zones” for future environmental and economic development.

The city will be reaching out to Native and Indigenous organizations this month for participants to serve on a task force to implement the city’s plans, said Kelly Muellman, the city’s sustainability program coordinator.

Just what the Green Zone designation will mean going forward will be determined by affected community members and organizations, she said.

The Minneapolis City Council approved the two Green Zone designated areas in late April.  A similar large area of Minneapolis’ North Side was the other designated area along with the Phillips Neighborhood just south of the city’s Downtown area.

In a broadly worded statement of intentions, however, the city said the Green Zone designation will seek to promote “environmental equity,” including racial equity, improve health and support economic development.

The city’s statement announcing council approval of the two Green Zones said key interests involve “greening” local businesses, housing quality and availability, community gardens, protecting the most vulnerable and “building community.”

Community participation will be necessary for such goals to be achieved, Muellman said. While a call for participation will be made during June, she added, interested people and groups can express their interest by contacting her or the Minneapolis City Coordinator’s Office of Sustainability.

Several cities across the country have various forms of Green Zones that are intended to help guide developments and environmental and health quality for vulnerable neighborhoods. Two programs that catch attention in Minneapolis are the zones in Los Angeles and Buffalo, N.Y.

Three Green Zone communities in Los Angeles focuses on air quality, Muellman said. Buffalo’s program is much different; operated by a nonprofit organization for the city, it focuses on housing for low-income households.

Preliminary planning suggests the Minneapolis Green Zones will be “a combination of Los Angeles and Buffalo programs,” Muellman said.

The concept has been evolving over the past two years with some participation of people in the Phillips Neighborhood. A former employee of Little Earth of United Tribes and from the Indigenous Peoples Task Force were among them.

A Green Zones Workgroup has stated broad objectives that include focusing on the “most vulnerable,” described as low-income, over-burdened, people of color, indigenous people, youth, disabled and older adults.

It also called for “community-led planning” and “homegrown development and community ownership.”

How that plays out will depend on community involvement. Muellman said it is imperative that Native organizations and leaders join the forthcoming task force that will define the Minneapolis Green Zone objectives.    

Kelly Muellman can be reached at: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

The Minneapolis City Coordinator’s Office of Sustainability’s website is:


AIM Interpretive Center takes wild rice and Native culture to France
Thursday, June 01 2017
Written by Norma Renville & Jack Swanson ),
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aimicfrance2.jpgAfter two years of planning and development work conducted by American Indian Movement Interpretive Center (AIMIC) board members, staff and consultants, the AIMIC sent a delegation to the Foire de Tours in Tours, France to introduce its citizens to real wild rice and to share their culture.

The Foire, which is similar to the Minnesota State Fair, is an international fair held each year with themes that in the past have included Portugal, Italy and Japan. Minneapolis, Minnesota was the theme of the Foire this year as it marks the 25th anniversary of Tours and Minneapolis being Sister Cities.

AIMIC wanted to take advantage of the Foire’s “Minneapolis Minnesota” theme and the fact that Tours is one of four cities in France that are designated a Cité de la Gastronomie (a city of gastronomy) to launch their wild rice venture. The people of Tours seem to appreciate and understand specialty food items, like wild rice, and how food can be used to develop friendships and bridge cultures.

The hard work began once AIMIC staff, board members, and volunteers arrived in Tours to provide the visitors with an authentic American Indian Cultural Experience; in coordination with the Meet Minneapolis Staff, the Mayor of Tours and the staff at the Foire, including Denis Schwok, the Chairman of the Board for the Foire de Tours.

The AIMIC planning committee members believe the drum is the heart of the people and that it would help bring to life Native culture and spirituality through songs. As such, Midnite Express was selected to perform, alongside the Native Pride Dancers, to showcase authentic songs and dances to the French people.  Rodney Stanger, one of the Midnite Express singers, speaks French and was able to explain to the crowds the songs that were sung and the dances that were performed.

The Meet Minneapolis Expo Center event was packed at the three daily performances and the visitors seemed mesmerized by the singing and dancing.  The Native Pride Dancers consisted of two female jingle dress dancers, a female  traditional dancer, and two traditional men dancers and a male hoop dancer.

aimicfrance1.jpgArtist Wolf Bellecourt painted two tipis that were erected at the Foire De Tours. Visitors of the Foire went in and out of the tipis, taking pictures. AIMIC staff say they felt they were breaking down stereotypes of American Indian people and building a cultural understanding as the people of France learned about the beauty of American Indian culture and history.

Over 3,000 samples of wild rice dishes prepared by the Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman and his staff, were given to the visitors at the AIMIC table. Presentations in French, through translators, communicated the process of harvesting the wild rice known as “Riz Sauvauge” in French.  The differences between patty rice and true organic wild rice were also explained. Over 750 bags of White Earth’s Organically Certified Wild Rice were sold at the Foire de Tours. It was common for visitors to sample and purchase a bag of wild rice and then return the following day to buy more.

The visitors also purchased AIM merchandise such as patches, hats, postcards and beadwork. Some of the visitors spoke English and American Indian history and culture was shared, and some lifelong friendships were forged. The visitors who spoke limited English conveyed a message of love and mutual respect to AIMIC staff and volunteers.

Visitors could also try wild rice at the L’étoile du Nord (Star of the North) restaurant whose menu was put together by the Sioux Chef and his staff. Over 350 pounds of wild rice was served as Chef Sherman incorporated wild rice into all of the dishes, including Indian tacos, walleye, venison, and buffalo. Food presentations were given by Sherman at the restaurant, which was packed with visitors and other chefs who wanted to learn about the benefits of eating wild rice and traditional American Indian foods.

The trip to Tours was a great success and the time spent was invaluable in teaching the French about our culture and developing lasting meaningful relationships.

With the success and the growing interest for wild rice, the AIMIC is currently working on developing a wider distribution chain for wild rice and expanding into the European market.

To learn more about AIMIC, see:

“Scaffold” at Walker Art Center to be dismantled and burned
Thursday, June 01 2017
Written by Cat Whipple,
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walkerartcenterscaffold.jpgOutrage from the Native community in Minneapolis has put the Walker Art Center in the hot seat. The Center’s installation of a two-story gallows structure entitled “Scaffold”, by artist Sam Durant, includes references to the hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato in 1862 by the US government.  

“Scaffold” is a collection of re-created gallows, from the largest U.S. mass execution – the 38 Dakota men – to the execution gallows of Saddam Hussein. Durant says it was intended to open “the difficult histories of the racial dimension of the criminal justice system in the United States, ranging from lynchings to mass incarceration to capital punishment.”

The artwork was set to open with 18 other new works in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden on June 3. But due to massive outcry from the Native community, the opening has been delayed until June 10. The Walker has also announced that it will take down “Scaffold” and has met with the Dakota community on how best to move foward.

In a statement, Walker Art Center’s Executive Director Olga Viso wrote, “I regret the pain that this artwork has brought to the Dakota community and others. Prompted by the outpouring of community feedback, the artist Sam Durant is open to many outcomes including the removal of the sculpture. He has told me, ‘It’s just wood and metal – nothing compared to the lives and histories of the Dakota people.’”

Protests were held by the fence surrounding the sculpture garden and messages were posted on Facebook, calling for the piece to be dismantled, saying it trivialized the executions, and calling for Viso to be fired.

On May 31st, a three-hour meeting was held between Dakota elders, Viso, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board representatives, and the artist. The meeting ended with a plan for Dakota elders to dismantle the art piece and hold a ceremonial burning of the wood.

According to the StarTribune, Viso said, “This is the first step for the Walker in a long process to rebuild trust with the Dakota and Native communities throughout Minnesota. ...We’re grateful to the traditional Dakota leaders for their wisdom and patience in this process.”

A Native-owned construction company will begin taking apart “Scaffold” on June 2nd, which will be overseen by Dakota elders. The wood will be moved to a site near Fort Snelling. The agreement also includes Durant transfering intellectual property to the tribe and agreeing to never create the Dakota gallows again.

Walker officials said in a statement, “It takes at least four days to remove the wood. It will be removed by a native construction company, and the wood will be placed in a fire pile near the remaining steel understructure with signage explaining the mutually agreed upon process until the wood is removed.

“The wood will be removed and taken to the Fort Snelling area, because of the historical significance of this site to the Dakota Oyate, where they will ceremonially burn the wood.”

Super Bowl awards Legacy Grant to Twin CitiesNative Lacrosse
Tuesday, May 09 2017
Written by The Circle,
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To commemorate the MNSBHC Legacy Fund grant dedication, Twin Cities Native Lacrosse hosted an event at Corcoran Park with the members of the first all-female, all-Native lacrosse team.In April, the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee (MNSBHC) Legacy Fund awarded Twin  Cities Native Lacrosse (TCNL) a $50,000 grant to help fund the organization’s efforts to provide Native American youth in the Twin Cities with free field time, league registration, lacrosse equipment, and transportation.

The grant is part of the 52 Weeks of Giving campaign, a year-long effort to make Super Bowl LII a statewide event by awarding 52 communities with grants that will help improve the health and wellness of young people in Minnesota.  

TCNL is a small, non-profit organization founded in 2014 to promote exercise and healthy life ways by engaging  Native American youth and families in both traditional Dakota/Ojibwe style-lacrosse and modern-style lacrosse.

TCNL instills cultural values and knowledge around the game of lacrosse as well as provides free access to lacrosse equipment, transportation to practices and games, and participation in competitive league play. Highlights for this summer include travel to compete in the 2017 North American Indigenous Games in Toronto, Canada, an  Olympics-style competition for Native American/ First Nations youth from the U.S. and Canada.

To commemorate the MNSBHC Legacy Fund grant dedication, Twin Cities Native Lacrosse hosted an event at Corcoran Park with the members of the first all-female, all-Native lacrosse team, where community leaders, families, and youth participated in a traditional lacrosse game.

“We see many instances in our young athletes where the price of participation in sports like lacrosse prevents kids from playing,” said John Hunter, Director and Coach, Twin Cities Native Lacrosse. “Our organization was founded to remove that burden from these young people to help them stay active and learn lifelong lessons about the roots of this sport and Native American culture. This grant will help us continue our efforts to provide children with better access to the sport in our community.”

Twin Cities Native Lacrosse’s core coaching approach focuses on Native American value around kinship responsibilities and honoring the game. Participating families are not required to have Native American ancestry to join a team, only a desire to learn lacrosse and values rooted in traditional teachings. The organization accepts any young person who wants to play, prioritizing athletes from underserved families and neighborhoods; it emphasizes the importance of equity in sport by encouraging girls as well as boys of all ages to play lacrosse.

“Twin Cities Native Lacrosse is doing an excellent job working with Native youth to increase physical activity and to continue the tradition of this sport that means so much to the history and culture of Minnesota,” said Dana Nelson, Vice President of Legacy and Community Partnerships for the MNSBHC Legacy Fund. 

For more information about Twin Cities Native Lacrosse, visit .

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