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Buy Native Directory coming soon
Tuesday, April 05 2016
 
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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maple-blueberry-granola_.jpgSap is flowing and being harvested from Minnesota maple trees. It’s calving season out on the bison and beef ranches in the Dakotas and Montana. Like every year over the last millennium, April starts a new food production season for Indian Country in the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains.

But there is something new under the springtime sun this year. The “Buy Local” movement popular across the country for the past decade is being repackaged into a “Buy Native” movement in the Northlands.
Indian Business Alliance organizations in five Northern Plains and Upper Midwest states are launching an interactive, online Native Business Directory this month for both Native American individual and tribally owned businesses.
The North Dakota Indian Business Alliance is taking the lead in designing the directory website, said executive director Stacey LaCompte. The IBAs in Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Montana are also involved with the initial Native Business Directory. It was set to go online in early April.

Over time, LaCompte said, the Alliances hope to make the directory a national listing of American Indian and Alaskan owned and operated businesses.  

Foods and arts and crafts will be a big part of the directory, said Pamela Standing, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Business Alliance. These are popular items, and Native harvested and produced food items are part of what appears to be a growing, expanding Native industry sector, she said.

The directory should function as a “Buy Native Gift Guide” in time for the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, Standing said.

This effort is consistent with local business groups all across the country that promote “Buy Local” campaigns to strengthen local economies, Standing said. That movement really took off in 2007 when four San Francisco women started a local campaign and coined the term “locavore” to describe people who want to purchase local foods. A Native directory is a variant of the local theme.

IHB Opens its Doors to a New Model of Patient-Centered Care
Tuesday, March 08 2016
 
Written by Jon Lurie,
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ihb-dr-rock.jpgDr. Patrick Rock, CEO of Indian Health Board (IHB) medical and dental clinic in the heart of Minneapolis’ Philips Neighborhood, says every year it’s the same thing: the federal government woefully underfunds urban Indian medical facilities in violation of its treaty obligations.

Rock, an 18-year IHB employee and member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, says clinics like IHB must seek alternative funding sources as they strive to provide quality care to a population facing steep health challenges.

Rock and his staff saw opportunity with the passage in 2010 of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. The law provided funding for just the kind of patient-centered innovation IHB had on its wish list for over a decade. With nearly $1 million in capital provided under the ACA, the clinic has been revamped to reflect a care model known as Accountable Care Organiza-tion (ACO).

Dr. Rock says the model is designed to improve patient outcomes and satisfaction, while reducing costs by using preventative medicine to keep patients out of emergency rooms.

Last month IHB celebrated these changes with an open house. Community members were welcomed to tour the renovated facilities, which feature bright, comfortable waiting rooms displaying Native artworks, and a state-of-the-art patient care area.

The Circle’s Jon Lurie spoke with Dr. Rock about the changes, and the challenges of caring for Minneapolis’ urban Indian population.

JL: What were some of the considerations you pondered when redesigning the clinic?
Dr. Rock: With this ACO model we’re seeing the patient as the center of our practice. The largest footprint of the clinic is the patient care area. That’s the center and everything is built around it. So, for example, when we provide dietician services, or social work consultations, it used to be that the providers would be away from the patient care area working in some corner of the building. The patient would be expected to seek out the provider’s office. But now, with the hub model, all of the providers are located in the center of the patient care area, and they go to where the patients are.

JL: Does this model work particularly well with a Native American patient population?
Dr. Rock: One of the things we take a lot of pride in is we try to adapt a lot of cultural practices into our daily work here. Right now we’re on a journey where we’re looking organization wide at indigenization and decolonization as objectives for our daily work. We think the care we provide is very Native-centric, meaning that we’re seeing people as a whole versus as a disease or a set of symptoms.

Reclaiming Bde Maka Ska for the Future Generations
Tuesday, March 08 2016
 
Written by Jon Lurie,
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calhoun-lake-beane-sisters.jpgWhen I first interviewed Kate and Carly Beane (Bad Heart Bull) for Rake Magazine in 2006, they had recently moved to Minnesota, the homeland from which their family was exiled 143 years earlier following the Dakota-US War of 1862. Both of the twin sisters, citizens of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, had been experiencing hard times and hoped their return to a state in which neither had lived but where they had deep historical roots, would help restore balance to their lives.

The first thing they wanted to do upon arriving in Minneapolis, they told me at the time, was see their ancestral village, Heyata Otunwe (the Village to the Side, their grandfather Cloudman’s Village), at Lake Calhoun. “We thought, that’s our lake; let’s go see it. So we drove around it and were saddened. I guess in a way I was picturing it to look like a Seth Eastman painting,” Kate said. “He depicted scenes of traditional Dakota life with tipis, lodges, women cooking, trees, kids playing and lots of dogs.”

“It was the middle of summer,” said Carly, “and the lake was packed – people rollerblading, tons of traffic, mansions everywhere. All we knew was that this lake was where our people called home.”

As direct descendants of both Mahpiya Wicasta (Cloud Man) and Seth Eastman the sisters knew that the lake would have changed. “It’s not as if we were expecting Cloudman’s Village to still be here,” Kate added. “We knew things would be different. But we saw the lake with our hearts; we saw how it used to be, because that was the last time our family was all together, living in our homeland, and in peace.”

The sisters soon understood that living in Minnesota alone would not rectify the wounds of exile. At a recent meeting on the 24th floor of the US Bank Building in downtown St. Paul, where Carly works for a regional philanthropic foundation, and which offers stunning views of Kaposia (Little Crow’s Village) – they explained to me the process they’ve engaged over the past decade in their quest for healing.
 

“We grew up wondering why we weren’t living in our homeland, and why we weren’t raised with our language,” Kate said. The sisters both dropped out of high school at fifteen-years old.

“We didn’t feel like we mattered. We were part of an educational system that wasn’t created for us. Our story wasn’t being told, and like many Native students, we felt invisible.” Carly said. 

Deconstruction for Mother Earth
Friday, February 05 2016
 
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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deconstructioncoverweb.jpgThe ground may be covered with snow, and temperatures wintertime cold, but an entire new “green” industry with job training is being created in both cities and rural areas here in the Northland. Native American workers for Miigwech Aki Deconstruction (Co.), based at Bemidji, recently completed deconstructing a commercial building in downtown Minneapolis and a large Twin Cities suburban home. They have also started deconstructing two abandoned properties in the Chippewa National Forest in northern Minnesota.

Salvage businesses have been around for centuries to rescue and reuse metals from sunken ships and old automobiles to wood and brick building materials. But creating social enterprises for environmental and employment training purposes is a new twist, and a new industry, built on old salvage practices.

Deconstruction is an environmentally friendly alternative to demolition, said project director Chris Bedeau (Leech Lake Ojibwe). The purpose is to keep from 85 percent to 95 percent of building materials from simply being destroyed and dumped into landfills.

That objective fits the company name Miigwech Aki, (“Thank you Earth” in Ojibwe) and is consistent with Native American values and culture, Bedeau said.

The deconstruction company is a year-old creation of the Northwest Indian Community Development Center (NWICDC) at Bemidji and simultaneously provides construction training, financial literacy, work readiness and personal well-being training programs for its participants.

uleah Palmer, the NWICDC executive director said that training and work experiences are important for unemployed and underemployed Native Americans who aspire to meaningful jobs.

The Jobs Now Coalition nonprofit group estimates northern Minnesota jobs in the Bemidji area would require $17.55 per hour for a worker to support a family of four. Average pay for jobs in that area is currently $9.95 per hour.

Miigwech Aki Deconstruction can do some of that work. “I believe this initiative fits what we do as Native people,” Bedeau said.

"Our [company] tagline says it all: ‘Preserving our greatest resource, Mother Earth, one building at a time.’ Our social enterprise gives us the opportunity to have hands on experience on a daily basis, contributing to the preservation of our planet,” he said.

Deconstructing homes and commercial properties is emerging just as the U.S. is slowly turning to ways to convert wastes into energy, recycle materials for new uses, and change American culture away from being the world’s most wasteful society.

Feds to Assume Jurisdiction at Mille Lacs Ojibwe Reservation
Friday, February 05 2016
 
Written by Jon Lurie,
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Things have gotten so bad on the Mille Lacs Reservation that Melanie Benjamin, the Ojibwe band’s chief executive, closed the doors to her annual State of the Band address last month. She wanted to address her people, and only her people, admitting band members, essential tribal employees, and invited guests to the exclusion of all others. Benjamin used the occasion to speak about justice – economic, social, and criminal.

Her impassioned rhetoric reminded attendees of the great strides the Mille Lacs people have made since the dimmest days of the European invasion; how the people had fought to retain sovereignty and restore the band’s spiritual ways and economic base. She warned, however, that all progress would be lost if the band didn’t take immediate and unflinching measures to abate criminal activity on the reservation – the latest threat, Benjamin said, to its continuing existence.

Benjamin announced that beginning January 1, 2017, the federal government will assume concurrent criminal jurisdiction on the central Minnesota reservation. Under the new agreement, federal authorities will be able prosecute crimes such as rape, murder, felony child abuse and felony assault in cooperation with state and tribal law enforcement.

Benjamin said the move is intended to send a message “to drug dealers, gang members and anyone intent on committing violent crimes on our lands. We will catch you, and when we do, you are going to Leavenworth, not Stillwater, and you are not getting out for a very, very long time.  Tell the dealers,” she said “if you don’t want to go to federal prison, get off our lands now, and stay out.”

Some band members have decried the new agreement as a surrender of tribal sovereignty. Benjamin said she doesn’t see it that way. Unless the band restores peace on the reservation, she said, there will be no nation left to exercise its rights. “The circle of life needs to be restored in a manner that permits the integrity of the individual to be maintained so that the community will continue to grow and prosper.”

While the Mille Lacs Band’s two casinos have benefitted by their proximity to the Twin Cities, Mille Lacs Solicitor General Todd Matha told the StarTribune in January that tribal communities have paid a heavy price in the form of increased crime. “Mille Lacs is basically the first stop from the [Twin] Cities going north,” he said. “When there’s gang activity and control of the drug trade, there’s obviously the violence that goes along with that.”

U.S. Justice Department statistics show overall crime rates on reservations are typically twice as high as they are elsewhere. A respite in criminal activity was noted on Minnesota’s Ojibwe reservations, however, following a federal indictment in January 2012, which charged two-dozen suspected members of the Native Mob with crimes ranging from conspiracy and racketeering to drug trafficking and attempted murder.

Creativity and technology make markets for Red Circle clients
Thursday, January 07 2016
 
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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redcircle1sm.jpgAward-winning Red Circle Agency in Minneapolis sticks close to core strengths by working with tribally owned casinos and hospitality industry ventures, but it attracts national attention for both its creative marketing skills and for its business growth.

Within the past year, Inc. magazine named the advertising and marketing company among the top 25 percent of the nation’s fastest growing privately owned companies on its annual Inc. 5000 list. Locally, Twin Cities Business magazine honored Red Circle among finalists in its Small Business Success Stories for the 2014 year.

Within the creative world, Red Circle received 11 Telly Awards that honor local, regional and cable TV commercials and programs, video and film productions, and online commercials, video and films. In addition, it was honored by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts (AIVA) with a W3 Award for creative excellence in websites, web video and online marketing programs.       

Founder and president Chad Germann, (Mille Lacs Band Ojibwe) worked in marketing for the Band’s Grand Casino Hinckley and Grand Casino Mille Lacs for four years after attending college at St. Cloud State University and graduate school at the University of North Florida.

“I loved it,” he said. “Every day was fun.” And at the same time, the work and fun showed him an opportunity to start a business and that would also serve other Native American groups, he added.
Germann became an entrepreneur 15 years ago in the highly competitive advertising and marketing industry where he competes with Madison Avenue firms, regional and local “Madmen” and women.

By various accounts and directories, there are more than 1,200 such firms with headquarters or operations in Minnesota, of which nearly 1,000 are in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. These numbers do not count in-house departments at large Minnesota-based corporations.  
Like many others in this huge supportive business field where advertising and marketing are extensions of Minnesota’s food and agribusiness industries, finance or its medical technology sectors, Red Circle’s growth is closely linked to its ties with its origins: the Native American tribes and bands.

Red Circle has about 80 long time clients that are mostly casino and hospitality industry operators in Indian Country, Germann said. Over the past three years, employment at the agency has increased from 25 people to more than 40 while revenues jumped 406 percent to $7.1 million, according to the Inc. magazine report.

That means Red Circle is still a small business player in the big field of advertising and marketing, although it is the largest Native-owned, full-service advertising agency. But growth is coming fast. Germann said he anticipates Red Circle will crack the Inc. 500 list within the coming year.

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