Minneapolis State of the City Addresses Native Issues


minneapolis state of the city addresses native issues 3.jpgFor the first time in the history of

the city, Mayor Betsy Hodges selected the Minneapolis American Indian

Center as the site of her State of the City address on April 24. Drum

group Ringing Shield performed at the opening of the speech. Daniel

Yang, Director of Organizing and Community Building at the Native

American Community Development Institute, and Bill Means, co-founder

of the International Indian Treaty Council, introduced the mayor.

Yang commended Hodges for continuing

to engage the Native community in discussions about citywide issues.

“The hard truth is, more often than not, like in so many

communities of color, we don’t see those who ask for our votes again

until four to six years later when the next election rolls around,”

he said.

Yang also spoke on the importance of

the Minneapolis city council’s vote on the Indigenous People’s Day

Resolution, which would be recognized in place of Columbus Day. “If

it’s important for the City of Minneapolis to have all of its

residents feel respected, dignified, and valued, this is an important

step in healing the pain that is associated with this day and the

Indigenous people that call this place home,” he said.

Means talked about historical aspects

of Indigenous people’s relationships with the city of Minneapolis

while looking forward to the future of their interactions. “This is

an historic day because it is recognition of the contributions of

Indian people to this great city, starting with the basic ingredient

– the land,” he said. “Today begins a continuation of the

reconciliation with Indian people, the recognition of the

contributions of Indian people and the recognition of our rights and

our responsibilities to our communities.”

Many other leaders in the Native

community feel that the State of the City address marks an important

step in bringing Indigenous issues into discussions about citywide

policies. Bill Ziegler, Chief

Executive Officer of Little Earth of United Tribes, said that the

speech shows solidarity between the issues faced in the Native

community and Minneapolis as a whole.


think the significance of this event happening here at the Indian

Center on Franklin Avenue is a way for the mayor’s office to say and

show the American Indian community that our issues are also issues

that face the rest of the city and that we’re going to be given the

respect to have our voices at the table and be taken seriously,” he

said. “I’m hopeful through Mayor Hodges’ leadership that this isn’t

just a show, that as she goes throughout her term our issues will

remain at the forefront of the work that she does."


McDonald, the American Indian Community Specialist with the City of

Minneapolis, said the move represents the city’s acknowledgment of

the issues members of the Native American community face.

“Being an

employee of the City of Minneapolis, I constantly felt that I was an

interrupter. Whenever we speak about information and data about our

city, about our population, a lot of times it didn’t reflect our

community. And the response I would get is that our numbers weren’t

big enough for the data to show up and I would push back and say that

that doesn’t mean that we’re not relevant,” she said. “It’s about

representation, it’s about acknowledgment, it’s definitely about

equity. So many people have a romanticized version of Native

Americans and they forget that we’re still here. They don’t realize

that when it comes to all of the gaps, we have the biggest gaps.”minneapolis state of the city addresses native issues.jpg


Goze, the Chief Executive Officer of the American Indian Community

Development Corporation, feels that the mayor’s speech showed that

the city government recognizes the American Indian community as

important players in the city’s overall success.


goes along with them bringing all the candidates to the community

through the process and solidifies their understanding that the

American Indian community is strong and well and needs to be

recognized,” Goze said.


Fairbanks,Ward 9 Policy Aide, thinks that Hodges showed recognition

for the Native community and its issues that few mayors have

exhibited. “It’s so important to immediately reengage and she’s

here to talk to our community,” she said. “Just being here is

acknowledging the existence of our community and the cultural

corridor, which is more than most mayors have done in the past. “


LaPointe, a member of Ringing Shield, said that Hodges’ mention of

renaming Columbus Day Indigenous People’s Day resonated with him


“The history of

Native peoples needs to be recognized in order to establish a

relationship with the community and to recognize urban Natives here,”

he said. “It’s an effort that should be implemented in other states

as well in order to effectively address the needs of Native youth in

education systems, but also to give the youth a place in the

community to learn more about who they are within these institutions.

There’s a deep need for it and it fits the aspirations of Native


minneapolis state of the city addresses native issues 2.jpgThorne LaPointe,

also of Ringing Shield, identified with the mayor’s asset-based

approach. “She really pointed out the leaders and the shakers and

movers in the community who are thinking ahead for a sustainable

future at all sectors and all levels. It helps us think anew; about

our current situations, our current circumstances and how we can make

it better,” he said. “I really see her shifting the focus from

the problems to our strengths and our number one assets. I really

liked her approach in finding common ground and speaking in terms of


Hodges’ speech focused on themes of

equity and economic growth.

“Growth that includes us all will

propel us further than doing what we’ve always done. Because doing

what we’ve always done will get us what we’ve always gotten. And what

we’ve always gotten is growth that is thwarted by the biggest

disparities in the country between white people and people of color,”

she said. “While we are a great city, we are not a great city for

everyone, and that truth limits how far we can go. In the next three

decades, it will actively erode the gains we have made that we are so

rightfully proud of.”

Hodges noted a study released by the

International Monetary Fund that shows that countries who reduce

inequalities among their populations by 10 percent experience an

economic growth of 50 percent. She noted that important aspects of

this equity include education, access to public transit, job growth

and support for small business owners from all backgrounds.

“The key to our future rests on

making sure that everyone has what they need to take advantage of all

we have to offer. Our common future rests on it,” Hodges said. “We

are one Minneapolis, my friends. Acting like it will get us

everywhere we choose to go.”


Top: Mayor Betsy Hodges delivers her first State of the City Address at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, a first for the American Indian Cultural Corridor.

Middle: Bill Means, International Indian Treaty Council co-founder,  introduces Hodges on April 24.

Bottom: Drum group Ringing Shield offered several songs as guests and dignitaries gathered to hear Hodges speak.