UILI building projects bills still alive in Legislature

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By Lee Egerstrom

While Minnesota tribes, non-profit groups, local communities and others have a large number of bills for Native communities and programs before the Minnesota Legislature this session, a catch up on what many Indigenous people call “disparities” is seeking access to Minnesota’s state budget surplus.

This comes from a collaboration of 16 Native American nonprofit organizations currently seeking nearly $136.4 million for property acquisition, design work, construction and refurbishing facilities at 14 projects in the Twin Cities metro area.

The Native groups have collaborated in the past, forming the Urban Indigenous Legacy Initiative (UILI) while Minnesota was building up the currently projected $17.6 billion state surplus. This year, in honor of a founder of many of the organizations who died in January 2022 the groups call their effort the Clyde Bellecourt Urban Indigenous Legacy Initiative. The organization itself goes by its original name, or the UILI.

“We know how to serve our communities, and these new culturally affirming facilities will allow us to do so effectively and efficiently, making our communities stronger,” said Marisa Cummings, president and chief executive of Minnesota Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

Cummings is a leader of the UILI group this year. In a statement preparing for a rally at the Capitol on March 21, she said, “Replacing our dilapidated, outdated facilities will allow us to strengthen the services we provide and create new jobs.”

In an interview on Twin Cities Public TV’s Almanac show, Joe Hobot of American Indian OIC in Minneapolis explained the linkage between urban, off-reservation Indians and residents of Minnesota’s 11 Ojibwe and Dakota reservations.

While a larger part of the Indigenous population now lives off reservation lands, the two are related and benefit from jobs training and other services offered by his and the other partner groups. Thus, economic growth and benefits for all Minnesotans are interconnected with these projects, he stressed.

The UILI stresses in materials that it isn’t an accident it uses “legacy” in its name. “We are recommitting to planting roots in the land of our ancestors, mov- ing forward to transform our community for generations to come.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and the unrest following the murder of George Floyd raised awareness of disparities affecting the urban Indigenous community, the group said. Service expansions the participating groups would be able to provide with public support include “double-digit increases in mental health service, food-shelf support for 2,000 more neighbors,” they said.

They also see a doubling of workforce development client training, a new opioid treatment center for 400 people, doubling the number of youth served at an emergency shelter, and a tripling of healthy farm production efforts.

Sponsoring the legislative bill in the Minnesota House of Representatives by DFL Reps. Hodan Hassan, who represents the large Indigenous population in south Minneapolis; Jamie Becker- Finn, of Roseville; and Alicia Kozlowski, of Duluth. Becker-Finn and Kozlowski are Indigenous Minnesotans in the Legislature.

Carrying the bill in the Minnesota Senate is Sen. Mary Kunesh, a DLFer from New Brighton who is a descendant of the Stand Rock Sioux tribe.

Projects to be funded by this collaborative effort, and amounts sought by the group, include:

• American Indian Community Development Center (AICDC) to acquire and design an inpatient opioid treatment facility for 212,825 Native Americans. The facility and programming would be developed with UILI organizations and Minnesota tribes. $6.5 million.

• A joint Oyate Ota Center in St. Paul for acquisition, design, construction, and equipping for various childcare, job and vocational training, a food shelf, social enterprise services, and related activities. It is a collaboration of UILI member organizations American Indian Family Center, Interfaith Action – Department of Indian Work, and Montessori American Indian Child Care Center. $37 million.

• Ain Dah Yung remodeling and restoration of its emergency shelter on Portland Avenue and its Beverly A. Benjamin Youth Lodge on Raymond Avenue, St. Paul. Work involves a new roof, repaired deck, walkways, tuckpointing, and bringing facilities up to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. $2.2 million.

• American Indian OIC to design, construct, furnish and equip a new facil- ity and campus in south Minneapolis for its Takoda Institute Training, Takoda Works Career Coaching, Takoda GED education and Adult Basic Education, and its Takoda Prep Alternative High School programs. $34.5 million.

• Division of Indian Work (DIW) for development of currently owned property for transitional housing for teen mothers, and for renovation and repairs of existing facilities at 1001 E. Lake Street in Minneapolis. $3.34 million.

• Dream of Wild Health for design, construction and development of a 20-acre farm site and Native community center focusing on regenerative farming, youth development and cultural reconnection. $5 million.

• Indigenous Peoples Task Force, to acquire property and develop a Mikwanedun Audisookon Center for Art and Wellness in the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis. Community services would include HIV and opioid harm reduction services, housing and navigation services, youth programs and traditional foods and environment services. $4 million.

• Little Earth Neighborhood Early Learning Center to design and construct heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and other code upgrades for an existing building; and to upgrade and add safety features to an outside play area. $1.25 million.

• Little Earth Residents Association to design and construct a Little Earth Innovation Hub to contain a green house, aquaponics, commercial kitchen, office and gathering space, including with ADA upgrades. $3.8 million.

• Little Earth of United Tribes House Corp. for safety and ADA upgrades in its housing complex and improvements to its office buildings. $5 million.

• Lower Phalen Creek Project and its Wakan Tipi Center, to design, construct and equip the Wakan Tipi Center in the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, St. Paul. The facility will have a reception area, classrooms, permanent and temporary exhibit space and gallery space to promote cultural healing, lifelong learning and inspiration. $2.5 million.

• Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC) to renovate existing facilities, including housing, to bring them up to code; make them ADA accessible, and make them more environmentally efficient and func- tional. It would expand housing capacity from 14 to 22 units. $30 million.

• Native American Community Development Institute, to complete acquisition of its site at 1414 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis, for its community development and art programming work. $971,500.

• New Native Theater, for designing a new, permanent 200-seat theater in new space at the Minneapolis American Indian Center.

The Almanac interview with Cummings and Hobot can be found online at: https://www.pbs.org/video/a-push-for-native-american-urban-bonding-projects-40040