Native Americans rally at capitol in support of funding bill

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Sen. Mary Kunesh, DFL-New Brighton, speaking on behalf of the bill at the State Capitol Building Rotunda.

Sixteen Twin Cities American Indian organizations and their supporters filled the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda in St. Paul on March 25 to highlight a bold, “all in” proposal to construct 12 new, capacity-building facilities.

“The community’s needs are great, but so too are the state’s resources,” said Dr. Joe Hobot, president and CEO of American Indian OIC. “We call on legislators to join us on this.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest of the past two years have highlighted the disparities that continue to burden the urban Indigenous community. American Indian employment, for example, is down 13.7 percent since 2019, and American Indians have the highest COVID-19 death rates per 100,000 than any other group in the state.

“We stand today, strong together and united in advocating for the resources needed in our communities,” said Marisa Miakonda Cummings, president and CEO of the Minnesota Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. Passage of the Clyde Bellecourt Urban Indigenous Legacy Initiative (SF 3648/HF 3918) also will allow the organizations to “honor the trailblazers who went before us,” she noted.

The Urban Indigenous Legacy Initiative rally was held at the Capitol in support of the $83.9 million equity-focused proposal that addresses persistent disparities. (Photos courtesy of the Urban Indigenous Legacy Initiative.)

Sen. Mary Kunesh, DFL-New Brighton, urged support for the legislation, which expands capacity on issues ranging from housing to healthcare, workforce development to food security. “This is an investment that is important for the future … of all Minnesotans.”

Speaking at a press conference earlier in the day, Rep. Hodan Hassan, DFL-Minneapolis, noted that each of the 16 organizations plays a vital role in our community. “I stand with you today, and I will fight for this,” she said.

The Urban Indigenous Legacy Initiative is a collective of 16 American Indian nonprofit organizations in the Twin Cities, including: Ain Dah Yung Center, American Indian Community Development Corporation, American Indian Family Center, American Indian OIC, Department of Indian Work: Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul, Division of Indian Work, Indigenous Peoples Taskforce, Little Earth of United Tribes, Lower Phalen Creek Project – Wakan Tipi Center, MIGIZI, Minneapolis American Indian Center, Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, Montessori American Indian Childcare Center of St. Paul, Native American Community Clinic, Native American Community Development Institute, and New Native Theatre.