To an encampment, our people have come home

The following is an Op Ed piece at Minn Post. Read the article in its original format here.

 

There is an encampment in Minneapolis populated by indigenous people – and it is growing.

People who have gathered there are the displaced, the unemployed, the addicted, the battered, and the sexually exploited. They have come home. They have come home to the community that they are now counting on for help, and they have come home to rest their weary bodies directly upon the lands of the Dakota to whom it belongs.

Our relatives who have sought refuge at this camp are fueled by their faith in our compassion and humanity. They have defied addictions, disease, chronic violence and exploitation. They have defied the odds to come home to their community in search of decency and help. Their presence challenges the assertion that this nation, state, and city operate as a place where all are created equal and are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – even if they are not white but indigenous.

The colonization of indigenous people continues to carry a heavy human cost. Under the auspices of American exceptionalism and the delusion of manifest destiny, the sacred words enshrined within the nation’s founding documents were forever shattered. From the beginning of the republic, successive generations have failed to honor their treaties and pledges in the quest for land and natural resources, while federal relocation and adoption policies scattered our families to the four directions. Sadder still is that this colonization process remains in full effect, both through the continued theft of our lands and a public education system intentionally designed to negate our history, destroy our culture and ruthlessly assimilate our youth. So now, hungry and homeless, our relatives have come home seeking help from the only ones they trust: the indigenous community. They’ve come to gather where they feel safe, protected, and close to those whose humanity and compassion they know they can rely on.

Prior to the “American experiment,” all of our people had roles and responsibilities that contributed to the well-being of their community, ensuring that no one was ever left unfed, unsheltered, unclothed, unclean, or unsafe. In the crush of assimilation those traditional roles receded within the smoke of old memories, burned away like a once great forest, charred to ash by a voracious wildfire. It is difficult for our non-indigenous neighbors, raised to rely on free markets and bootstrap mythologies, to understand indigenous culture and the harm that has been done. This blindness robs them of their compassion, while indigenous people continue to try and fight their way forward despite the historical traumas that burden our advances.

As we have been taught by our elders, we are now rising to the challenge of providing direct assistance to our people – children of the Creator every one — by coming together in time of crisis. Many have bravely stepped forward to serve this duty. Natives Against Heroin led the way, first to stand directly with our relatives at the camp. Indigenous nonprofits soon followed, offering their services and calling upon elected officials to join forth. Now our public officeholders are also pledging to assist.

There is an encampment in Minneapolis populated by indigenous people – and it is growing – and the reasons for its continued presence is much more than mere housing shortages and street drugs.

Joe Hobot
Joe Hobot

We must call out colonialism for the destructive and inhumane practice that it is and acknowledge the damage it continues to cause. It has created the existing wealth gap and all attendant disparities now present within Minnesota and the nation. The United States right now possesses more than enough wealth to provide for its own in all measures. To our collective detriment this myth continues to pervade policymaking at all levels. We must do better.

We now stand with our relatives at a turning point, our hearts filled with hope: hope that the promises of our local elected officials become reality and that the indigenous organizations addressing both immediate needs and long-term solutions are provided the necessary resources to execute their work. Hope that the wider community will join us in honoring the humanity of those living within this camp by calling out colonialism and the price it continues to exact on both Native and non-indigenous peoples.

In decades past our leaders have challenged us to strive toward a more perfect union, and now our dispossessed relatives – merely by existing and revealing to us their pain – are challenging us to do the very same.

There is an encampment in Minneapolis populated by indigenous people – and it is growing. Our people have come home. 

Joe Hobot, Ed.D, is president and CEO of American Indian OIC and former chair and current member of Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors. He is a descendant of the Hunk Papa Band of the Lakota Nation from the Standing Rock.

The writing above is an Op Ed piece at Minn Post. Read the article in its original format here.

AIOIC President Named Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow

Congratulations to the American Indian OIC’s President & CEO, Joe Hobot, Ed.D. who has been named one of the Aspen Institute’s Ascend Fellows for the class of 2018-19.

This prestigious opportunity has been awarded to 21 visionary and entrepreneurial leaders across the United States with bold ideas that can move the needle on health and well-being and offer concrete economic and social mobility pathways for children and their families. The Fellowship provides leaders the space and support to bring their ideas to life and scale.

Regarding the nomination, Hobot says, “I am deeply humbled and greatly honored to have been nominated by my peers and selected by The Aspen Institute to participate within this fellowship! I am thrilled at being able to work with such brilliant and inspiring people as who are a part of this incredible cohort. There is no question that this experience will inform and enhance my work on behalf of both the AIOIC and the wider community that we serve. Wopila Tanka Aspen Institute for this incredible opportunity!”

The 2018 Class consists of 21 Fellows who reflect the diversity and talent of America, across gender, race and ethnicity, geography, and sector:

  • 57% people of color, 12 women, 9 men
  • From 13 states and the District of Columbia (Alabama, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington)
  • Are state leaders in human services, Medicaid, and early care and education; national leaders in higher education, philanthropy, faith, and business; and innovative researchers and practitioners.

The Ascend Fellowship is an 18-month journey of thought-provoking reflection, inspiration, and action based on the Aspen Institute’s 50-year history of leadership development. With leaders from different disciplines and sectors, Ascend Fellows expand and interrogate their ideas and ultimately strengthen them to fuel a new cycle of opportunity for children and families.

Ascend at the Aspen Institute is the national hub for breakthrough ideas and collaborations that move children and their parents toward educational success, economic security, and health and well-being. Ascend takes a two-generation approach to our work – focusing on children and their parents together, bringing a gender and a racial equity lens to its analysis.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners.

Learn more about the Ascend Fellowship here.