Making the Invisible Visible; A Policy Blueprint from Urban Indian America



Monday, October 10, 2016
DoubleTree, St. Paul
5:30pm- social hour & networking
6pm- dinner & program

American Indian OIC and partners representing the Minneapolis/St. Paul urban Indian community will observe Indigenous People’s Day by hosting the working event, Making the Invisible Visible; A Policy Blueprint from Urban Indian America. From Making the Invisible Visible; A Policy Blueprint from Urban Indian America by the National Urban Indian Family Coalition:

The erasure or rendering of Native people invisible has been and remains a key factor limiting the opportunities and wellbeing of our communities. Native people residing in urban areas are amongst the most invisibilized populations in the nation, yet represent a significant portion of Native people in the United States: 72% of all American Indian/Alaska Natives and 78% of all American Indian Alaska Natives children live in cities. This invisibility has created and perpetuates extreme disparities across all the major sectors of life and community for tribal citizens living in cities including: children and family services, housing and homelessness, economic development and employment, and health and wellness (including the justice system). The lack of access to policy making or representation in current initiatives makes remedying these gross inequities especially challenging. Thus there has been insufficient efforts to develop comprehensive national policy or effective infrastructure at the local, state, and federal levels to serve urban Native communities. This absence has manifested in profound inequities in the distribution of resources, and access to high quality programming and services for Native people living in cities. 

Keynote Speaker & Moderator:janeen-comenote-headshot
Janeen Comenote is a founding member and director of the National Urban Indian Family Coalition.  She has spent the last 10 years advocating for American Indians/Alaska Native who live off reservations and endeavoring to provide a voice to this often “silent majority” in Indian Country.  She is the author of Making the Invisible Visible; A Policy Blueprint from Urban Indian America.

Speakers & Panelists:
Representative Peggy Flanagan, Minnesota House of Representatives
Dr. Joe Hobot, American Indian OIC
Mary LaGarde, Minneapolis American Indian Center
Robert Lilligren, Native American Community Development Institute
Patina Park, Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center




Education Leads to New Career for Takoda Graduate

Cory, a proud member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, knew he needed a change. He was working in a low-paying job that was starting to take a physical toll on his body. He wanted a job that had financial security and opportunities for advancement and one that was less physically straining. With the guidance of a caseworker at a Minnesota WorkForce Center, Cory determined that further education was his solution.

Last fall, Cory enrolled in the Takoda Institute’s Computer Support training program. During the program, he acquired the foundational skills and knowledge needed to enter a job in tech support. He found the atmosphere at Takoda to be serious, but also one that didn’t create unnecessary stress for students. Grants and scholarships allowed Cory to complete the program free from the burden of student debt and even provided some cushion for living expenses. He was also able to gain valuable hands-on work experience in his field by completing an internship.

In just nine months, Cory completed training and was ready to enter the tech workforce. He strived for excellence and was determined to stand out amongst the rest, especially to prospective employers. So, when the opportunity for employment presented itself, Cory was eager and ready. A staffing firm came to the school looking for tech workers to fill open positions. Takoda staff referred Cory for employment and, because he already had practical experience from his internship, he seamlessly transitioned into employment. He is grateful to his Takoda career counselor whose skills and dedication contributed to his gaining employment. “His help is a major reason I got hired so quickly after I completed the program. The things David taught me will continue to serve me well into the future.”

Cory is now working as a Technical Support Technician and is charged with moving things along as efficiently as possible in a fast-growing technical support department. He has increased his earnings by 40% and offers this advice to incoming students, “be efficient, productive, and constant in your awareness of what you set out to achieve.” Cory is excited to excel in his position and looks forward to advancing in his career.

 The Takoda Institute is enrolling now for its next quarter. Graduates will gain hands-on experience and vocational knowledge in the fields of health information, computer support, or administrative support. Students are also provided with a career counselor who will help them develop a professional profile, gain work experience, and connect to employment in their field of study. To learn more, follow this link.

If you are an alumnus of American Indian OIC’s programming and would like to share your story of success, contact Lucie at 952.977.9303.

Letter to the Minneapolis City Council from the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors

To the Members of the Minneapolis City Council –

This letter has been written on behalf of the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors Group with full unanimity to achieve the following purposes:

1) To formally announce our collective opposition to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in order to protect our natural fresh water supply, Mother Earth, and our teyospaye who live on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. This pipeline represents a very real threat to the integrity of our fresh water supply in the region, as well as to the surrounding natural ecosystem.

2) To collectively urge the Minneapolis City Council to follow suit and stand proudly in solidarity with the Urban American Indian community leaders here in the Twin Cities, the people of Standing Rock, and with all of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous warriors currently maintaining a peaceful vigil in protection of our natural water supply. Such solidarity can be powerfully exhibited through your approval of the Indigenous Resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline Resolution introduced by Council Member Cano on August 19th, 2016 – and that currently has 11 Council Members listed as co-authors.

There is nothing more sacred than the gifts given to us by the grace of the creator in the form of the natural bounty that sustains our ability to live. Of all these gifts bestowed upon us, there is nothing more important than clean water.

On behalf of all creation, with a full understanding that your actions today will be held to account by our children and our children’s children, the membership of MUID calls on the full support of this body to stand together with our American Indian community who is in resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Mni Waconi. Water is life.

Wopila Tanka and Chii Migwetch!

Joe Hobot, Ed.D
Chair, Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors Group
President & CEO, American Indian OIC
Hunk Papa, Lakota, Standing Rock Reservation

Governor Dayton Appoints AIOIC President to Minnesota Job Skills Partnership Board


Governor Mark Dayton recently appointed American Indian OIC’s president and CEO, Dr. Joe Hobot, to the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership board. The Minnesota Job Skills Partnership works with businesses and educational institutions to train or retrain workers, expand work opportunities, and keep high-quality jobs in the state. The board is comprised of public, private, and educational leaders who are tasked with ensuring the ongoing stability and growth of the state’s economy and labor force- principally through the management of the Dislocated Worker program and the issuance of grants and other supportive measures.

In his role as a member of the board, Dr. Hobot will ensure that underrepresented communities, particularly the American Indian community, remain a vibrant part of the conversations, planning, and resource allocations administered by the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership. Dr. Hobot is most excited about the timing of his appointment as Minnesota enters into a critical state of change- demographically and economically- whereby the decisions of the board today have a very clear impact on the state’s long-term vitality.

Follow this link to learn more about the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership
Follow these links to learn more about Dr. Joe Hobot and American Indian OIC.

AIOIC recognized for its work

American Indian OIC (AIOIC) was recently recognized by the First Nations Development Institute, the Kresge Foundation, and the National Urban Indian Family Coalition for its work helping Native Americans living in urban areas attain meaningful employment.

The group partnered with AIOIC to help more individuals of Native descent break into technology careers. According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, of the 34,000 “computer systems design and related services” workers in the state, only 180 or .5% identified as American Indian. AIOIC is working to change this by providing rigorous training for good-paying, in-demand technology jobs through its accredited career college, the Takoda Institute of Higher Education.

78% of Native Americans live off reservation and the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area is a major hub for these individuals. American Indian OIC’s participants are affiliated with 35 different tribal nations from throughout the United States and Canada and the organization is honored to be recognized for its work serving this community.

The Investment of Time

The extraordinarily high unemployment (13.1%) and jobless rates (40%) for Minnesota’s American Indian residents have resulted in significant economic disparities for the community. There are many factors that contribute to these problems including limited education, access to health care, lack of affordable housing, and limited chemical dependency treatment options. In a recent issue of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Minnesota Economic Trends magazine, American Indian OIC president & CEO, Joe Hobot, highlights one important solution to these issues – the investment of time. So often, programs that are developed to address community challenges are restricted by short timelines. These time constraints are not beneficial for individuals served by these programs who have varied needs that often require more than one grant or contract period to address. Mr. Hobot lays out an argument that the investment of time is necessary in order to address the whole person and thereby mitigate the disparities that have plagued the American Indian community for so long.

You can read Mr. Hobot’s excerpt from Minnesota Economic Trends Magazine here.

The entire issue of the magazine is located here on Minnesota DEED’s website.

Joe Hobot Honored as ’40 Under 40′

Congratulations to American Indian OIC president and CEO, Joe Hobot, who was named a Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal ’40 Under 40′ honoree. Each year the publication honors 40 leaders under the age of 40 who have “already accomplished much in their professional lives while also taking a leading role in the Twin Cities community.” Joe was selected among 550 other nominations for his charismatic leadership and his contributions at AIOIC and beyond.

Joe will be profiled in a special section of the Journal next month and will receive his award at a reception on March 10.

Legislative Alert

A critical meeting is taking place on Friday which will help determine how the Minnesota legislature addresses the disparities faced by communities of color in our state. This meeting is an important first step toward resolving damaging community issues and American Indian OIC is encouraged by this action. We are hopeful that a path to equity is possible for all Minnesotans and encourage community members and allies to remind our decision makers that American Indians in the state continue to face considerable disparities. Notably:

  • Minnesota’s Native American households have an annual median income of $32,000. This is 48% less than the state’s overall median household income of $61,500.
  • The unemployment rate for the American Indian population of Minnesota is 10.8% and 40.8% of the population is considered to be ‘not in the labor force,’ meaning that nearly 52% of working-age American Indian Minnesotans are jobless.

American Indian OIC feels that issues facing our community are often overlooked by our immediate power structure and we hope that you will use your voice to make our community’s needs heard. We encourage you to attend the meeting on Friday to share your experiences or to simply be present to lend your support to the Native community and all communities of color in our state.

Legislative Working Group on Disparities & Opportunities
Friday, January 15, 2016
100 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard
Room 200
St. Paul, MN 55155
Public testimony is permitted

If you cannot attend Friday’s meeting, please contact your legislators and let them know that American Indians and other communities of color in Minnesota face many disparities and we need their advocacy and support.

Learn more about employment and economic disparities faced by Natives in Minnesota here.

One in Two Natives in Minnesota are Jobless

For Immediate Release

Katie Fitzpatrick, Communications Manager
651.336.8813 (c)

In September of 2015, a federal report was released examining the median household income for various racial groups in Minnesota. The report indicated that the median household income for African-Americans in Minnesota had contracted by nearly 3% from 2013 to 2014. The African-American community was justifiably outraged and their local leadership condemned the Governor and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for being ineffectual in their attempts to address the needs of their community. In response to this very real and very serious issue, Governor Dayton instructed DEED to form a new office to address this problem and last month the Office of Career and Business Opportunity was created. Additionally, yesterday Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk suggested that if a special session were held, the legislature should consider approving measures that “focus on challenges facing the black community in Minnesota.”

As a leader in education and workforce development, and in observation of American Indian Heritage Month, the American Indian OIC (AIOIC) feels compelled to speak up. How is the Native American community fairing within this seemingly prosperous state economy – one that boasts a current unemployment rate of 3.7%?  If the numbers were bad, what type of response would the Governor, or legislature, or DEED generate on behalf of the American Indian community? Would they choose to invest new resources? Would the Governor suggest the creation of a new state office on behalf of the American Indian community as well? Would a special session focus on challenges facing the American Indian community?

To answer these questions, the AIOIC approached DEED’s Commissioner, Katie Clark Sieben, and its Labor Market Information Director, Steve Hine, for help finding more information. Mr. Hine dug deeper into the US Census Bureau report and was able to find economic information pertaining to the state’s American Indian community. The following was revealed:

– The median household income for American Indian families in the state of Minnesota is $32,000. (Incidentally, the established Federal Poverty Line is a household income of $24,250 for a family of four.)

– The unemployment rate for the American Indian population of Minnesota is 10.8%- nearly three times that of Minnesota’s overall unemployment rate.

– 40.8% of the Native population is considered to be “not in the labor force” – and therefore not tabulated in the employment data because they are jobless and are not currently looking for work.

According to this data, 10% of the American Indian population is officially considered unemployed, while another 40% of working-age Natives are not even in the labor force. Essentially 1 in 2 American Indians in Minnesota are jobless. 

Furthermore, the data point noting that 40.8% of American people “not in the workforce” was identified as a problematic statistic. This point refers to those individuals in the community who do not have jobs and are not actively looking for one. The reasons why can vary. Some might be what is referred to as “discouraged workers” who do not believe there are meaningful jobs to be found and have dropped out of the labor pool. This number might also include American Indian adults who are financially independent and simply do not need a job at this time. However, with an annual median household income of just $32,000, it would seem this portion of the community is likely very small.

If these numbers are indeed accurate, then how can this be acceptable to state officials? Through the discussions that were held between the American Indian OIC, Commissioner Clark Sieben, and Mr. Hine, DEED indicated that they too are troubled by this information. “While the emphasis in the media has been on black median income, there are a number of sources that highlight Minnesota’s Native population including the American Community Survey census data released last month,” said Hine. “The state recognizes that significant employment disparities exist and that previous efforts to address them haven’t been enough – this will be the focus of DEED’s new Office of Career and Business Opportunity, which will continue to work with the AIOIC and numerous other organizations that provide support for populations of color in Minnesota.”

What the American Indian OIC proposes now is action. “Action is absolutely required on the part of the Governor, the legislature, and DEED to work in concert with the American Indian community to begin to officially identify, tabulate, and address the economic disparities currently affecting our people. It is time to demand action by the state government to address our needs the same as they would for any other population here in Minnesota,” said Joe Hobot, President and CEO of American Indian OIC. “For all of our non-Indigenous supporters, those who sympathize and support the American Indian people of Minnesota- join us. Contact Governor Dayton, Senator Bakk, and Commissioner Clark Sieban and let them know that you support an economy that works on behalf of all Minnesotans.”

Follow this link for more information on the jobless rate for Minnesota’s native population.

Follow this link for more information on American Indian OIC.


Thank You to Our Grant Funders

American Indian OIC is grateful for the generous support of the following entities that support our work through grant funding. Their investment allows us to grow our programs and further our impact for our clients.

First Nations Development Institute- Funds provided by First Nations will be used to expand American Indian OIC’s training and apprenticeship opportunities for Native students pursuing careers in the business and information technology fields.

Northwest Area Foundation- American Indian OIC will participate in the “Good Jobs Initiative” which seeks to identify best practices for getting more multicultural community members into high-wage occupations.

Minnesota Job Skills Partnership- Grant funding from MJSP will provide scholarships to low-income students in short-term training courses at the Takoda Institute of Higher Education.

Women United, Greater Twin Cities United Way- Funds provided by Women United will be used to explore and develop solutions to increase the number of women working in the information technology field in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.