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.

The Full Version of Dr. Hobot’s “Resurgence” Report is Now Available

Read the full version of Resurgence or access the executive summary.

Resurgence: Restructuring Urban American Indian Education is published in both an executive summary and book format. Resurgence highlights seven incredible alternative, “indigenized” schools within six different urban locations, the findings of which point to a new path forward not only for urban American Indian Education, but for culturally-contextualized education everywhere.

Resurgence offers a holistic understanding toward why the American Indian achievement gap persists, examining historical educational trauma and educational reform that ignores the cultural context of marginalized communities such as American Indians. The report examines seven successful community-governed alternative schools and offers five key recommendations for scaling the success of these schools to the larger indigenous education system.

While the release of a report of this scope is a step in the right direction, Dr. Hobot insists it must be met with further discussion, stating “the strategies and insights provided through this work represent a legitimate pathway forward for what public education could be throughout Indian Country. In that respect, it is certainly worth evaluation and further discussion by those involved in this arena.”

Resurgence was commissioned and created in partnership with the NUIFC.

We Stand with Standing Rock

American Indian OIC stands in solidarity with the Lakota Nation of Standing Rock as they refuse the incursion of the Dakota Access Pipeline from being constructed near vital waterways – including the Missouri River – directly adjacent to their tribal lands and natural water supplies. This pipeline represents a direct and lethal threat to both the water and our tiyospaye who live on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. For the sake of the water, Mother Earth, and our children, the construction of this hazardous and unsecure pipeline cannot be allowed to happen.

This is a dangerous exploitation of our Mother Earth and American Indian OIC fully supports the warriors fighting the battle on the protest’s front lines. We implore our community members and our non-Native allies and accomplices to sign the Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline petition and to make a contribution to the warriors’ litigation fund.

Water is life. Mni Waconi.

For a brief history of the DAPL, follow this link.

The K-12 system didn’t fail the American Indians.

The K-12 system didn’t fail the American Indians. Its methods have followed its own design to the letter…

Formalized education in the United States was not designed to empower us. It was designed to pacify us, while it extinguished our culture.

Credit: Otis Historical Archives National Museum of Health and Medicine, Indian Training School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. School room building.
Credit: Otis Historical Archives National Museum of Health and Medicine, Indian Training School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. School room building.

The relationship between the American Indian people and formalized education within this nation is one of contention, controversy, and trauma. The school system of the United States was not designed to give our people an opportunity at having a stable, thriving life whereby our culture could flourish. For that reason, when evaluating it today, the educational system of the United States has in fact been a success.

From the earliest days, the federal government’s plan for “educating” American Indians was to forcibly relocate and assimilate our elders within the dominant American culture. The chosen vehicle to accomplish this task, after warfare, were the schools. The targets of these assimilative practices were the most impressionable and vulnerable population to be found – our youth. After years of rolling warfare throughout the American frontier (what the United States would refer to as the “Indian Wars” but what we refer to as our fight for survival) a deep desire to pacify the indigenous people once and for all permeated the halls of Washington D.C.

Yet even before the bloody conflicts of the 18th century came to their malicious conclusion with the massacre at Wounded Knee, the dominant culture had already philosophically justified their subjugation of indigenous people through their own legal opinions. Courtesy of the Marshall Trilogy of Supreme Court rulings during the 1820’s, our ancestors were deemed as nothing more than “wards of the state” – wayward orphans in need of the continual guidance and protection as rendered by the federal government. It was believed by elected officials of the day that the United States possessed an obligation to incorporate American Indians into the greater American diaspora. More importantly, the federal government sought to prevent us from disrupting the successful westward expansion of the nation through our ongoing resistance to white settlement as effected through force of arms.

A GROUP OF 15 HAVASUPAI INDIAN SCHOOL CHILDREN POSING OUTSIDE OF THE SCHOOL. 16 NOV 1938. Grand Canyon National Park Museum Collection, P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
A GROUP OF 15 HAVASUPAI INDIAN SCHOOL CHILDREN POSING OUTSIDE OF THE SCHOOL. 16 NOV 1938. Credit: Grand Canyon National Park Museum Collection.

Sixty years later, as our warriors and spiritual leaders were killed, assassinated, and imprisoned, federal concern then turned towards the next generation. As described in the works by David Wallace Adams, John Reyner and Jeanne Eder, and Jacqueline Fear-Segal (Education for Extinction, American Indian Education: A History, and White Man’s Club – respectively) thus began a systemic conscription of American Indian children – often times taken forcibly against the will of their parents – on into a rigid educational structure situated far away from their families and ancestral lands. It was here at these remote locations, behind the high brick walls that bordered the stone barracks where our children were warehoused – that the public educational system set to work to purposefully exterminate our cultural identities. Today this period is referred to by American Indian scholars as the “Boarding School Era.” Yet within those institutions, despite the inhumane brutality imposed upon them on a daily basis, our ancestors heroically managed to keep our culture alive. In the face of corporal punishment, sexual and mental abuse, and isolation, the culture was somehow preserved by those that were there. This continuance of our language and of our ways – often times pursued in secret and at great risk to the individuals who dared – will serve as a supreme act of resistance from which our currently reality is derived.

By the 1920’s, when it became apparent that the forced assimilative practices of the boarding schools were failing to engender the desired results sought by government officials (i.e.: the complete extinction of indigenous cultures in North America), mainstream public schools in surrounding municipalities were then turned to as the principle means for acculturating American Indian youth. Here, as before, there were no considerations whatsoever regarding our unique cultural status, and our desire to preserve it. As a result, no allowance was made for any type of educational offering to support our indigenous identities. Instead, our youth at that time were enrolled into a public education system that had been modeled upon the estimable tenets valued by an industrialized society. Along with their non-Native peers and recent European immigrants, students were force-fed into an academic machine that provided assembly-line educational practices designed to produce “citizen widgets” – capable of little more than holding down menial, low-skill jobs upon graduation. Our boys were taught rudimentary skills within the industrial arts, and our girls were schooled only in the ways of home economics and child rearing. Such a narrow focus reflected the limited nature to which educators viewed the prospective futures for American Indian youth. These methods would continue on without disruption for the next forty years.

Credit: Canada Biblio Archives
Credit: Canada Biblio Archives

It was not until the political upheavals of the late 1960’s, where the civil rights movement and identity politics surged to the forefront of American consciousness, when the American Indian community began to galvanize for change. For our people, the work of Vine Delora, Jr., Richard Oakes, John Trudell, and the American Indian Movement brought forth a new awakening that called upon the need to practice and teach our culture in more overt ways – particularly if it were to survive for future generations. As detailed within Judy Davis’ 2013 work, Survival Schools, by the early 1970’s the American Indian people began to take community control over the education of their children. Parents and elders began placing emphasis on the practices and traditions of our people over the insistence of an industrialized educational system that had thus far failed to provide a stable future for our people.

As a result, within these new, small, community-controlled schools the American Indian culture became the fulcrum upon which the development of our youth would hinge. Yet despite these modest successes occurring in rather isolated pockets, the majority of our children were still ensnared within the machinery of American public schools, with their academic achievements wilting under the continual denial of the life-giving traditions and customs that were such familiar nutrients within their homes and amongst their families. For so many of our students, academic success was a near impossible realization as they found themselves being ground up between the gears of a system that continued to refuse to acknowledge cultural distinctions among their students.

Now with the 21st Century underway, many new and progressive educational approaches have begun to surface in several different locations, and have been applied towards American Indian education (many of which were pioneered right here in the Twin Cities). The work of the Minneapolis Public Schools District’s Indian Education Department, as well as schools such as Takoda Prep of American Indian OIC, stand as powerful testimony to the efficacy of this new vanguard of pedagogy – whereby a strong hybrid of American Indian culture and traditional academic pursuits are offered in tandem for our students. Yet funding remains at a premium, rationed out among a myriad of other enterprises deemed of equal import by civic leaders. There is so much more to do, particularly when considering what is occurring beyond the city limits of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The massive brick building of St. Michael’s Indian Residential School at Alert Bay, British Columbia, Canada Credit: David Stanley.
The massive brick building of St. Michael’s Indian Residential School at Alert Bay, British Columbia, Canada Credit: David Stanley.

In this respect, the public school system continues to fail the majority of American Indian students, but when considering what it was designed to do by its original architects, it also could be argued that it has performed exactly as intended. As current academic data in the state of Minnesota indicates, the youth of our people continue to struggle mightily to achieve in this current educational system. In the end, as they reach adulthood, many cannot help but to emerge and live lives within the modern economy that resemble the very “wards of the state” designation bestowed upon us by John Marshall nearly 200 years ago. Yet despite these recorded failings, the current system remains incredibly rigid – still slavishly adhering to its own industrialized design and sense of self-import. Despite the successes demonstrated in certain arenas as mentioned above, the system continues to addictively reinvest staggering amounts of money back into its own failing enterprises without much in the way of incorporating new and innovative models that have proven successful. Why?

A century ago, the provision of a proper education for our people that included our culture, and that was supported with a full complement of resources was believed to be a dangerous enterprise – empowering designated enemy combatants of the United States. It was believed by government leaders that such measures would invariably reconstitute an indigenous resistance, that once reformed would have to yet again be contended with by the United States military – only now perhaps on more equal footing. This was simply never in the plans for this republic during its infancy, whose citizens found themselves squatting on foreign land and feigning ownership of a continent that was not theirs.

Here now, in 2016, evidence continues to pour in yearly demonstrating that the educational system simply does not work for all students – in particular for American Indian youth. Instead of diversifying their approaches, and further supporting differentiated delivery models that offer culturally contextualized programming (such as what is offered at Takoda Prep of American Indian OIC, or through Minneapolis Public School’s Department of Indian Education), the system powers forward insisting upon the preeminence of its own authority and efficacy – despite the data. For our community, such insistence by the system in favor of itself makes us wonder what its true motivations are. From our perspective, it is hard to see much difference from what has come before and what is in effect today. As we tend to our children and grandchildren, we are no longer interested in feeding them into a machine that merely produces wards of the state. We demand something different . . .

Dream Catcher

1 in 2 American Indians Living in Minnesota are Jobless

In September of 2015, a federal report was released examining the median household income for various racial groups in Minnesota – essentially establishing an average baseline of how much money families are earning. The report indicated that the median household income for African-Americans in Minnesota had contracted – or shrunk – nearly 3% from 2013 to 2014. This decrease occurred despite highly publicized accounts touting an expanding state economy. 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.”

However, this same report – as released by the major local media outlets – contained zero (0) information about the American Indian families of Minnesota. For all intents and purposes, it appeared that once again we remained completely invisible to the power structures of this state, as well as to the federal government.

As a leader in education and workforce development, the American Indian OIC felt compelled to respond. How is our 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 DEED have generated on behalf of the American Indian community? Would they choose to invest new resources for our people? Would the Governor have suggested the creation of an entirely new state government office on our behalf as well?

To answer these questions, the AIOIC approached DEED’s Commissioner, Katie Clark Sieben, and its Labor Market Information Director, Steve Hine, for help finding the data. Mr. Hine dug deeper into the very same US Census Bureau report that initiated the creation of the new Office of Career and Business Opportunity. He was able to find economic information pertaining to our American Indian community and 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 our 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 our population is officially considered unemployed, while another 40% of our working-age people are not even in the labor force. Essentially 1 in 2 American Indians in the state of Minnesota are jobless. 

If these numbers are indeed accurate, then how can this be acceptable by our state officials?  Secondly, and no less important, where is the data being collected by our state offices – namely DEED – either to support or contradict these bleak indicators? Why are we all still dependent upon a federal report that lacks nuance and a proper understanding of our state’s population groups? Doesn’t DEED hold a responsibility to track, tabulate, and provide ongoing labor market data for all population groups within Minnesota? (To date, the AIOIC has not received any answers to these specific questions.)

Through the discussions that were held between the AIOIC, Commissioner Clark Sieben, and Mr. Hine, DEED has indicated that they too are equally troubled by the current lack of information regarding our people. “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.”

Furthermore, the data point noting that 40.8% of our people are “not in the workforce” was identified as a problematic statistic. This point refers to those individuals in our community who do not have jobs and are not actively looking for one. The reasons for why they are not looking can vary. Some of these people might be what is referred to as “discouraged workers” who do not believe there are meaningful jobs to be found and have essentially 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 our community is likely very small. With regards to the “not in the workforce” data point, DEED could not offer any clarification, nor any data of their own.

So, without any further information or any data to support or debunk these bleak statistics presented by the federal report – the sickly assertion remains that 1 in 2 of our American Indian people in the state of Minnesota are jobless. Certainly, until either clarified or disproven such statistics are more than “insignificant” for our people, suggesting something unhealthy is at work within our state’s economy.

What the AIOIC proposes now is action.  First, action is required of our people to demand more information – more data – regarding the economic indicators for American Indians in Minnesota. This data must to be collected both at the state level as well as by professionals operating within our own community. Only after we have obtained this information can we come to a clear and objective understanding regarding the true economic health of our people. A doctor would not treat a patient without first finding out the symptoms or learning as to how the illness has manifested within the body. Until such actions are taken, the sickness will remain unchecked within our community and will be able to spread itself at will – thus perpetually compromising our people’s ability to thrive …

Action is absolutely required on the part of the Governor and DEED to work in concert with the American Indian community and our community-based organizations to begin to officially identify, tabulate, and address the economic disparities currently affecting our people. Despite the current lack of quantifiable data, we know these disparities are real and continue to wield great debilitating power– causing much suffering for our people in real-time. We are reminded daily of these economic maladies for our community members continue to come through our doors at the American Indian OIC seeking effective treatment through our offered services.  What is now needed is the data to corroborate the experiences of our people and our front-line service providers, to strategically guide their curative work going forward, and to bring all available resources to bear commensurate with properly remedying the generated diagnosis.

Whoever controls the data controls the story of our people. Whoever controls the story dictates the future actions that can and will be taken on our behalf. Most importantly, whoever controls the story often dictates how many resources will actually reach the people. This very point was recently reaffirmed through the creation of the Office of Business and Career Opportunity as a response to a single digit contraction of African-American household income. The same type of motivation and commitment is required for the American Indian people too.

We have come upon the one year anniversary of the AIOIC’s “Statistically Insignificant” blog of 2014 – whereupon its release generated a groundswell of grass-roots engagement – your engagement – that caught the attention of our state officials. It appears that we are now emerging from the shadows of being dismissed as being not important enough to research and collect data for, but in light of recent events, we as a community have still so much further to go.

It is time to stand up and be counted! It is time to demand action by your state government to address our needs the same as they would for any other population here in Minnesota! We must get the data so that we can control our own story! Therefore it is time to begin an accurate and ongoing gathering of information about our American Indian community so we can truly learn where we are as a people, properly analyze our economic health in real-time, and validate our struggles to bring about meaningful action and the necessary resources to effectively heal the disease of chronic economic disparity.

Call or email Governor Dayton (651-201-3400); call or email Commissioner Clark Sieben (651-259-7114); and call or email Senator Bakk (651-296-8881). Let them know we need real-time and accurate data for and about our people. Let them know our community needs infusions of resources now to help alleviate the protracted economic ailments that continue to compromise the vitality of our people and our state. Let them know as a representative of the First Nations of this land that you refuse to remain invisible any longer – that you indeed count for something!

If you do not use your voice, you will never be heard. If you do not stand up to be counted, you will forever remain invisible. Rise, speak, demand.  The future belongs to us – but only if we positively assert that it does so. It is beyond time we claim our rightful place as leaders in this state – leaders who demonstrate how to generate action amongst their own. Leaders who compel governments to acquiesce to the will of their constituents. Leaders who are capable of healing the sickness of their own, and in so doing can also exemplify to others how they too can do the same.

We look forward to hearing from a rising chorus of voices singing forth songs inspired by our elders … We are hereWe remain . . . We will thrive . . . We will lead

Call or email and demand that all Minnesotans deserve current and accurate data about their communities. Call or email your demand that all Minnesotans need to be counted.

For all of our non-Indigenous supporters, those who sympathize and support the American Indian people of Minnesota, and to all those ardent supporters of the AIOIC specifically- join us. Your support, your voice, will add powerful harmonies to our collective song. Join us to support our American Indian community. Join us in this call for action if you support an economy that works on behalf of all Minnesotans.

Wopila!

Marking Progress & Affirming Goals

Although the world just moved into 2015, it is mid business year for the American Indian OIC. With the first half of the calendar over, AIOIC has already accomplished a number of initiatives. As we finished out 2014, our education and training programs saw 871 people. In addition, the jobs gained from our employment programs finished at 421. Despite our success, many of our programs continue to expand. We have been working since October to offer employment, mentorship, and post-secondary exploration through our new Native Youth Works program. In addition, the Takoda Institute of Higher Education (A Division of American Indian OIC) has introduced new advanced training courses in programming and web development. Our President and CEO has continued to serve in a leadership capacity within both the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directorate Group (aka MUID Group) and the Emerging Workforce Coalition (aka EWC), which is a coalition comprised of community-based organizations representing the workforce development needs of minority and immigrant populations in Minnesota.

As we look to the remainder of this year, we have a number of additional objectives to complete. Over the next few months, we intend to . . .

1. Aggressively expand our Adult Basic Education / GED program so that it will serve as an educational bridge to our accredited post-secondary offerings. Potential coursework will include basic computer skills, keyboarding, advanced mathematics, advanced literacy, and the potential to audit some of Takoda Institute of Higher Education courses to prepare students for immediate transition, or for matriculation at an outside college.

2. Introduce additional post-secondary courses within the fields of information technology, internet and media marketing, and web development for the Takoda Institute of Higher Education. Based on input provided by our employer partners such as Wells Fargo, Impact/Smith Micro Technologies, Crestview Communities, George Konik Associates, and MNIT (Information Technology for Minnesota Government) – along with the information generated from our own internal employment research – we believe that the skill sets present within these new offerings will further help graduates gain the attention of area employers and procure meaningful employment – particularly as many companies within the state of Minnesota face retirements of up to 30% of its staff over the next several years.

3. Develop and implement IT coding or programming language courses within our high school – Takoda Prep. AIOIC leadership has been in contact with the national founder of the organization #YesWeCode – a California-based nonprofit committed to reducing the economic gaps for students of color by introducing higher level skill sets within the K-12 framework. Although this program will take a bit longer to realize, AIOIC does have access to a number of instructors on site who have experience in such languages such as HTML, JAVA, and SQL – that can be directly applied to the development of our own curriculum initiatives in the near term. Our hope is to move ahead and connect students in Takoda Prep with these skills that they can take with them to college, training, or employment.

4. Continue on with our exploration towards the potential for replicating AIOIC’s Takoda Prep High School and Adult Basic Education / GED model in St. Paul and outstate Minnesota. Internal and external evaluations have shown that our systems are working to help American Indians and other minority groups sustain high levels of engagement and attendance, as well as to complete these programs by obtaining either their high school diploma or obtain their GED. Our intention is to bring these same resources to people living beyond the city limits of Minneapolis as a means of further empowering our community as a whole within the state.

5. Further direct and strengthen the existing partnerships present within the MUID Group. By streamlining services and creating strong committees within the realms of public safety, health & wellness, family wellness & preservation, employment & economic development, and education, we will continue to re-engage active participation within our community, as well as direct collective efforts on behalf of our community with relevant stakeholders within both the private and public sectors. Ultimately, our goal is to bring more resources to our community and keep Indian issues first and foremost in the minds of foundations, as well as policy makers and government officials at the city, county, state, and federal levels through collective action.

6. We will continue to expand the work of AIOIC’s Takoda Group Staffing by creating a stronger and more accessible service delivery system to unemployed individuals and connecting more broadly with area employers.

While this remains an ambitious set of objectives for our organization to pursue during the remainder of this year, we are confident that we will not only achieve these objectives, but will also be able to expand upon their conceptions in a manner that best suits the needs of our participants and our community.

AIOIC Year-In-Review

As the full force of winter begins to manifest, I would like to take just a moment to reflect on all of the proud accomplishments obtained here at the American Indian OIC during the previous year – a year marked by change.

lee-antell
Dawn Paro with Dr. Lee Antell

To begin, our organization transitioned into a new era upon the retirement of our valued friend and leader, Dr. Lee Antell, who moved on from his post as President and CEO on May 23rd, 2014. After 15 years of dedicated service, it was bittersweet – yet understandable – to bid farewell to Lee as he committed himself to his family, his grandchildren, and the basketball court!

As the summer began, our organization began a process of reevaluating our structures and operations in order to maximize efficiencies, eliminate redundancies, and to restructure in a manner that properly addressed the changes experienced within the ranks of our leadership. By August 1st, 2014, we added two new members to our Executive Management team (Chris Hubbard – Education Director-Secondary, and Maggie Opare-Addo – Human Relations Director), and augmented the duties and responsibilities for two other members (Dawn Paro – Executive Director-Operations, and Mitzi Hobot – Executive Director-Organizational Development & Career Services).

ChamberMtg-2014-web
Mpls Chamber of Commerce meeting at AIOIC
prepStudents2014_web
Takoda Prep students, school year 2014-15
Ellison-leadership-web
Representative Keith Ellison meets with AIOIC leadership
hug-diabetes-event-web
Community members greet one another at an AIOIC event

From there the real work began! After implementing these recalibrations, our organization pushed forward providing the fantastic services and high caliber trainings that have personally empowered and brought employment to so many of our community members. As the year progressed, the AIOIC became the proud recipients of a grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (MN DEED) to further the scope and reach of some of its short-term ITcourses so as to better engage with low-income participants. In addition, our agency was also awarded a first-of-its kind agency capacity building grant given by the Greater Twin Cities United Way – who will be bringing in a talented team of experts that will work closely with our entire agency to further modernize, streamline, and build our operations in such a way so that it will continue to flourish well into the future! As 2014 began winding down, yet another success came to fruition. As a founding member of the Emerging Workforce Coalition –a collection of community-based organizations dedicated to permanently remedying employment disparities for minority and immigrant populations – the AIOIC held a leadership role in successfully procuring an historic and landmark grant from MN DEED to initiate a pilot project to further the efficacy and scalability of this coalition so that its work can continue on in a far larger, state-wide approach in the years to come.

PrepGrad
Takoda Institute and Takoda Prep graduation events mark the progress of time in 2014.

Finally, I would like to extend the warmest wishes and my heartfelt gratitude to all of our individual donors. It is due to your ongoing efforts, and through your immense generosity, that has allowed for the powerful and empowering services provided by the American Indian OIC to reach an even greater amount of people. As a result of your commitment to the AIOIC, and your immense and compassionate spirit, so many more people who were in desperate need were able to take advantage of our services to build a new and better life – not only for themselves, but for their families and community as well! Because of you and your giving so many more people had a powerfully positive effect felt in their lives in a real and meaningful way! With your ongoing support, we will be able to continue to reach out to so many more who are also willing to build new pathways towards progress within their own lives! Pilamaya!

And so let us all take one moment more to appreciate our coworkers, our families, and our community. Let us rededicate ourselves to the mission we have courageously stepped forward to take on (if not us, then who?), and then let us all moved forward at a double quick-step and boldly meet the oncoming challenges head-on, while graciously accepting all opportunities presented to us, and achieve even more in 2015 on behalf of our people!

All the best and Happy New Year!

Joe Hobot
President and CEO
American Indian OIC

 

A Return to School, Not the Past

 “He [my son]is the man he is today as a result of the caring yet firm teaching mechanisms in place at Takoda Prep of AIOIC. They integrate state standards with traditional Native teaching methods and I truly believe this is what is needed for our youth of today. Growing up in the city is hard, especially for Native American youth who are constantly being reminded that living in two worlds can be dangerous . . . “

Lolita Granados,
Mother of Takoda Prep Graduate Daryl Moreno

Fall is in the air, and school has once again begun for our youth. It is therefore an appropriate time to discuss the importance of one of our most celebrated programs here at the American Indian OIC – Takoda Prep – and why now more than ever before unique schools such as Takoda Prep are integral to sustaining the vitality of our Native American community. When taken in context of recent events relating to the national discussion involving child rearing and in conjunction with historical antecedents, this program stands as a powerful example of what works for our youth.

As an alternative High School under contract with the Minneapolis Public School District, Takoda Prep is an established program that has empowered large numbers of our community’s young people for two decades. Our students are able to acquire the skill sets and knowledge base required to earn their High School diploma, as well as thrive within the world that they are inheriting. These achievements have been accomplished through Takoda Prep’s commitment to sustaining each student’s connection to their indigenous cultural traditions – a central component within the school’s overall delivery model. This is accomplished through the use of culturally competent curriculum, direct student engagement with distinguished community leaders, and a continued exploration and examination of the indigenous perspective in academics. In fact, these cultural connections are so far embedded within the overall functionality of our school that the teachings of our elders are readily present within the very physical space itself, as opposed to the traditional, individual-focused approach of mainstream High Schools. Examples of this phenomenon in practice is evidenced in how the learning environment is arranged – being consistent with our beliefs regarding the power of the sacred emblem of the circle, and of learning in community. From this overall ethos of empowerment, our students celebrate and sustain their unique cultural identities, complete their High School education, and move on into the adult world as productive citizens.

Unfortunately, our school was created from an existing need, and that need has been prevalent throughout our recent educational history. But from where did this need arise in the first place? The answer lies in the seemingly unending struggle between cultures within this nation regarding the determination of the best way to raise and educate our youth. What typically has occurred thus far has been the repeated attempts by one culture to assert their dominion over the other, while the other continues to fight for its right to self-determinant policies.

“In these fine new buildings Indian children still commit suicide, because they are lonely among all that noise and activity. I know a ten-year-old who hanged herself. These schools are just boxes filled with homesick children. The schools leave a scar. We enter them confused and bewildered and we leave them the same way. When we enter the school we at least know that we are Indians. We come out half red and half white, not knowing what we are.”

– John Fire, Lakota Nation, on growing up within a government Boarding School
From: Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions (1972)

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photo by Dick Bancroft

It is a generally accepted principle in our society that we all wish the very best for our children. Irrespective of our race, color, or creed, we share the same desire that our progeny are endowed with the very best that life has to offer – or at the very least, better than what we experienced during our formative years. It is the common song of all parents to call upon themselves and the world to assist in their efforts to mold their children into self-sufficient and considerate individuals capable of caring for themselves, their families, as well as the community within which they live. Yet despite this commonality, we are not of one mind, and the ways in which we raise and discipline our children vary from culture to culture, from region to region, from house to house. Such differentiation also includes the preferred practice of formal education. In this context, the nature of the classroom and how it operates on behalf of the pupil has been a historical problem with profound ramifications upon the lives that it has impacted within the Native American community.

This is the primary source of persistent trouble that plagues us today with a palpable air of hostile divisiveness. Whenever one segment of the population attempts to dictate to another the best manner as to how to raise their children, it is most often met with defensiveness, derision, and at times outright defiance – as expressed by those who are trying not to be subjugated. One would think that such responses clearly indicate that the espoused methods for child development are in all reality harmful, offensive, and unwanted by the receiving party, and yet these attempts at “persuasion” continue on. This process has never been more visible nor more impactful than with concerns to our Native American community and its ongoing relationship with public education.

Born from its history when the cessation of hostilities were eventually effected between the United States Army and the First Nations of this continent, formalized schooling of our people was, from the start, imbued with a patrician attitude by the dominant culture – misguided by the false precept that we were in need of “saving.” It was the commonly held belief that our traditions and beliefs represented a way of life antithetical to “civilized” living, and therefore would need to be vanquished for the good of all mankind. More specifically, it was believed that our people were in need of a structured, formalized education to, at the very least, extinguish our resistance to the lifestyles espoused by the conquering United States. Why would we resist if we truly knew how beneficial it is to live in the manner established by the immigrant populations streaming throughout the land at that time? (An interesting historical note to posit towards today’s citizenry: How eager would you be to secede and succumb all of your ways – including your language – in favor of the chosen lifestyle of the newly arriving immigrant populations coming United States now in the 21st Century?) The central presupposition by the dominant culture at the close of the 19th Century was that our indigenous culture, our indigenous method of education, our preferred indigenous ways of childrearing were totally without value in the newly expanding – and militarily successful – United States of America.

From this jumping off point our nation entered a systemized and highly regulated effort to “kill the savage, and save the man” – most significantly exemplified by the creation and maintenance of government-run boarding schools. Our native children were housed within these institutions after having been forcibly stripped from their parents and removed from their own homes. Through a ceaseless educative campaign that relied heavily on corporal punishment (including whippings with a switch – what is past is prologue) our little ones were brutalized into adopting the language, history, and behavior of the dominant culture. Although the boarding schools were the most heinous iteration, the campaign to assimilate continued on for the next one hundred years. It has taken the form of despicable representations of our people within curriculum used by schools, as well as the adherence to a highly regimented, competitive, and deficit-based public education system that values individuation over collective success. Despite the ongoing public outcries from our people that this form of school system is poisonous to our young, it still remains largely untouched. Despite ample evidence that alternative methods of learning have generated success among our Native American children, these adaptations to the classroom experience have often times been marginalized through lack of endorsement or sufficient financial support by the powers that be.

Such emphases as dictated by the public education system today continue to run directly counter to the indigenous methods of community-centered, cooperative learning models that benefited our youth for centuries. Our preferred model – as employed by Takoda Prep – allows for fluctuations within the day so that each student may continue to construct their knowledge in a manner most beneficial to themselves and to their contemporaries, and where the relational component between each student – as well as between student and staff – serves as the centerpiece upon how the educative process unfolds. Unfortunately, even to this day, these antiquated, assimilative practices are still widely employed within the public education system. When one examines the data relating to Native American achievement within public schools, we remain far below our cultural peers on almost every metric. Is it any wonder why? Enter Takoda Prep of AIOIC . . .

The American Indian OIC will endeavor to retain our understanding and awareness of the fact that the students who have chosen our High School have arrived upon our doorstep as the result of an array of challenges unique to Native American youth. With the possession of such understandings, we will continue to work hard on behalf of those who are enrolled at Takoda Prep so that they continue to feel welcome with the full force of compassion and expectations held by our esteemed community at large. We believe it is our duty to instruct our own youth as to the ways of our elders and the meanings behind our traditions in addition to the “3 R’s” most commonly affiliated with schools – and to do so in a manner determined as a best practice for our people by our people. We refuse to abdicate these responsibilities unto another party any longer. Through our adherence to such principles, the American Indian OIC believes that our community itself will be best serving our children by not only broadening their understandings and appreciation of our indigenous culture – but also thus serving to sustain its vitality and value of our ways for generations to come.

 

Your Future : Your GED

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
– Nelson Mandela

For many of our students within the AIOIC Takoda Institute ABE/GED Program, the primary obstacle that stood between them and their return to the classroom was fear. Fear that they have been removed from a classroom for to long. Fear that once they began their studies, they would quickly realize that they are not smart enough to finish. Fear that even after obtaining their GED, their education would not really serve them. The reality is that absolutely none of these things ever materialize or become true. They are nothing more than the passing ghosts of wild speculation – a raw panic that unsubstantiated fear always tends to generate. Fortunately, our staff working in the ABE/GED program has encountered these situations many times in the past, and is well versed in supporting new enrollees towards overcoming such distress.

Through the dedicated efforts employed at the AIOIC’s Takoda Institute ABE/GED Program, we successfully are able to provide a smooth transition for all new students – especially those who are returning back to the classroom after an extended absence. Part of the measures we utilize includes a progressive engagement of the student with their studies matched to their unique skill sets and academic levels; a generous scheduling model that allows each student to set their own schedule that best fits for them, and we provide a combination of collective class activities and individual tutorials to assist students in achieving their GED. When taken together, the Takoda Institute ABE/GED program has established itself as a unique and effective avenue that has empowered hundreds to earn the secondary education credential.

While it is understood that above all else, a person must possess – at a minimum – a High School diploma or a GED if they are to have a hope of securing a meaningful job, we must remember that education serves other purposes as well. There is more beyond employment to which a person’s ongoing academic development provides for. By furthering their education and personal knowledge base, a person who has elected to return to the role of student is enhancing their overall value to their families as well as to their communities – both of which are in need of the ongoing input and leadership from this student. This has never been truer than in today’s environment . . .

The world – whether we care to admit it or not – now exists in a perpetual state of acceleration – pushing everyone in it further and further, faster and faster. The evidence of this ever increasing current is all around us – from technological advancement to the immediacy of the impact that information now has on our lives.

Within six hours of the verdict, organized protests and vigils blossomed throughout the country in reaction to the lives of George Zimmerman and Treyvon Martin. Social Media exploded over the controversial cover of a Rolling Stone Magazine depicting the face of the surviving Boston Marathon terror suspect. Last summer, authorities in Western Wisconsin unfortunately had to call off an Amber Alert that was sent out via mobile phone networks and local television stations – due their sad discovery in the trunk of an automobile late one evening. Meanwhile, something called “ISIS” is currently storming across the deserts of Iraq and placing jeopardy young American soldiers stationed there – with more now on the way . . .

This is merely a sample of the punishing amount of information that is surging towards us right now, like rising flood waters that continue to grow each and every day.

Are you able and ready for this onslaught? Do you believe that you have the mental capabilities to navigate through this ever-challenging world of ours?

What do you think about separating the notion of killing from that of murder, and what do you believe are the limits of self-defense in this nation?

What do you think about the repercussions of putting an admitted domestic terrorist on the cover of a major publication? Do you think this is disrespectful to the victims?

What do you know about foreign policy? Are their members in your family currently serving in the armed forces? Could they now be in harm’s way as a result of “ISIS”?

Are your children safe? How do you know?

What do you think? How will you act or react? Have you considered all of the implications offered by this world and how it can impact your life? Will you be able to contend with these challenges on behalf of not only yourself, but on behalf of your family and community as well?

It precisely for these secondary reasons – reasons so often overlooked – that make the pursuit of one’s education so incredibly valuable. Yes, the credential is important, as is the need to procure gainful employment. However, so is the impact that the individual can have upon their families and community as a whole if they are equipped to handle the deluge of information that has been slowly building in depth around them.

By pursuing their education, the student has elected to take a new path of evaluating information, thinking about it deeply, and then creating their own opinions and actions drawn from what they have come to learn thus far. Such critical thinking skills and discernment of mind are the most powerful tools for any human to possess. Yet without them, it becomes ever so easy to find oneself merely swept away with the current.

It is for all of these reasons that we encourage all people to get engaged within our educational programs – not only as a means of remedying their financial status, but to empower each to contribute to the intellectual health of their families and their communities. As such, we call on everyone to join us in this journey . . .