Resurgence Gathering: A Community of Practice to Restructure Urban American Indian Education

American Indian OIC (AIOIC) convened the Resurgence Gathering at Anahuacalmecac University Preparatory School in Los Angeles, California last week. Indigenous educators from six metropolitan centers from throughout the US gathered to follow up on the National Urban Indian Family Coalition’s 2017 report Resurgence: Restructuring Urban American Indian Education. As the lead researcher for Resurgence, AIOIC’s president, Dr. Joe Hobot, visited Indigenized schools in Denver, Seattle, Albuquerque, Portland, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles where he learned about the pedagogical strategies being employed at the schools. What emerged was an innovative, and highly Indigenized set of alternative methodologies seldom reflected in the mainstream school system. The prevailing sentiment shared by all who participated in the research was a sense of working in isolation, coupled with a desire to both share and learn from other educators operating similar programs. As such, American Indian OIC, in partnership with the National Urban Indian Family Coalition, brought the schools together to establish a community of practice.

Over the course of three days, Indigenous educators shared pedagogical strategies, curriculum ideas, and reflected on education policy. The gathering was significant because it demonstrated the continued need for innovation in the arena of public education for American Indian students. Many of the programs find themselves in an adversarial relationship with their local education system for reasons like adherence to the status quo, structural racism, or failure of imagination and innovation. These schools however, have strong relationships with their communities and are fueled by a passionate parent base, intent on preserving and advancing these alternative programs on behalf of their students. Within this context, the formation of a community of practice becomes important for providing support across programs and regions, and underscores that these innovative programs are not alone.

What is exciting about these Indigenous schools is that their programs are yielding meaningful academic results: high rates of attendance, graduation, college enrollment, and test results for American Indian students. It is clear that these results are directly tied to the innovation of the schools and the integration of Native ceremonies, language, history, and values into curricula. In coming together in community, it became apparent that the work will continue in a supportive manner with ongoing national dialogue provided by the participating schools. What has begun is a movement; for which all indicators point toward growing the community and learning from more Indigenous education programs.

In the coming weeks, Dr. Hobot will be developing a report on the gathering that outlines the work being pursued. American Indian OIC is excited by what the future holds for this community and is incredibly grateful to the National Urban Indian Family Coalition for their partnership, and the Marguerite Casey Foundation, Charter Communications, Comcast Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Potlatch Fund, and Spencer Foundation for supporting this important work.

Please consider playing a part in our community’s resurgence by making a tax-deductible donation to American Indian OIC. Your gift is an investment in the future of our young people and in the future of our community. Chi miigwech and wopila tanka.

New Partnerships Expand Student Opportunities

We are always seeking new ways to support our students. Many require additional support like food, housing, transportation, and more. AIOIC provides this support any way we can.

This month, we are thrilled to announce our latest partnerships that will help our students complete training and find employment:

Good in the Hood:
We’ve teamed up with Good in the Hood to host a monthly “Food Shelf in a Box.” This service will provide groceries to individuals and families in need. Students will be able to select their food items in a grocery style format while being assisted by personal shoppers. Not only is this a great resource for our students and clients, but it is a wonderful opportunity for volunteers!

AIOIC will host a pilot program for the next three months, serving a pre-selected group of clients. After that, this resource will be open to all AIOIC and Takoda clients.

Hennepin County Veterans Services:
We’ll be welcoming a representative from the Hennepin County Veterans Services every third Wednesday of the month from 1 – 4 PM. This representative will help connect our Native veteran clients to benefits like housing assistance, disability and pension, medical benefits, and mental and chemical health resources.

Pilamaya and miigwech to all of our community partners!

Dream Big Event

November 29th, 2017
11:30 AM -3:30 PM
1845 East Franklin Ave, 55404

Join the American Indian OIC and the State of Minnesota for an afternoon of career exploration and cultural engagement. This event will function as a multifaceted community gathering with business owners and state employees facilitating a Q & A panel, and AIOIC Pres. Joe Hobot leading a discussion on culturally contextualized education.

Come enjoy arts and crafts. Participate in our discussion rooms. Get career related guidance in our workforce development rooms.

-MN State Employee “Ask Me Anything” Q & A
-Discussion led by AIOIC Pres. Dr. Joe Hobot
-Lunch provided by Gatherings Café
-Door prizes
-Ojibwe Bingo
-Workshop: Optimizing Your Social Media for Employment
-Learn about career training programs
-Tour of building

[bscolumns class=”one_half”]Community Members

 Everyone has their own definition of success: finish school; find a career; support a family. To attain success, you need to envision a pathway to reach your goals and take steps to achieve them.

Get started by visiting AIOIC to learn about the simple and effective ways you can begin to achieve your goals.

Learn about our no-cost and low-cost programs, talk with state employees and get career guidance. [/bscolumns][bscolumns class=”one_half_last_clear”]Community Leaders and Organizations

Engage with the Native community and learn about how to best support transformative educational initiatives.

Join AIOIC President Joe Hobot, Ed.D. in discussing the importance of culturally contextualized education and honoring Native educational traditions while administering workforce development best practices.[/bscolumns][bscolumns class=”clear”][/bscolumns]

Interested in attending?  RSVP via Facebook! 

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

[bscolumns class=”one_half”]Ain Dah Yung Center
American Indian Community Development Corporation
American Indian Movement Interpretive Center
Bii Gii Wiin CDLF
Division of Indian Work
Little Earth of United Tribes

[/bscolumns][bscolumns class=”one_half_last_clear”] MIGIZI Communications
Minneapolis American Indian Center
Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center
Native American Community Development Institute
Nawayee Center School
Northwest Indian Community Development Center

[/bscolumns][bscolumns class=”clear”][/bscolumns]



An Open Letter to Decision Makers

Leaders of the State of Minnesota:

The purpose of this message is to call your immediate attention to the ongoing needs of the American Indian community in Minnesota, as well as to the powerful capabilities that we currently possess. It appears to us that our people have once again been forgotten, or relegated to a second-class status by officials in the state.

We, the undersigned, are deeply troubled at the continued lack of attention given to our people by you, the leadership of this state. In recent months there has been much discussion regarding economic and educational disparities that persist for many communities of color. However, consistent with historical precedent, there remains an exclusion of our people in these discussions, despite the impact that these same disparities have on our community. Such omissions have emerged in several critical ways that, if not addressed, will only serve to exacerbate these existing disparities.

First, regarding the various enterprises and plans being put forth by state officials, legislators, and state departments, there has been absolutely zero consultation with the leadership of the American Indian community regarding the creation and development of these initiatives.The only form of engagement, if any, always comes after the fact – once the plan has been created and publicly disseminated. It is only then that our community is finally allowed to participate in the process within generic open forums typically referred to as public comment sessions.

Second, our community has no appetite – at all – for outside, non-American Indian enterprises to intrude into our community with the intent of providing services to help us. We do not need, nor do we seek, outsiders to “save” us -whether they are government, not-for-profit groups, or private sector companies. The American Indian community currently possesses a multitude of qualified and effective·service providers that are American Indian populated and American Indian operated – all of whom are more than capable of providing the needed services and possess a proven track record of success dating back over several decades. Successful services must be provided to our own, for our own, by our own.

Third, our community has no desire to be forced to participate within services or plans that are devoid of our culture, our traditional teachings, and our customs. We insist on the utilization of culturally contextualized programming for our people -which is the most effective, best practice models by which our organizations adhere -whereby our culture is omnipresent. By definition, these culturally contextualized services cannot be provided by non-American Indian entities, which further emphasizes the previous point mentioned above.

Finally, we are frustrated with the abhorrent lack of consistent, long-term, and robust investment of resources directly into our community from the state government – especially in light of several years of immense budget surpluses, and especially given the consistent acknowledgment the state government makes regarding persistent disparities that exist within our community.

This letter is on behalf of the indigenous leadership and the various agencies and corporations whom they represent that work directly with the American Indian community in Minnesota. Owing to the continued pattern of overt exclusion of the American Indian people within state affairs, we are now compelled to advocate in this manner on behalf of our own.

We are still here.

Here now are our recommendations that we believe need immediate implementation:

First, directly engage with our leadership regarding near-term issues currently exacerbating the economic and educational disparities harming the American Indian community.

We have deep concerns that we feel compelled to discuss with you, including but not exclusive to: issues regarding the implementation of federal WIOA legislation, funding inequities regarding Adult Basic Education for American Indian learners, inequitable access to proper health care for our people, prohibitive and exclusionary practices by established post­ secondary institutions such as the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MNSCU) towards our young adults, the deficiency in culturally contextualized chemical dependency treatment services, the ability for our people to procure assets to build their own economic futures (such as home ownership and small business development), and of course, respect and acknowledgment of the treaty rights which remain as supreme law of the land under Article VI of the United States Constitution.

Second; going forward, engage directly with our leadership at the point of inception for all planning and new initiatives regarding how ongoing economic and educational disparities afflicting this state are to be remedied. We insist on being a part of all such initiatives at the start of theprocess so that we may co-create a solution together with you. This is the essence of collaborative practice. Together, our insights will serve to meaningfully inform this work.

We know from experience as to what works best for our own people, and such input will only serve to strengthen future solutions for the state of Minnesota.

Third, we call on you to deepen the relationships and expand existing partnerships with established American Indian organizations in a more meaningful way (many of these organizations are signatories to this letter). Our organizations are reputable and well-respected entities within our community. We have a proven track record of positive outcomes and effective practice. Our people know us, trust us, and seek us out for the provision of services for we are direct reflections of our community -being led, governed, and staffed by our own people.

Fourth, begin making immediate, real, and more robust financial investments directly into the American Indian community. We are both tasked with undoing centuries of systemic failures brought forth by the very same government institutions to which many of you now belong. This work will require a consistent and long-term application of resources.

Such measures have thus far proven inadequate towards meaningfully addressing the economic and educational disparities now present in Minnesota, and have in reality further perpetuated the systemic oppression of these communities.

Finally, immediately include -in overt fashion that is easily recognizable – the American Indian people in all respects to your work regarding economic and educational disparities. Do this in your speeches, in your policies, and during your public appearances and interviews.

Acknowledge the history of the land that this state sits on. Our people need tangible evidence that they are not being ignored once again, or that they continue to remain invisible to the powers-that-be.

In addition, during these times of real economic crises for so many people, there is a tendency for more vocal constituencies to drown out other voices. This then makes your overt incorporation of our people within your actions even more important than ever. We need to believe that you know we exist and that you too share our interests. In this respect we need to see words and actions working in tandem to accomplish this objective.

We look forward not only to your response to this letter, but in your taking action so that we can begin a real collaborative process that is beneficial for all.

Our stated goals are the same, our motivations are fueled by the very same sentiments, so let us now come together and work towards making our actions match the will of our heads and passions of our hearts.

Chi Miigwetch and Pilamaya!


Joe Hobot, President & CEO, American Indian OIC
Michael Goze, President & CEO, American Indian Community Development Center
Clyde Bellecourt, Executive Director, AIM Interpretive Center
Monica Flores, Executive Director, Bii Gii Wiin Community Development Loan Fund
Deb Foster, Executive Director, Ain Dah Yung Center
Louise Matson, Executive Director, Division of Indian Work
Mary LaGarde, Executive Director, Minneapolis American Indian Center
Patina Park, Executive Director, Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center
Tuleah Palmer, Executive Director, Northwest Indian Community Development Center
Robert Lilligren, President & CEO, Little Earth of United Tribes

Two Certificates, One Great Career

Antonitte came to American Indian OIC’s Takoda Institute in 2012. She was a single mother looking to prove to herself that any situation could be made better, so she enrolled in the vocational school’s nine-month Administrative Assistant training program. While enrolled, Antonitte learned applicable work skills like project management, keyboarding, and database management and gained hands-on field experience by completing an internship with the Minnesota Visiting Nurse Agency.

After her graduation, Antonitte obtained a position as a human resources assistant. She worked in that position for a year before she realized that she missed working in the healthcare environment that she was exposed to during her Takoda Institute internship. Antonitte then came back to the school to complete Takoda’s six-month Health Information training. She completed the program on a Vape/Gorney/Bellecourt scholarship, which is a newly established scholarship that allows any student of Native descent to attend the Takoda Institute at no out-of-pocket costs.

Armed with considerable classroom and on-the-job training, Antonitte was now well-prepared to make a better life for her daughter and herself. As she was wrapping up the Health Information training, she worked diligently with her Takoda Institute career counselor to obtain employment in her field. Her counselor helped her develop her cover letter and resume and helped her search for job opportunities. Just a few weeks after her graduation, Takoda’s career services team referred her to an open position at a nearby clinic. She was hired and now works full-time for Indian Health Board as a health program support technician. She assists their Diabetes Management program where she helps cook healthy meals and performs administrative work like preparing materials for patients. She appreciates the opportunity to help the community navigate the obstacles and barriers that life presents.

Antonitte speaks highly of her time at American Indian OIC’s Takoda Institute. She built long-lasting friendships, learned life skills, enjoyed the small classroom size, and especially appreciated the easy commute. She credits her instructors for her success because they were flexible and willing to help her balance her professional life as a student and her personal life as a mother. Antonitte encourages current and future students to “try your best and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Make friends with your cohort, instructors, and the AIOIC staff- they are always there to help.”

If you have benefited from American Indian OIC’s programs and would like to share your story, contact Amber White Bear at 612.341.3358, x176.

AIOIC Graduate Advances in her Career


Angel Photo ii

Angel DeLeon came to American Indian OIC in 2000. She was a single parent with a plan to complete the Administrative Assistant program and pursue better employment opportunities. And she did just that. In March of 2001, Angel graduated with both an Administrative Assistant and Financial Services certificate. She was hired at TCF Bank where she worked for two years and achieved much success, including working her way up to Assistant Branch Manager.

After taking a few years off to raise her daughter, Angel realized she wanted to pursue further education and enrolled at the Minnesota School of Business. In just 33 months and while working full-time, Angel earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in accounting. She is now working for IWCO Direct in Chanhassen, Minnesota, and recently received IWCO’s President’s Award for Personal Commitment, which also came with a pay raise and bonus.

Angel thanks her mother for showing her the importance of a great work ethic and dedication to pursuing her goals and dreams; she appreciates her instructors who were knowledgeable, patient, and understanding of her needs as a student; and is grateful to her children for being patient with her busy school and work schedule for so many years. Angel’s future plans include attending the University of Minnesota to obtain a Master’s Degree.

If you are an American Indian OIC client or graduate and would like to share an update with our readers, please contact Amber White Bear at 612.341.3358, x176