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

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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.

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.

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.

AIOIC’s Takoda Institute plays a key role in bolstering minority IT workers

Excerpts from the Star Tribune Article of the same name by Neal St. Anthony.

Jaquan Sloan worked in retail, home health care and building security for nearly a decade after high school.

Usually part-time and without benefits. Never more than $12 an hour.

Sloan, 28, who grew up in Harlem, the son of a security guard and transit worker, moved to the Twin Cities in 2011.

An aunt who employed him in her home health care agency closed the business and Sloan took a part-time security job in 2013. He was at a Minnesota state employment office on E. Lake Street when he saw a flier for a nine-month training program for computer support careers at the Takoda Institute of the American Indian OIC (AIOIC), the longtime south Minneapolis nonprofit training school.

“I liked computers,” recalled Sloan, the expert with electronics and software growing up in his family’s apartment.

 Sloan enrolled, worked up to 40 hours weekly as a security guard to make rent and tuition, and graduated in late 2014.  Sloan landed a job soon after at Dell Compellent in Eden Prairie. He’s already been promoted to an analyst job, working with data-storage customers.

The job pays $27 an hour, plus “great benefits,” Sloan said. “[AIOIC] was the greatest life decision I’ve ever made. The students ranged from people with four-year degrees to some who didn’t know anything but to turn on the computer.”

Sloan, who now can afford an apartment without roommates, works three 12-hour shifts weekly at Dell, and plans to earn a degree in business.

“I have a savings account and a plan for my future,” Sloan said.

Opportunity gap

Sloan is one success story in the effort to close a troubling opportunity gap between people of color and whites. He’s also an emerging face of tomorrow’s Minnesota tech workforce captured in subtle trends emerging in state jobs data.

For example, minorities accounted for about 9 percent of the 143,000 workers in the “professional, technical and scientific” job category according to 2015 statistics from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Their ranks are growing fast.

Minority employment grew 20 percent to 13,084 jobs from 2014 to 2015. White employment grew 11.9 percent to 129,948. Black employment year-over-year grew by 51 percent to 3,624 jobs last year. Asian employment grew 5.9 percent to 7,206 jobs. People who claimed two or more races grew employment by 31 percent to 1,515 jobs.

In another category, computer systems design jobs in Minnesota, where jobs pay up to $100,000, black employment grew 26 percent to 1,147 jobs between 2013 and 2015. Hispanic employment grew 23 percent to 1,050. Total employment in the sector grew only 9 percent to 34,264 jobs.

The Minnesota economy is growing, the unemployment rate is below 4 percent, considered full employment, and the emerging workforce, which includes proportionately more minorities, is filling job openings, including those of thousands of retiring baby boomers each year.

“Employers are struggling to find qualified applicants,” said Mitzi Hobot, who runs Takoda Group at AIOIC and who works with employers on internships, training and job placement. “Most minority candidates don’t have the technical or professional work experience of four-year college graduation rates of Caucasian counterparts. We try to equalize that.”

Nonprofit

AIOIC, funded through government grants and training contracts, tuition and private donations, is a $4.3 million-revenue school with about 550 students. The curriculum ranges from adult basic education for those who need a high school diploma to computer-related training. Nearly 200 students are trained annually at Takoda Institute, which offers several certification programs.

AIOIC’s typical student is a 43-year-old black or American Indian with a household income of $13,000. About 75 percent of graduates last year were placed in jobs with average salaries of about $34,000. The technology jobs secured by Takoda Institute pay more.

The Takoda Group was started several years ago within AIOIC to train IT students, attract employer attention and investment, and operate a fee-earning placement agency for students from area community colleges. Takoda also operates a small IT services business and creative agency that serves clients and also provides students with critical experience.

“Employers two or three years ago thought they had enough candidates from four-year colleges,” Hobot recalled. “They can use us now. Some of them move up some of their existing workers and backfill with our trainees.”

Takoda has a growing client list of 100 employers, large and small, including St. Jude Medical, Impact Group, Medtronic, U.S. Bank, the Animal Humane Society, Indian Health Board, IT Nation, Target, Toshiba and local governments.

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!

Respectfully,

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

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.

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