Minneapolis is on Dakota Land in Mni Sota Makoce (Land where the water reflects the sky), and is now home to many Native people from across the state and across the country. The water, trees, and all living things growing out of the ground carry with them the spirit of the original Dakota inhabitants, because this ground is quite literally saturated with the DNA of our Indigenous ancestors. These ancestors lived here for millennia before Minneapolis even became a city. This land continues to be sacred land for many of the Urban Native population.
Despite hundreds of years of trauma and genocidal actions against us in this country, Native people are still here.
We are resourceful, resilient, and committed to our community, families, and our cultures and traditions. However, we still face many challenges. Homelessness, chemical dependency, mental and physical health struggles, vulnerability to exploitation and violence are all byproducts of the generations of trauma experienced by our relatives. Though we are less than 2% of the population, we experience disproportionate rates of all these effects.
In recent weeks many of our relatives have come together and moved into tents in the area along a soundwall on the east side of Highway 55. This community has become known as the Franklin/Hiawatha Encampment, or for some, the Wall of Forgotten Natives. Our community faces significant challenges to housing and many have been “forgotten” and erased by those systems that were set up to assist them.
Finding safe and affordable housing is a long-standing problem in Minneapolis.
Housing shortages, rigid landlords, policies that create lifetime bans based on survival behaviors; these are just some of the things that create overwhelming barriers for many of our relatives, and have created the environment for the Encampment.
In response, a broad coalition of government, nonprofit, and community partners and stakeholders are coming together to address the short-term, mid-term and long-term barriers to housing for the residents of this camp, as well as those in other, less visible camps.
Working together, we hope to find housing options for the camp’s population as soon as possible because we all acknowledge the current location is not sustainable, especially once the weather turns cold.
The Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID) is helping to coordinate this effort. MUID is a collation of leadership of Minneapolis Native organizations and urban Tribal offices and embassies. Membership represent a wide range of nonprofits including direct services, education, housing, economic development, and more. Established over 40 years ago, MUID is a partner with the groundbreaking Memo of Understanding with City of Minneapolis, which establishes a framework for the City’s engagement with the Native community and makes this partnership viable to address the current situation.
MUID seeks to support and connect the tireless work of grassroots groups like Natives Against Heroin (NAH), the public and private sector organizations that have stepped forward to help, and the many individuals who seek to band together to create long term solutions to homelessness in the Native and broader communities. To do this we must build a sustainable, long-term, coordinated effort that acknowledges the indigenous history that frames this struggle and allows our relatives the opportunity for safe, suitable, and self-determinant housing options.
We invite all to join us in this work. Please visit www.franklinhiawathacamp.org to see how you can take action.
Patina Park is the executive director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center and the current chairperson of the Metro Urban Indian Directors group.