Historic District Along East Franklin Floated to Remember Important Native American Landmarks and Activism

Proposed Historic District Map included in the city’s study of historically significant properties to Native American communities. (Taken from July 7 Power Point presentation.)

Researchers hired by the City of Minneapolis have identified a potential “Historic District” on and around East Franklin Avenue that encompasses buildings significant to the city’s Native American communities.

There is only one problem. A lot of the buildings aren’t old enough yet to be considered historic. This is one of those “down the road” projects.

The window for property to be consider “historic” is typically a minimum of 50 years. The city could consider a shorter frame, 35 years. Still, that limits the properties that can be considered.

There has been a significant amount of demolition and redevelopment along the Avenue. Some of the newer developments along Franklin are Pow Wow Grounds Coffee Shop, Many Rivers East and West and the Bii Di Gain Dash Elder Housing.

The “potential historic district” emerged as part of a city-commissioned report looking at the history of Native American communities and their activism in Minneapolis. City officials and researchers presented the full draft at their final community meeting, held July 7 at All My Relation Gallery. The potential historic district map was in a Power Point presentation.

The city got a small federal grant for the research; the consulting contract came in under $25,000. The research paints a fast, broad sweep of state, national, and local Native American history. At its core, the report is going to identify key properties and places the city should consider preserving because they represent significant historic events for the city’s Native American communities, and the contributions they have made.

Here is a link to the current draft. The final version will be released in August. The final report is expected to name more than two dozen properties as potentially historically significant.

There is a last window of opportunity to send comments on the current draft. Send them soon to: Christine McDonald, Native American Community Specialist,  612-849-2386, or John Smoley  Senior Planner at the Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) 612-673-2830.

Here are a few of the programs/properties that could get suggested for historic designation because of their role in Native American empowerment and history:

  • The Minneapolis American Indian Center, 1530 East Franklin
  • The American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center, 1845 East Franklin, which empowers American Indians “to pursue career opportunities by providing individualized education, training, and employment services in a culturally rich environment.”
  • The Indian Health Board of Minneapolis, 1315 East 24th Street, which “provides medical and dental care and counseling services to more than 7,000 patients each year.”
  • Indigenous Peoples Task Force, 1335 East 23rd Street, which “provides HIV education, housing, and other services to the Minnesota Native community.”
  • The Legal Rights Center, originally at 808 E Franklin Ave, now 1611 Park Avenue South. The Center was a collaboration between the American Indian Movement (AIM) and The
    Way (an African American civil rights organization) to find “suitable and culturally appropriate ways to assist clients both within the legal system and beyond.”
  • Little Earth of United Tribes, 2495 18th Ave. S.
  • All Nations Church, 1515 Est 23rd Street.
  • The American Indian Guest House, 3020 Clinton Ave. S.

The list goes on.

Also under consideration is the former U.S. Naval Air Station, the site of an AIM takeover in 1970. AIM tried to claim the abandoned federal property under the terms of an 1805 Treaty. It was unsuccessful. AIM Co-founder Clyde Bellecourt, who attended the July 7 meeting, recalled troops showing up with fixed bayonets.

Some historically significant properties already have been demolished, such as Oh Day Aki (the Heart of the Earth Survival School) which ran from 1972-2008. The report offers the following description (which gives a sense of the kinds of details included in the report):

Of all of the American Indian Movement’s work in Minneapolis, Clyde Bellecourt considers the creation of the Heart of the Earth Survival School to be one of its greatest local accomplishments. “Education is the answer to everything,” he says (Rich 1998). With the passage of the Indian Education Act in 1972, which allowed Indians to have control over the education of their youth, the AIM Survival School was created. Initially housed in the basement of the AIM office building at 1337 E Franklin Ave, the school had several homes before the renamed Heart of the Earth School found a permanent facility in 1975 at 1209 4th Street SE (Davis 2013:102, 105). In 1999, the Heart of the Earth/Oh Day Aki became a charter school, but in 2008 the school was forced to close and the building was razed in 2010.
If the city receives a development proposal that affects one of the properties identified in the final report, it would trigger a more intense historical study.
Aside from that practical use, the report has a good historical overview, noting that Native Americans have lived here for 12,000 years, Smoley said: “It ought to be required reading.”

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