The historical backdrop to the Hiawatha encampment: The Indian Termination Policy

This is the last in a series looking back at the 2018 homeless encampment along Hiawatha and Franklin avenues. Part 1: Hiawatha encampment: Last year’s tent city is a lesson in unintended consequences. Part 2: Hiawatha encampment: Lessons learned from last year’s homeless tent city. Part 3: Hiawatha encampment: The camp is gone. The problem’s still here.

Hiawatha encampment. (Photo: Hennepin County)

This series has covered the tent city that sprang up in south Minneapolis in 2018, predominantly occupied by homeless Native Americans. The encampment is part of the legacy of the Indian Termination Policy, yet one more example of broken treaties and the U.S. government’s efforts to force Native Americans to assimilate into white society.

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Hiawatha encampment: The camp is gone. The problem’s still here

This is the third in a series looking back at the 2018 homeless encampment along Hiawatha and Franklin avenues. Part 1 was Hiawatha encampment: Last year’s tent city is a lesson in unintended consequences. Part 2 was Hiawatha encampment: Lessons learned from last year’s homeless tent city.

Fencing has been erected to prevent a return of a large homeless encampment at Hiawatha and Franklin. (Facing east on Franklin.)

In August of 2018, a large homeless encampment sprung up along Hiawatha and Franklin avenues in south Minneapolis, reaching 150 tents and nearly 200 people. Most of those in the camp were Native American. Indigenous-led nonprofits and government agencies mounted a crisis response. With the help from the Red Lake Nation, it included construction of the Navigation Center, a temporary structure to provide people at the encampment a safe and warm place to sleep during the winter and connections to housing services.

The Navigation Center is closed. The Minnesota Department of Transportation erected fences to prevent people from camping on its right of way at Hiawatha andHiawatha. It posted ‘No Trespassing” signs. The Minnesota Police Department has new policies to intervene early when homeless camps form so they don’t get big.

Yet just because the crisis is no longer visible doesn’t mean there isn’t a crisis.

“The problem is still here,” said Mary LaGarde, executive director of the Minneapolis American Indian Center. “We have people who are out on the streets,” she said. “The opium/heroin epidemic has not gone away.”

The winter cold and snow are back. Here’s a look at questions moving forward. Continue reading

Hiawatha encampment: Lessons learned from last year’s homeless tent city

This is the second in a series looking back at the 2018 homeless encampment along Hiawatha and Franklin avenues. Part 1 explored the reasons the camp formed when it did: Hiawatha encampment: Lessons in unintended consequences.

Photo of the encampment. (Hennepin County)

In August of 2018, a large homeless encampment — reaching 150 tents and more than 190 people — sprung up along Hiawatha and Franklin avenues in south Minneapolis. Most of those in the camp were Native Americans — and it was key that Native American led-organizations played a lead role in responding.

Patina Park, President and CEO of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, recalled conversations about the camp in early August, 2018 with Mike Goze, CEO of the American Indian Community Development Corporation (AICDC), Mary LaGarde, executive director of the Minneapolis American Indian Center (MAIC),  Dr. Antony Stately, CEO of the Native American Community Clinic, and Robert Lilligren, President and CEO of the Native American Community Development Institute.

They had concerns about the looming health care crisis, Park said. Hepatitis A was going around, and they were concerned about MRSA, too, an antibiotic-resistant infection. People were crowded together in the encampment and disease could spread quickly. One of the first things the group did was get fresh water to the camp by getting the city to hook up a water station at a fire hydrant.

Their work grew quickly. “I really learned the power of all of us coming together and just doing it,” Park said. Continue reading