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Thursday August 6th 2020

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MIGIZI Communications Continues and Expands During Covid-19 2020 School Year

MIGIZI means “bald eagle” in the Ojibwe language.

By JOHN GWINN

Like all other schools and youth serving organizations, MIGIZI rather abruptly shut its doors to staff and participants on March 16 in accordance with the Governor’s shelter in place order. Since that time, MIGIZI staff have switched to an online service platform, whereas participants can log on to a virtual meeting with Migizi staff via Zoom. Not only are we offering homework help and academic support, staff have also come up with other cultural well being programming including Medicine Mondays and Cooking with Jane.

MIGIZI’s workforce readiness and job training programs went virtual as well. With students enrolled in either the Green Jobs or Social Media Marketing career pathway, staff delivered all necessary coursework materials and supplies directly to their homes, including iPads, Apple pencils and solar charger kits.

Migizi Instructors send solar kits to students at homes.

This summer, we plan on offering a combination of virtual and in-person programming to up to 50 American Indian youth and young adults. For more information on all of our virtual programming, go to www.migizi.org
MIGIZI was established over 40 years ago by Laura Waterman Wittstock and others as an organization with an American Indian journalism and communications focus, bringing Native voices and stories to the public through radio, newspapers, magazines and other media.

Over the years, the mission of this American Indian led organization has morphed into one with more of a youth development and education focus, working in collaboration with local school districts and other community and governmental organizations to improve outcomes for Native youth in the Twin Cities.

With our new location, 3017 27th Av. So., and under the leadership of new President Kelly Drummer, MIGIZI is undergoing a new strategic planning and re-branding process that will focus future programming and establish solid goals as MIGIZI enters a new phase in its successful history of advancing a message of success for the American Indian community.

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An Open Letter to Governor Walz and Local Decision-Makers

—from a front-line public health nurse, 5.18.2020

I am reaching out to connect about the resource distribution and conditions for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in MN, and the resonance to a dire time in state’s history.

Summer 1862: displaced Indigenous people, of the recently established State of MN, were waiting on over-due annuity from the U.S. gov’t. Exposed to a series of epidemic diseases, hungry, vacated from land and homes, they asked officials for more credit for food and supplies from locally-controlled stores in order to survive the months to come.

Dakiota Internment Camp at Fort Snelling, MN 1862. Photo: Between Fences (video still) ©Mona Smith, 2012

One local response was, “Let them eat grass, or their own dung.”
2020: displaced Indigenous people, of the still-occupied Dakota land, continue to wait on the overdue annuity from the US gov’t. 2020: Indigenous descendants are 17 times more likely than white-settler descendants to experience homelessness in MN. Access to land and housing has never been an accident, access to land and housing is a purposeful system of displacement that destroys community and erodes culture; leaving individuals at highest risk for hunger, disease, and poverty.

The story of resilience is a MN story, and more specifically, an Indigenous story. It is not a story simply of those who survive displacement, starvation, and genocide – but a story of how culture and resource inherently of this place is meant to thrive. The abundance in MN at this moment will be measured by how well we care for each resident of MN, and particularly those most at the margins. 2020 is a historical time to tell the story that starts with enough is enough – and ends with everyone having enough to thrive.

Art installed on the fence surrounding the Sabo Bridge Encampment and made by neighbors, residents, and local artists. Banner produced by Olivia Levins Holden. Photo: KEITH CHRISTENSEN

Displaced Indigenous people in Mpls. are currently among those without food and water, waiting on local officials to carry out the federal guidelines for pandemic response. Local officials stall plans for food and water distribution, hygiene stations, bathrooms – and now offer that closing encampments is the right response.

State health officials acknowledge that the COVID-19 virus is community spread in the unsheltered community, and yet departments do not fulfill the contact investigation or testing needed to respond to the scale of the community-spread crisis. Now, before monitoring the progress of the disease, state health officials endorse closing existing encampments without alternate places for individuals to go. The duration of the Shelter in Place order left state decision with no plans for unsheltered Minnesotans to access to food/water, healthcare, sanitation, and ability to isolate. Enough is enough.

Enforcement of further displacement under the direction of local leadership and public health is too familiar in MN. Inadequate and inhumane conditions created by the systems that tolerate starvation and disease are not enough.

MN needs partnerships in 2020 that can support us through this moment, so that when we are past the curve, there is never an instance when people are once again left “to eat grass.” We need, at this time – and as always, to center the well-being of each of us, to promote the well-being of all of MN.
Please bring the conversation of provisions and protections forward for unsheltered and displaced Minnesotans at this time, and fully endorse and implement the CDC guidelines for unsheltered homelessness. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/homeless-shelters/unsheltered-homelessness.html
• Provide isolation by use of hotels for people without housing at the crisis-scale.
• Suspend the executive order, Now!: camps can be cleared as a public health concern.
• Establish state, county, and city partnerships ensuring distribution of food, water, hygiene items, trash collection, & resource distribution to displaced individuals statewide.

Thank you, for your commitment to the resource and resilience of our community now & always.
Sincerely, a front-line Public Health Nurse

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Backyard Community Health Hub

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“Returning”

By PATRICK CABELLO HANSEL

Author’s note: this story picks up years after the saga of “Searching,” serialized in 34 issues of “the alley” from March 2009 through June 2012. In that story, we met Luz and Angel, two 19 year olds running from their past and searching for their future, along with a score of beautiful and strange neighbors.

Angel woke up with a start. He didn’t know what time it was, and for a moment, he didn’t know where he was. He had fallen asleep on the couch at 8 am, after helping Luz get Angelito dressed, fed and out the door to Hi-5 at Andersen School, and getting Lupita off to day care. He kissed Luz goodbye, ate the last of Lupita’s oatmeal, took a sip of lukewarm coffee and flopped on the couch.

He had done a double shift at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, 3 pm to 11 pm, 11 pm to 7 am. He hated crossing the nurse’s picket line, and he was angry at the supervisors who had filled in during the strike. The regular nurses, some of whom he saw this morning on the corner of Stewart Park with their picket signs, treated Angel and other orderlies, indeed the whole staff, as colleagues. The supervisors acted as if Angel and the others knew nothing about patient care. They bossed them around, or ignored them as people.

Angel hated crossing the picket line, but they needed the money. Angelito’s asthma had not gotten any better, and without health care, they couldn’t afford his medicine. Luz was trying to finish her degree at Augsburg University, while working part-time. The uncertainty about DACA and an uptake in heroin overdoses added to their stress.

But that stress wasn’t what woke Angel up with a start. It was a dream. It was The Dream. The nightmare of someone chasing Luz and him and the children. He never saw their face, but he knew the evil in them. Who or what was it? The trauma and enemies of his and Luz’ past? The forces of fear unleashed from the highest office in the land? Or was it the ghost of Mateo Kelly Hidalgo, come back to haunt him and the place he called home? Would Angel ever know, and would he ever be free of this curse?
To be continued…

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Transit: When Will Normalcy Return?

By JOHN CHARLES WILSON

Note: This column was written between the times Governor Walz announced the lifting of the Stay at Home order and the change taking effect.

Metro Transit has decided to continue running a Saturday schedule on weekdays and not running buses or light rail late at night, even after the Stay at Home order is lifted, and the restriction to “essential trips only” is still in place. Even though it will be legal to go out for any purpose, you are still not supposed to ride transit unless it is necessary. The only change is that wearing face masks will be required on Metro Transit as of 18 May. However, there will be no enforcement of this rule unless non-compliance becomes a major problem.

It remains to be seen whether the schedule change which normally takes place in June will happen this year. With Metro Transit running a limited schedule anyways, they might decide there is no point to it.
The transit situation everywhere is dire. It is expected that many “choice” riders (people who use transit by choice rather than being “transit dependent”) won’t be coming back to the bus or train for a long time after the coronavirus crisis is over. This is partly due to more people working from home and more people choosing to drive because it feels more “safe” and “sanitary”.

This has several implications which are not good:

  1. Transit will be seen more as a “welfare” system for the poor, children, people with disabilities, and senior citizens and less as a public service for everyone.
  2. What little non-user support there is for transit is in danger of drying up, especially if the meme that buses and trains are “unsanitary” is added to the meme that they are “dangerous.” Good-bye, state funding!
  3. Service will probably be more concentrated in inner cities and access to suburbs by transit will become even more dismal than it is now.
  4. The stigma against people who still use transit will increase.

We need to be proactive in fighting the “new normal” before it hits. Wearing masks and keeping transit vehicles and facilities clean is just the beginning. More highly visible cleaning and security staff (not full-fledged police; more like combination conductor/janitors) on transit vehicles and at facilities will probably also help to make skittish people more comfortable.

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Free Annual Checkups for those under 21

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Midtown Global Market

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Peace House Community–A Place to Belong: Canadian Humor (which I spell “Humour”)

By MARTI MALTBY

I decided that this month I wouldn’t mention Coronavirus (it didn’t take long for me to fail on that count, did it?) because it has dominated so much of the news that I wanted to give you a break from thinking about it. I hadn’t fully grasped how pervasive Covid has become until I tried to come up with a topic for this column that didn’t involve Coronavirus, and I failed. Every topic I thought of somehow came back to the pandemic.

As I said, I wanted to give people a break from Coronavirus because of the negative effects the virus is having on our society. I was about to list some of them, but you are probably as aware of them as I am, and if I did list them I would fail even more spectacularly in my effort to give you a break from thinking about Coronavirus.

The best I can do at this point is to offer an alternative to the bleak news, so below you will find links to videos of Canadian humor. I’m proudly Canadian, and I’m sorry that many of my incredibly talented fellow Canucks haven’t received more attention here. In doing this, I do not want to simply wish Coronavirus away or tell people to cheer up. Neither of those have any place in our current crisis. I simply hope to give people a few minutes to forget their stress and recharge, so that when they return to the stress they have a little more resilience for the challenges they have to face. I can’t solve anyone’s problems, but hopefully I can help them cope with them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJRDpTUIrJI – for years Rick Mercer had a comedy/political commentary show. In one segment he would visit people with interesting jobs in different parts of the country. This is my favorite episode.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKeUeO5RwPQ – comedian Lorne Elliot’s commentary about visit Winnipeg in winter. I’m sure Minnesotans will relate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHTnFwsIA-s&list=RDF6FwSb7zd6M&index=2 – Red Green did make it to the U.S., but if you haven’t seen him before, he’s worth checking out. This segment from his show demonstrates the power of lateral thinking.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EjPiw0_iIQ – a series of Canadian comedians discuss the Canadian armed forces. This will give you some idea of why Canada isn’t threatening to dominate the world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9Sx86Y-dIY – Derek Edwards demonstrates that Canadians may be polite but they can also be bitter.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5BnAMv50Uc – a darkly funny song from Lorne Elliot about playing with a killer whale. If you’re not in the mood for a morbid humor, skip this one.

Hopefully these help you find something to smile about.

Regina. Photo: MIKE HAZARD

Peace House Community “Poetical Picture Story”
A SMILE IS SPIRITUAL

People come here from
all over the world.
Peace House is an oasis,
a little United Nations.
Rose’s place is not all bread and roses.
Who wants to sleep with both eyes open?
Beware, she has bed bugs. They jump.
Tears are holy water. A smile is spiritual.
I keep coming back because it feels good.
We don’t need the experts.
We need us.
We don’t come for a sermon.
We come for food.
He’s a drunk, but we all have hearts.
My favorite race is the human race.
We pray for the human race.
a meditation of words overheard
at Peace House

by Mike Hazard / mikehazard.org
(from Peace House People, an Artist Initiative project funded by the Minnesota State Arts Board)

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The Pillars Senior Living

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Tales from Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery: Plenty Work to be done-Revive WPA

By SUE HUNTER WEIR

177th in a Series

If you look closely at the east or west side of the Caretaker’s Cottage, most of which was built in 1871, you will see a subtle difference between the back room and the two front rooms. That difference is how you can tell that the backroom is a fairly recent (only 80 years old rather than 149 years old) addition. The roofline is a little lower but that’s not an age difference. The masonry is identical except for one thing: the top and bottom edges of the newer stones are perfectly straight while the stones on the older rooms are rough-cut. The new stones were cut using power tools while the old stones were cut by hand.

Caretaker Cottage 1940 masonry straight-cut edges differ with 1871 hand-chiseled. One of five Phillips buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo: TIM McCALL

It’s been a challenge to put a date on the “new” addition but the answer was hidden in the monthly reports that Albert Nelson, the Cemetery’s caretaker from 1827 until 1953, wrote to his supervisor on the last day of the month. Mike Barth, the current caretaker, found those reports last fall.
The addition to the Caretaker’s Cottage, like many other improvements in the Cemetery, can be traced to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. On May 6, 1935, FDR’s Works Progress Administration went into effect creating jobs on public works projects for millions of American around the country. The Cemetery was one of those public works sites.

Mr. Nelson first mentioned the “tool room,” as he called it, in his June 1939 report. Just a few weeks later, in July 1939, work on the project came to a halt during a nationwide strike by WPA workers over a cut in their pay. Although the strike was short lived, work on the Cottage did not resume until November when Mr. Nelson reported that the work crew was cutting the opening for the door that would connect the front rooms to the back room and that work on the building was nearly complete. His announcement turned out to be somewhat premature since it actually took until July 1940 for the rest of the work, which included painting the new addition and putting a roof on, to be completed.

NYA built Annie Holl monument; FDR’s WPA began May 6, !935 & ended June 30, 1943. Photo: TIM McCALL

Two other enduring structures that date from the WPA era are the monuments for Annie Holl, one of the Cemetery’s most ardent preservationists, and Charles Christmas, the first surveyor of Hennepin County. The two stone structures were erected by workers of the National Youth Administration, a WPA program for young men and women, aged 16-25. There were several facets to the program but the young people who worked in the Cemetery, in addition to building monuments, did physical labor like grading uneven sections of the Cemetery and landscaping. Mr. Nelson had nothing but good to say about them and the quality of their work although he was somewhat less happy with their supervisors who he thought were disorganized and inefficient.

A contribution of WPA workers that is less visible to the public involved records work. Mr. Nelson had as many as five staff working on reconciling the Cemetery’s records and typing up tens of thousands of index cards that are kept in the Cemetery’s office. It was a complicated task that involved making sure that names were spelled correctly, locating graves, and verifying the ownership of the graves. Those cards are invaluable in helping locate graves and are still in use today.

Other crewmembers conducted a survey of headstones and markers that existed at the time. Some of the markers remain, others have gone missing since the survey was completed but there is a record of what existed in 1938.

WPA built Charles Christmas monument. WPA employed 8.5 Billion 1935-1943. Photo: TIM McCALL

Eighty-five years after the WPA was created, the work that was done still matters. It helped save information what might well have been lost and created permanent structures that are an important part of the Cemetery’s landscape. The novel Covid-19 pandemic has left more than 36 millions Americans out of work, more than double the 15 million who were unemployed during the height of the Depression. This seems like a good time to revive government-sponsored public works programs. There’s still plenty of work to be done.

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