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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Thursday June 20th 2024

Unsheltered Native People Return to Wall of Forgotten Natives

 By Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors

 2020 there was yet another forced eviction of our homeless relatives, mostly Native American, from publicly owned property within the City of Minneapolis. Unfortunately, there was no solution or direction offered to our homeless relatives as to where to go, and so they were left to fend for themselves. Disbanding an encampment without any viable, safe alternatives for these human beings is wholly unacceptable and in reality, disgusting in its disregard for human life. 

With nowhere to go, and acting out of pure desperation, our relatives have once again returned to the former location of the 2018 mass homeless encampment on MnDOT property at the intersection of Hiawatha and Franklin Avenue – known as the “Wall of Forgotten Natives.”

Due to the inaction and lack of accountability from all levels of government it is shameful that we find ourselves in the very same position as we were in two years ago. This is unacceptable. We demand that our elected officials at the city, county, and state levels respond immediately with a coordinated and adequately funded response to best support our relatives living at The Wall, and all unsheltered people in our city and state. 

In a letter sent on behalf of our community from the leadership of the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID) to our City of Minneapolis elected officials on August 27, 2020 we demanded that “…the City must relocate the residents to a location where appropriate security, hygiene facilities and social services can be offered…the City cannot simply clear the encampment only to have it reappear on another property. Rather, the City must take the lead in coordinating public and private sector agencies in providing housing, shelter and supportive services to our relatives.” This has not happened. 

Instead, we see the continued lack of leadership being exhibited by the Minneapolis City Council, Hennepin County, and the state of Minnesota to address the most basic needs of their most vulnerable constituents. Our homeless relatives still find themselves purposefully isolated within the margins of government services, as each government entity works hard to shift the responsibility of this crisis away from themselves, treating our people like an unwanted political “hot potato”. The end result is that MUID promotes the well-being, growth and mutual interests of metropolitan American Indian organizations. ( Unsheltered relatives are being treated as an unwanted problem not worthy of our elected governments”™ time or resources. 

Due to the ongoing lack of leadership, it is falling once again to the community-based organizations of MUID, those organizations allied with MUID, and our community to step into this void and help the Native and non-native people at The Wall by providing immediate assistance, just like in the summer of 2018. Though we stand ready to be a partner in this work, we cannot do this on our own. We need the help and resources of all levels of government and the private sector. 

As our community reminds our public sector representatives for every year, winter will soon be here. We need a plan. We need our elected and appointed officials to do their jobs by leading a coordinated effort between all government agencies from every level to effectively remedy this situation. Empty rhetoric and popular buzzwords of “the woke” is insufficient and an affront to the basic humanity of our people. We are not interested in speeches. We no longer will tolerate “tough talk” with no effort. We need you to be willing to do the work in order to save lives. 

Sadly, the fact remains that the homelessness crisis has not dissipated in any way since the first “Wall of Forgotten Natives” in 2018. In fact, it has become worse because of the economic crisis related to the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd. Sweeping people from camps like sweeping refuse under the rug is not an answer; it is not even humane.

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