The American Indian Cultural Corridor is Underway
April 12, 2010
By Sheila Regan
The 2010 American Indian Month Kickoff, to be held on April 30 at Cedar Field, promises to be more exciting than ever as anticipation for the American Indian Cultural Corridor builds. This year’s ceremonies, which begin at 9 a.m., will feature the unveiling of the AICC banners which will be installed along Franklin Avenue in Phillips. The banners are a first step toward the realization of a cultural corridor that brings new vitality and empowerment to the American Indian community of Phillips Neighborhood and beyond.
The AICC vision is a concept that encompasses culture, economics, community and arts. Conceived by the Native American Community Development Institute, the plan would see to it that Franklin Avenue between Cedar Avenue and 11th Avenue, becomes a vibrant destination linked to Light Rail Transit, which would celebrate American Indian identity and stimulate economic opportunity. It would increase the quality of life for the residents of the neighborhood, particularly the Native American residents, as well as serve as a destination location featuring cultural centers and Native American businesses that promote Native American arts and history.
Franklin Avenue has been a central location for modern American Indians since the federal relocation programs of the 1950s caused thousands of Native Americans to migrate to urban areas. In the 1960s and 70s, the area served as the first gathering spot of American Indian Movement founders George Mitchell, Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt and others. Today, the area is still populated by a large American Indian urban population.
Mike McGee, a board member at NACDI, said that part of the vision of AICC is to develop more engagement by neighborhood people along Franklin Avenue. He said in the past, too often businesses along the avenue were run by non-local, non-Native businesses. "We need to try to be the ones who find the financing, make the purchases, and follow through on the projects,” he said.
Already plans for the corridor are under way. In 2008, NACDI hosted community meetings to generate ideas and feedback from neighbors. To see some of the concepts brainstormed at those sessions, you can go to NACDI’s website (www.nacdi.org). NACDI continues to reach out to the community to find out what neighbors hope for the corridor.
At the Heart of NACDI’s mission is to bring the Native American community together. It seeks to act as an intermediary organization, eliciting partnerships among Native American leaders and organizations. One of its guiding principles is to work to strengthen the American Indian community with cohesion and cooperation.
This year, NACDI has partnered with Minneapolis Community and Technical College in developing a new Community Development program that trains Native American leaders to become both community developers and entrepreneurs. The program will involve students in the process of planning for the AICC and will hopefully produce trained, capable leaders who will start businesses, run organizations and add to the vitality of the corridor.
An important partnership has already begun developing with The American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center (AIOIC), an organization located on 1845 East Franklin. AIOIC fuses education and training with Native culture and the world of employment. Under a recent agreement, NACDI and AIOIC have begun a predevelopment process that includes title and survey work, geotechnical analysis, environmental assessment, and architectural concepts in preparation for the cultural corridor.
Another new partnership recently developed is between NACDI and All My Relations Arts, an arts programming organization that features contemporary Native American art. NACDI is working with AMRA and its director, Heid Erdrich, to find a new permanent location that will nurture native artists and encourage cultural life in the area.
Part of the vision for the corridor is to have an Regional American Indian Cultural Center, which would host American Indian language, arts, history, music, performance, research, education, and storytelling. NACDI currently has a committee whose goal is to explore the creation of the Cultural Center, where “American Indian stories and cultural lifeways will be shared for generations.”
NACDI President and CEO Justin Huenemann, in speaking to a symposium last fall, described the vision for the corridor by way of a Native American prophecy. According to the prophecy, the Native people of North American (or Turtle Island) would endure seven generations of extreme hardship — they would lose their language, turn away from their ceremonies and traditions, and experience terrible tragedies, death and famine, but at the end of the seven generations, there would be a period of prosperity. According to the prophecy, it will take seven more generations to bring about the resurgence or culture, language and strength to the Native American people in North America. Huenemann said that he believes we are at the beginning of the seven generations promise. The American Indian Cultural Corridor is part of his vision of bringing prosperity back to Native American people.