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A new opportunity from the Red Lake Band of Chippewa

So much has happened in the last few days it boggles the mind. But here's an attempt at a recap:

There have been multiple meetings of the Minneapolis City Council and it's various subcommittees. The Navigation Center concept was presented. Two sites were given as options: one adjacent to a school, and one acquired for a Public Works expansion that would need to be delayed if the encampment were moved there. Neither site was perfect. Despite public outcry regarding the safety of students and their families, the Council's Committee of the Whole voted for the site adjacent to the school - with a full Council vote the next day. Many concerned community members begged the Council to delay a vote in the hopes that some other site could be found. They finally relented and delayed the vote - though I think it's fair to say hopes were slim that a better alternative could be found.

And meanwhile the cold weather is looming; every passing day bringing us closer to snow and freezing temperatures.

Just when it seemed that there were no other options the Red Lake Band of Chippewa offered the City the use of a parcel of land just across Hiawatha Avenue from the encampment. It seemed like a miracle. (See this MPR article for more information on the Red Lake offer.)

Since the Red Lake offer materialized discussions have begun about demolition, construction, and the management of the Navigation Center. The air of celebration and relief has given way to multiple concerns - first of which is the timeline for demolition of the existing structures and building a new structure(s) yet to be designed. Hanging over every conversation is the reality of the Minnesota winter. Time is the enemy - and the challenges and dangers facing the residents of the Franklin Hiawatha encampment are very real.

Gratitude is due the Red Lake Band for the temporary use of it's land. Thanks also goes to the City staff who worked tirelessly to research best practices regarding creation of a Navigation Center. Now these parties and the various regulatory bodies and funding sources within the City, County and State - and within the private and foundation sectors - have work to do - and fast.

Sam Strong, center, in ribbon shirt, addressing a group of camp residents and Natives Against Heroin members at the Franklin Hiawatha encampment. Strong, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Tribal Secretary, gave an overview of the project and answered questions. Also pictured: Minneapolis City Council member Jeremiah Ellison, left of Strong, and city council member Steve Fletcher, three persons to the right of Strong.

Posted by Camille

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