Dayton, tribal officials announce new grant for adult learning program geared toward American Indians

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- With the hope of paving a new road of educational opportunities, Gov. Mark Dayton and regional tribal leaders met in Bemidji on Wednesday to announce funding for a new program.

BEMIDJI, Minn.  -- With the hope of paving a new road of educational opportunities, Gov. Mark Dayton and regional tribal leaders met in Bemidji on Wednesday to announce funding for a new program.

Aiming to help American Indian adults gain high school diploma equivalents, Dayton said the state is providing an $880,000 grant to fund the Anishinaabe Basic Education Initiative. In its first year, the initiative is expected to help 150 American Indians in Minnesota attain an educational credential and access job training, according to a press release from Dayton's office.

"Our goal is to create 'on ramps' for people to get an education to either continue it or join the workforce with living wage jobs," Tuleah Palmer, executive director of the Northwest Indian Community Development Center in Bemidji, said at a press conference with Dayton and tribal leaders.

"As we come here today, we're really looking at the equity from appropriations as a starting point to address a series of disparities that are facing the American Indian community in this region."

The initial $880,000 grant, and an ongoing yearly $250,000 grant to follow, will be utilized by organizations such as the Northwest Indian Community Development Center and the American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center to address various issues. For example, only about 50 percent of American Indian high school students attain a diploma within four years.


Other disparities faced by Minnesota’s American Indian community, Dayton noted, included income levels, access and quality of health care as well as jobs that may not be available because of educational issues.

About 32 percent of Minnesota American Indians live in poverty and having a high school diploma or GED can increase the earning power of individuals by 36.5 percent, Dayton’s office said in a release.

"The Anishinaabe Basic Education Initiative will help American Indian Minnesotans attain the educations they need for good careers," Dayton said in the release. "Providing all Minnesotans access to educational opportunities will help build an economy that works better for all Minnesotans."

Joining Dayton and Palmer at Wednesday’s meeting in Bemidji were representatives from the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and the Red lake Band of Chippewa.

"We're really honored to be here today with the chairmen of each of the three sovereign nations in northwest Minnesota and the governor, as well," Palmer said. "We hope it's the beginning of several appropriations that we receive as well as several meetings that we'll have."

Once in the program, participants will have the opportunity to learn skills for both careers and college through a culturally contextualized learning environment representing indigenous culture, the release stated.

"Accessing the initiative will really be just as simple as coming in the door and being greeted in a safe place to be an American Indian," Palmer said.

Dayton's visit with officials in Bemidji was his second stop in the region Wednesday, as he appeared at St. Joseph's Hospital in Park Rapids before traveling north. The visits are part of the governor's tour of the state's 87 counties in 86 days to discuss a variety of issues.


Along with Beltrami County, Dayton is also scheduled to visit Clearwater and Becker counties today, with appointments in Itasca State Park to kick off a “Year of Water Action” at the headwaters of the Mississippi and Detroit Lakes to speak about water concerns.

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