Community Art Installation Highlights Indigenous Housing Crisis

Feven Gerezgiher reports:

On Saturday, All My Relations Arts launched a community art workshop to highlight indigenous and unsheltered peoples’ experiences in Minnesota. Lead artist Courtney Cochran titled the project “Never Homeless Before 1492.”

“Native people are homeless on their own land – stolen land at that,” said Cochran. “These problems started in 1492. And we can still feel and see the impacts of colonization. Native homelessness started with removal and continued through allotment and land theft.”

The Minnesota Department of Transportation and Native American Community Development Institute – or NACDI – are partnering on the 23-panel installation for a fence on Franklin and Hiawatha. In 2018, the area was named the “Wall of Forgotten Natives.” The housing crisis, along with other factors, had led to over 200 people forming an encampment along the fence; many of them identified themselves as Native American.

At the time, community and government agencies worked quickly to move unsheltered people out of the encampment which suffered from difficult public health conditions, fires, and multiple deaths.

Now, MnDOT seeks to restore the site with the recognition of a housing crisis which has only proliferated in Minneapolis after a year of unrest and the pandemic. 

All My Relations director Angela Two Stars says she hopes the community-driven project promotes solutions and honest conversations in the two to three years it’s up.

“While there was negativity around this large homeless encampment, it really spoke to how the community – especially the native organizations – had stepped up and offered their resources in a culturally responsive way to our vulnerable relatives at the time,” said Two Stars.

The community is invited to participate in painting the panels. All My Relations will continue hosting workshops throughout the next month.

Photo Courtesy: Courtney Cochran 

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