LEECH LAKE --Members of the Leech Lake Tribal Council traveled to Minneapolis earlier this week to bring food, water and supplies to Native American communities living in south Minneapolis neighborhoods that have faced destruction.
“As we have been watching along with the rest of the world, resources in their community have been destroyed and caused many difficulties for the people there,” Tribal Chairman Faron Jackson Sr. explained in a video update posted Wednesday. “Stores where many would go get groceries and other supplies are no longer an option. Metro Transit service was suspended, making it extremely difficult for people to reach other areas and get those needed items.”
The council intentionally waited until after June 1 to make the supply run, which was when the Leech Lake COVID-19 stay-at-home order expired.
They shared about their trip there in a recent post on their Facebook page.
There’s a large Native American community in south Minneapolis, Leech Lake Public Relations Director Mike Chosa explained, describing the Little Earth Native American specific housing community, which is mere blocks away from the site of George Floyd’s death.
Chosa said the community is a relatively low-income area where citizens rely on public transportation and local stores, like the Target and Cup Foods, which are now closed.
"When you combine the closing of those stores with the suspension of Metro Transit, it just made a real difficult situation for people to get the supplies they need,” he said.
Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe has a Twin Cities office near the affected area.
“It was definitely affected by the riots. We rent out part of our building to another client,” Chosa said. “They did have a couple of their windows smashed and broken.”
Council and staff also visited a central hub of operations at Pow Wow Grounds coffee shop, where a temporary food pantry has been created to serve the community.
“I got a chance to talk to quite a few people while I was down there,” Chosa said. “There’s a lot of fear about their buildings being burned and a lot of sleepless nights is what I’ve been hearing. Just a general anxiety.”
The group also met with Lisa Bellanger the new national co-chair of the American Indian Movement and a Leech Lake member, who briefed them on the events of the past week from a frontline perspective.
Tribal council members expressed sympathy and outrage toward George Floyd’s death and advocated for the arrest of the other officers involved.
“We are proud to be part of the effort to provide for our community in this time of need. We also sent a letter to Hennepin County (Attorney) Mike Freeman last week asking for charges to be filed against all four officers involved,” Chairman Jackson said. “What happened to Mr. George Floyd was an absolute tragedy. The council was very relieved to hear that charges were filed against the remaining officers this morning."