No-Cost, Accredited Training for Everyone

Providing career pathways and bridging the labor shortage

After a successful rebranding process, Takoda—American Indian OIC’s employment training subdivision—is proud to offer no-cost career training programs for all.

The Takoda brand, originally created for the organization’s accredited post-secondary school, was expanded to include the GED/Adult Basic Education program and employment services. This was done to demonstrate how the organization’s programs work together to address the totality of needs expressed by the community served. The name “Takoda” means “all are welcome” in Dakota. The name was used as the focal point of the new subdivision because reflects AIOIC’s commitment to both the Native community and inclusivity of all people.

In addition to the rebranding, Takoda will now offer no-cost career training and employment services. Takoda Institute, an accredited post-secondary educational institution, offers short and long-term trainings in the industries of information technology, business, healthcare, and construction. In addition to postsecondary training, Takoda offers no-cost adult basic education and GED classes through Takoda GED and employment services through Takoda Works.

The decision to provide no-cost training was made in response to the projected labor gap of 400,000 in Minnesota by 2024. By offering training at no-cost to the participant, Takoda hopes to equip more Minnesotans with access to higher education in industries that face the highest labor shortages.

Learn about all of Takoda’s no-cost trainings.

Distance Learning at Takoda GED

Takoda GED provides distance learning to extend the teaching and tutoring that take place in our classroom.  “Distance learning” simply means leveraging technology to help students continue their formal education when they are not in the same physical location as their teachers.  This option is ideal for adults who must balance employment, family, transportation, and other responsibilities while continuing to make progress towards their educational goals.  Research has shown that students who can supplement in-person, classroom learning with distance learning typically make greater gains on standardized tests.

Another benefit to distance learning is that it provides a meaningful context for learning digital literacy skills.  It is common for students to enter our program with limited experience using computers.  When a teacher or volunteer introduces a student to a distance learning platform, that student will learn and immediately apply skills like using a mouse, opening an internet browser, typing a website URL, logging in to Google Drive, or troubleshooting an error message.  All of these “computer skills” are seamlessly integrated with learning traditional academic content like math, reading, or social studies.

At Takoda GED, our students use an online course management system called Edmentum, the Khan Academy website and app, Google Docs, and email to stay in touch with teachers and complete assignments.  Students have the flexibility to study and practice in the classroom, at a public library, from home, or in any location with internet access…even on a smartphone while riding the bus or waiting in line!  Distance learning opportunities are available for students at all levels, from basic literacy to preparation for college or postsecondary training.  To learn more about distance learning at Takoda GED, please email


Elizabeth Bennett, Takoda GED Teacher

From the 2016 Adult Basic Education Impact Report,


Fresh Start for a Single Mother

Pam* is a single mother who started at Takoda in early 2018. She had been homeless with her young son for the past three years. During this time, Pam jumped from shelter to shelter and was desperate to find a shelter that would offer some longevity, stability and one where she could stay with her son until she found housing.

After months of attending training and working with staff at Takoda, she obtained two industry certificates and attended work readiness workshops in preparation for employment.

Completing training was not an easy task as she struggled to find childcare, moved from shelter to shelter and navigated public transportation, but her persistence and the help of Takoda staff helped her succeed.

Takdoa Works staff began working with Pam in her job search, but she continued to struggle as she waited for her name to reach the top of the list for housing. She finally received the phone call she was waiting for that they had a housing site available for her and her child. Pam was elated with the news and told staff, “I will have a place to call home.”

Takoda Works staff continued to work with Pam to find a job. She applied for positions, went on interviews, and was offered a job that will help her earn sustainable income to support her family. Now with a a job and a place to call home, Pam is well on her way to a new and exciting life for her and her son.


*Names have been changed to protect the confidentiality of our participants

Outdoor Classroom Brings New Learning Opportunity

Each Summer, Takoda Prep holds summer school for its students to provide them with a safe place to come each day and continue their education beyond the 9-month school year. Summer school at Takoda Prep began on June 18th and culminated with a community event on July 27th to honor our students and their hard work for our school and our community.  The theme of this year’s summer school was “Reclamation: Reclaiming our Health, Culture, and Land.”

With the assistance of a generous grant from the National Urban Indian Family Center, we could provide students with Fitbits to monitor their health, including heartrate, daily steps, sleeping patterns, while also setting up daily goals. Students embraced their Indigenous culture by participating in a Sacred Sites Tour with Jim Rock.  Students learned about the history of the Mounds Historical Site in downtown Saint Paul, and participated in discussions about their cultural ancestry.

Reclaiming the land was the main theme of this year’s summer school which involved creating an “Outdoor Classroom.” This included planting a pollinator garden and painting a mural on the south side of the high school building. This area has been overrun with invasive species of plants, overgrown, and unkempt, while also being a gathering area for nefarious activity at night time.  Through the hard work of the student and staff, we transformed this area and reclaimed it for a purpose of healing, cultural identity, and participatory learning.

A special thanks to the University of Minnesota Master Gardener Extension Program and Lesley Perg for her hard-work in assisting us develop, and implement a beautiful garden.  A note of gratitude to Bratt Tree Company who generously donated a large amount of mulch to cover the entire south side of the lot.  And without Holly Henning and Charles Garcia, and their attention to detail, leading the students in the design, implementation, and painting of the mural, this project would not have been so rewarding for the students and community. Lastly, without the hard work of the students, this project would have never happened.  They worked incessantly to create this space, to reclaim the land, and provide this community with a location of culture identity and healing.


Tom Lonetti, Takoda Prep Instructor

To an Encampment, Our People Have Come Home

There is an encampment in Minneapolis populated by indigenous people – and it is growing.

People who have gathered there are the displaced, the unemployed, the addicted, the battered, and the sexually exploited. They have come home. They have come home to the community that they are now counting on for help, and they have come home to rest their weary bodies directly upon the lands of the Dakota to whom it belongs.

Our relatives who have sought refuge at this camp are fueled by their faith in our compassion and humanity. They have defied addictions, disease, chronic violence and exploitation. They have defied the odds to come home to their community in search of decency and help. Their presence challenges the assertion that this nation, state, and city operate as a place where all are created equal and are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – even if they are not white but indigenous.

The colonization of indigenous people continues to carry a heavy human cost. Under the auspices of American exceptionalism and the delusion of manifest destiny, the sacred words enshrined within the nation’s founding documents were forever shattered. From the beginning of the republic, successive generations have failed to honor their treaties and pledges in the quest for land and natural resources, while federal relocation and adoption policies scattered our families to the four directions. Sadder still is that this colonization process remains in full effect, both through the continued theft of our lands and a public education system intentionally designed to negate our history, destroy our culture and ruthlessly assimilate our youth. So now, hungry and homeless, our relatives have come home seeking help from the only ones they trust: the indigenous community. They’ve come to gather where they feel safe, protected, and close to those whose humanity and compassion they know they can rely on.

Prior to the “American experiment,” all of our people had roles and responsibilities that contributed to the well-being of their community, ensuring that no one was ever left unfed, unsheltered, unclothed, unclean, or unsafe. In the crush of assimilation those traditional roles receded within the smoke of old memories, burned away like a once great forest, charred to ash by a voracious wildfire. It is difficult for our non-indigenous neighbors, raised to rely on free markets and bootstrap mythologies, to understand indigenous culture and the harm that has been done. This blindness robs them of their compassion, while indigenous people continue to try and fight their way forward despite the historical traumas that burden our advances.

As we have been taught by our elders, we are now rising to the challenge of providing direct assistance to our people – children of the Creator every one — by coming together in time of crisis. Many have bravely stepped forward to serve this duty. Natives Against Heroin led the way, first to stand directly with our relatives at the camp. Indigenous nonprofits soon followed, offering their services and calling upon elected officials to join forth. Now our public officeholders are also pledging to assist.

There is an encampment in Minneapolis populated by indigenous people – and it is growing – and the reasons for its continued presence is much more than mere housing shortages and street drugs.

We must call out colonialism for the destructive and inhumane practice that it is and acknowledge the damage it continues to cause. It has created the existing wealth gap and all attendant disparities now present within Minnesota and the nation. The United States right now possesses more than enough wealth to provide for its own in all measures. To our collective detriment this myth continues to pervade policymaking at all levels. We must do better.

We now stand with our relatives at a turning point, our hearts filled with hope: hope that the promises of our local elected officials become reality and that the indigenous organizations addressing both immediate needs and long-term solutions are provided the necessary resources to execute their work. Hope that the wider community will join us in honoring the humanity of those living within this camp by calling out colonialism and the price it continues to exact on both Native and non-indigenous peoples.

In decades past our leaders have challenged us to strive toward a more perfect union, and now our dispossessed relatives – merely by existing and revealing to us their pain – are challenging us to do the very same.

There is an encampment in Minneapolis populated by indigenous people – and it is growing. Our people have come home. 








Joe Hobot, Ed.D, is president and CEO of American Indian OIC and former chair and current member of Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors. He is a descendant of the Hunk Papa Band of the Lakota Nation from the Standing Rock.