Wells Fargo Donates Healthy Snacks for Takoda Clients

Students now have a healthy and free snack to help them focus during the day.


Our partners at Wells Fargo spent a day assembling 200 healthy snack packs for our clients and students at Takoda.

Our clients can’t always afford to bring a lunch during the day, which makes it tough to focus in class or in meetings with case managers.

Thanks to Wells Fargo’s generosity, our clients are able to grab a healthy snack to sustain them throughout the day.

Do you have a team or group who would like to provide our next round of snack packs? Email ivye@aioic.org to get started.







Takoda Prep is Now Enrolling for Third Quarter

Takoda Prep is accepting students for third quarter, which begins on January 28th.

Takoda Prep is a great alternative for those who had not had success in the traditional school setting. As a contract alternative high school under contract with Minneapolis Public Schools we focus on helping students make advancements in reading, writing, and mathematics, while maintaining a strong connection to American Indian Culture.

Takoda Prep students celebrating the unveiling of their mural and outdoor classroom.

What makes Takoda Prep unique is the small class environment that allows students and staff to feel closely connected which leads to more individualized instruction and support. Student s are encouraged to observe a class or even a full day to ensure that Takoda Prep is the right fit.

The first step is to set up a meeting with the Education Director,  Chris Hubbard at 612-341-3358 ext. 158. During that time we can review your credits, tour the school, answer your questions and go over any necessary paperwork.  Please feel free to visit our Facebook page to see what Takoda Prep students and staff have accomplished this year!

Takoda Prep Students Attend Q-Quest

Two-Spirited youth and allies attend annual LGBTQ+ festival

This winter, Takoda Prep students attended Q-Quest, MN School OUTreach Coalition’s 14 Annual Youth Festival. This youth-focused conference has become a popular choice for our self-identified Two-Spirited youth or allies. The event unites approximately 400 youth from the Metro and Greater MN area. This year’s workshops focused on topics that included self-love, healthy relationships, youth voice, gay-straight alliances, and many others.  The resource fair was also a hit with students finding information to keep them safe, healthy, educated, and connected to LGBTQ+ specific (or friendly) services.  

As always, the entertainment was phenomenal and allowed us the opportunity to physically express our “fierce” selves.  The day closed with the ever popular “Open Mic” segment, where even the shyest student finds the courage to display their talent in the form of poetry, song, dance, comedy, or skit.  Overall, the event has been inspirational and we look forward to attending future events. 

Jessica Rousseau, Plus Case Coordinator

Native Voters Meet Hennepin County Candidates

With support from the National Urban Indian Family Coalition, AIOIC helped bring together candidates and Native voters for a unique evening of discussion.

Voter engagement has been a long-standing issue for the Native community, with Native voter suppression in North Dakota becoming a headline story. Previous candidates have spent little time listening to the concerns of Minneapolis’s urban Indian community, and it’s a rare occasion when voters are able to speak one-on-one with candidates to voice their concerns.

With support from the National Urban Indian Family Coalition, American Indian OIC, and Little Earth Residents Association decided to host an Urban Indian Community Forum, which allowed candidates to meet Native voters and address the community’s most pressing concerns.

This unique opportunity brought together voters and Hennepin County candidates in the same room for an evening of discussion. Guests enjoyed a meal and discussed the issues that were most important to them. Each candidate had the opportunity to address the audience and discuss their goals for the community, and then sat down with guests to speak one-on-one.

Candidates in attendance were Senator Tina Smith (D – US Senate), Karin Housley (R – US Senate), Peggy Flanagan (D – MN Governor & Lt. Governor), Peter McLaughlin (Hennepin County Commissioner’s Office), Angela Conley (Hennepin County Commissioner’s Office), Ilhan Omar (D – US Congress – MN 5th District), Jen Zielinski (R – US Congress – MN 5th District), Kirsten Johnson (R – MN State Representative), and Aisha Gomez (D – MN State Representative).

Over 150 guests attended the Community Forum event. Each guest was given information about how to register to vote, where their polling place was, and the impact that their vote has on their community and greater Minnesota.

Thank you to the National Urban Indian Family Coalition for supporting American Indian OIC’s voter engagement efforts. Without their generous contribution, this event would not have been possible.


Ivy Estenson, Development Director

In the Face of Fear – Winter’s Story

Winter found stability, support, and hope after enrolling at Takoda Works

Winter* is a single mother of two young children fighting hard to have a better life. She is a woman looking to do better, be better, have more. She is a recipient of welfare trying to become self-sufficient. Even while her circumstances remain difficult, this new season is bringing hope into her life.

Since coming to Minnesota, Winter has been working with Takoda Works, and enrolled in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) and the Diversionary Work Program (DWP). Winter has attended all the offered workshops and job fairs, receiving counseling and guidance. It was difficult for her to navigate the Twin Cities, but every day she would use public transit and make her necessary appointments. What she found was that securing employment wasn’t easy; however, being solely responsible for her two children would require that she get a job fast. Winter decided to get a job as a Patient Care Assistant which was only part-time and paid $11.00 per hour. Although this was a step in the right direction, Winter never stopped wanting better for her and her family.

In August of this year I started working with Winter and by September she applied for and secured a temporary position with Award Staffing. This position is full-time and pays $12.00 per hour with option for overtime. She takes two buses just to get to the worksite during the week and three on the weekends. Winter never complains, and she is always on time for work. This job has allowed her to believe that she can have more, do more, and achieve better. This step up has fueled her with hope and strength to keep going.

Yes, she is a little bit broken and still scared, but she has a lot of fight in her. She might need a reminder that it’s possible to do hard things as a mom, an employee, and a dreamer. She might need to know it’s possible to stand up when she feels like sitting down, to show up when she wants to disappear, to swing for the fences when she feels like she’s doomed to strike out. On her journey to self-sufficiency I will continue empowering and encouraging her… greater is coming for Winter and her children.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of our participants.


Latisha Porter, MFIP Manager

GED Opens Up Countless Opportunities for Breanne

With help from Takoda GED tutors, Breanne attained her GED and a higher paying job with benefits.

Breanne, a member of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe, came to Takoda GED with the goal of a better life for her and her daughter. Prior to earning her GED, Breanne found herself caught in a cycle of working minimum wage jobs, where she was unable to earn promotions without a high school diploma. “Whenever a promotion came about, they asked for my diploma,” she said in an interview. “I was tired of people telling me I couldn’t do something because I didn’t have a piece of paper.”

Breanne decided to enroll at Takoda GED because of the small classroom environment and one-on-one attention from tutors. “The structure of Takoda GED was more compatible with my learning style,” says Breanne. “I struggled with English and social studies, but was good at math and science. The tutors customize your learning to what you need. The one-on-one attention and individualized learning helped me to succeed.”

In just 5 months, Breanne earned her GED. For her and many others at Takoda, earning her GED proved to be much more than a piece of paper. Through tutoring, practice tests, and support from her teachers, Breanne finally achieved what she had been trying for so long to do. Earning her GED opened up opportunities that Breanne never experienced before. “I was hired in an office job, earning more, and got a pension plan and 401k.”

Breanne’s advice to students trying to earn their GED is, “go to class and do it. It seems scary, I know the feeling, but just do it. When they tell you the things you have to work on after your practice test, review those things and you can do it. If everyone is telling you that you can’t, prove them wrong!”


Lindsey Windfeldt

Ivy Estenson, Development Coordinator

Daily Reading Challenge Improves Lexile Scores

Takoda Prep students start each day by taking time to read, showing an increase in their Lexile scores.

For over two school years, students and faculty at Takoda Prep have taken part in a school-wide initiative called Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.). This program was initially put in place to boost students’ interest in reading, but it has grown to so much more.

At first, students could choose any book they desired to read once per week during a class wide D.E.A.R. session. Students chose poetry, graphic novels, traditional narratives, and everything in between. Fast forward to present day, and D.E.A.R. takes place in a daily credit earning class each morning. It’s a wonderfully calm way to start our day. Students now choose books based on their Lexile number. We find the students’ Lexile numbers by using a helpful program called Renaissance Learning. A short assessment, which we take monthly to progress monitor students, gives us an opportunity to learn more about students’ reading abilities using a research based system. If the students’ Lexile score improves, they earn a reward. This has greatly motivated students to read as often as possible and perform well on the assessment. D.E.A.R. and Renaissance Learning have greatly improved our ability to understand student literacy concerns, build confidence and interest in reading, as well as promote the importance of reading in life.

So far this year, Takoda Prep students have spent 108 hours reading in school. The two students with the most reading—Melena in 11th grade, and Alejandra in 9th grade—have read 11.68 hours and 9.25 hours, respectively. Our student with the highest Lexile score is Santino, 12th grade, with an 1815L. That’s a college level reader!

So far, 64% of students who have tested at least twice have shown improvement in their Lexile scores, and we look forward to seeing our students’ interest in reading continue to grow.


Christy Hicks, Instructor at Takoda Prep

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.

From Students to Interns in Just a Day

This spring, Takoda hosted a Healthcare Career Fair which brought together students, jobseekers, employers and training providers for a day of networking and learning.

Jobseekers from all over the metro area gathered to learn about the potential careers they could have in the healthcare field, while healthcare employers learned about creative recruitment strategies including apprenticeship programs through the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.

While the event was a success for all involved, Takoda is particularly proud of the four students in Takoda’s Patient Services Specialist training who were offered internships from Children’s Minnesota, Native American Community Clinic, and Fairview during the career fair. Additionally, three other jobseekers gained internships from the connections they made at the career fair.

The event included a career fair, a healthcare employment panel discussion, presentations about healthcare apprenticeships, and healthcare career exploration activities. Takoda thanks its sponsor and event partner, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. With their help, jobseekers were able to connect with employment and training opportunities, and healthcare employers were made aware of the Department of Labor and Industry’s apprenticeship programs.