American Indian Youth Digital Art Exhibit Featured at the Department of Human Services, AICHO youth take to the Capitol at MCH’s Homeless Day on the Hill and AICHO’s In-district meeting with Representative Liz Olson. 


AICHOThe American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) made two back-to-back trips to St. Paul from Duluth on March 13 & 14, 2017 and then hosted an in-district legislative visit. AICHO is an American Indian service provider in Northeast Minnesota that provides emergency shelter, permanent supportive housing, long-term homeless mobile team services, and other housing supports with an Indigenous community focus.

A Youth Art Exhibit Educates Minnesota State Agencies on Culture & Community 

 Last month, Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) hosted the AICHO Youth Photo Exhibit Through Our Eyes. Through Our Eyes is an art collaboration project with children who reside in Gimaajii –Mino-Bimaadizimin (English translation “We are, all of us together, beginning a good life”) permanent supportive housing program, AICHO cultural activities staff and the St. Paul based nonprofit In Progress (project funded by the Minnesota State Arts Board). In the summer of 2016, the AICHO youth used professional cameras to capture the world around them and related the content to the Anishinaabe Seven Grandfathers teachings. Each art piece features a quote from the youth artist:

“I am like the northern lights. I am colorful and full of my grandparent’s teachings. They say the northern lights represent our ancestors, and I know this is true. I know this because when I see them, I feel good inside and I can feel the warmth of my ancestors surrounding me. —Sierra”

“We are defenders of this great lake. We know that our water is sacred and that it must be protected. How could we ever exist without it? We must all work together to keep our water safe from pollution. We must use it carefully in order to make it last. We must remember that without the water, we are nothing. —Joseph and Bradley”

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Photo: Daryl Olson (AICHO) and LeAnn Littlewolf (MCH) present to DHS staff

After an enthusiastic response from MHFA staff, the Department of Human Services (DHS) requested the Through Our Eyes Art Exhibit to be displayed in the Elmer L. Andersen Human Services building and invited AICHO to present on both the art exhibit and AICHO programs on March 13, 2017. Close to 100 DHS staff learned about AICHO’s culturally relevant approach and community impact from Michelle Lebeau (Executive Director) and Daryl Olson (Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Training Specialist). The MCH Tribal Organizer, LeAnn Littlewolf, also spoke about how AICHO has created not only strong partnerships with other organizations and Tribal Nations, but continuously creates community space for other important connections to happen. AICHO has hosted Community Connects, Indigenous Commission Feasts & Forums, individual family events, and art events from live music to renowned Indigenous artist shows.

A special thank you to Alicia Smith (DHS Office of Indian Policy) and Jane Lawrenz (DHS) for inviting AICHO to showcase the Through Our Eyes Art Exhibit and the opportunity to speak with DHS staff on the importance of a culturally-centered approach.

AICHO Youth Take To The Capitol

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Photo: AICHO youth at the Capitol

The AICHO youth artists traveled to St. Paul on March 14th to see their artwork on display at DHS and to attend the Homeless Day on the Hill with over 700 statewide constituents who care about housing and economic security. As they approached the Elmer L. Andersen Human Services Building, DHS staff recognized the young artists and complimented them on their art, telling the children, “You’re famous here!”

The AICHO group (11 youth and 5 staff) met with Representative Liz Olson (District 07B, DFL) for a quick visit. The AICHO youth had brought prints of their individual art and carried them through the halls at the Capitol and State Office Building.

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Photo: AICHO youth and staff visit Representative Liz Olson (District 7B, DFL)

Representative Olson warmly welcomed the youth into her office, spoke about her job at the legislature and asked them about their legislative interests. Representative Olson had also spoken earlier in the morning at the Homeless Day on the Hill kickoff program about bipartisan support for bills that support Minnesotan families.

AICHO continues to bring their message that culture is the path that leads directly to community health. This message has been delivered by the ones who carry the future forward—the children, with full support from the American Indian Community Housing Organization’s dedicated staff.

AICHO In-district meeting with Representative Liz Olson (District 7B, DFL)

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Photo: Representative Liz Olson (7B, DFL), Daryl Olson and LeAnn Littlewolf at in-district meeting to discuss Homes for All and housing stability

AICHO held a conversation with Representative Liz Olson during the legislative break on April 17, 2017 to discuss the importance of the housing continuum and resources to support housing stability. AICHO spoke about new development projects, including the renovation of a building that will have 9 affordable rental units, a coffee shop/art gallery and an eco laundry. The emergency shelter Dabinoo’igan is also expanding from 10 beds to 24 beds (for women and children fleeing domestic violence). AICHO staff highlighted the recent transition in property management at the Gimaajii Mino Bimaadizimin permanent supportive housing program and a MHFA capacity grant that supports sharing their learning in the transition process. Representative Olson shared updates on the budget process and ways to further communicate these success stories.

Miigwech (thank you) to AICHO for all the work being accomplished!

The Through Our Eyes art collection is featured in the AICHO 2017 Annual Calendar, for purchase here.

The Through Our Eyes project activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. 

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The American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) is a MCH member organization.