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Red Lake Nation College opens first Minneapolis tribal college

A new site in Downtown Minneapolis allows students to continue taking classes.
Image by Summer Rabold
The college allows any tribe member to attend here.

The first tribal college in Minneapolis opened in downtown Minneapolis in June to serve Native American students who live outside reservations. Minnesota’s tribal population primarily lives outside reservations, with the Twin Cities accounting for nearly half of the population in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Compass.

The Red Lake Nation College (RLNC), one of only a few tribal colleges in an American city, is an accredited two-year University in Red Lake, Minnesota. It has delivered remote learning class options to Minneapolis since 2021.

The seven Objiwe values — humility, truth, courage, honesty, respect, love and wisdom — are used, followed and encouraged at the school, according to its website

The Director of Student Success Rachel King said the school services Ojibwe students from all over Minnesota.

“Our representation here at Red Lake College in Minneapolis is so broad,” King said. “We’ve got Dakotas. We’ve got three affiliated tribal members. We’ve got Seminole students. We’ve got students from all over, from all different tribes.” 

The school incorporates Ojibwe culture into the classroom and hopes to teach Dakota and Ho-Chunk language and culture in the future, King said.

Sarah Barott, an english professor at RLNC, said bringing culture into the classroom is an important learning tool. 

“It’s one of the things that the students say is that in the past they’ve only been able to go home for funerals or sanctuaries, but this way they’re able to go home every day in that classroom,” King said. 

Students at the Minneapolis location can visit the Red Lake reservation to take classes in person and meet up with family, Barott said. 

Justin Heminger, a recent RLNC graduate, said working with the faculty was a highlight of his learning experience. 

“I like that even the instructors that are non-indigenous, they start their day off greeting us in Ojibwe,” Heminger said. “Everything that they do, it’s kind of encapsulated in the indigenous language as well as studies. All of the instructors are very understanding.” 

Heminger said he enjoyed the faculty’s attention, which he does not think he receives at his current school, Augsburg University. 

Barott said bringing in elders to teach and tell stories is important to not only students but herself. 

“I don’t try to just guess,” Barott said. “We bring in people who are experts, elders, and make sure that they have the opportunity to share their knowledge not just with the students, but with myself as well.” 

Heminger said Minnesota is Ojibwe land and learning the language and culture is important, even if you are from a different tribe. 

King said as a first-generation college student, education opened many doors for her and RLNC brings that same opportunity to its students. 

“I think that having one community that’s kind of mixing the urban and the rural, that’s important,” King said. “It’s important for us to bridge connections between city and country or city and reservation.”

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  • Georganne
    Jul 8, 2024 at 1:21 pm