Marty Good Bear Saves the Little Earth Christmas Present Program with Generosity

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Every year, the Little Earth Christmas Present Program is one of the organization’s most popular programs. It allows Little Earth parents to have presents to give their children on Christmas. This past Christmas however, the event did not receive an essential source of funding and was in danger of not happening. However, due to a generous gift from Marty Good Bear, a member of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, the Christmas Present Program was stronger than ever!

Marty is the youngest of his family of many siblings. He cares deeply about his culture and people. A champion hoop dancer, he has two adult children and his son is serving in the US Army.

Little Earth board member Jean Howard remembers, “One day, a month before Christmas I was visiting Marty and he was telling me how he remembered Christmas as a young boy living on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Marty remembers he didn’t have much on Christmas. At the time it didn’t bother him, as his family did all they could to have a nice Christmas. But as a man he remembered and wanted to do something special for the Native children at Little Earth.” Marty told Jean, “I would love to help the children of Little Earth who have little for Christmas. This would mean a lot to me. I want to donate for this cause!’ Jean told him she was a Board Member of Little Earth and that she could set this up. He smiled and replied “set it up”!

Little Earth of United Tribes thanks Marty Good Bear for his generosity in supporting our community.


A Great Video About Global Poverty

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North Heights Lutheran Church Sponsors Little Earth Red Bears Basketball

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red bears jerseysNorth Heights Lutheran Church has generously agreed to sponsor the Little Earth Red Bears youth basketball program. Their logo will appear on the new basketball uniforms which were designed by local artist Damien Pettiford. Damien, who created the uniforms as a volunteer, will also coach this season.

The entire Little Earth sports program changed its name to the Red Bears to honor Trinidad Flores whose Indian name, Mihkosew Muskwa Inepoweek means Red Bear Standing.

The Little Earth 16 and under team is the defending Minneapolis City Champion and will return some of its most important players including Justin Brown, Emilio Reyes, Edward Roberts, Nate Boswell, and Kyle Martin. According to head coach Muck-wa Roberts, the team could be even better than it was last season. In a recent scrimmage against the team from East Phillips, Little Earth won 81-43. The Red Bears were ahead 29-0 at one point.

In addition the 11 and under team is shaping up to be a powerhouse this season. Led by the “Three Amigos” Jose, Ernesto, and Victor Rodriguez, the team will play a run and gun style that is sure to be entertaining.

For more information contact Nathan Ratner at 612-455-2813 or come by his office at LERA

Schedules will be posted around Little Earth so come out and support the youth. Go Red Bears!

Little Earth recieves $15,000 grant from Comast Foundation

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St. Paul, Minn. – Nov. 13, 2013 – The Little Earth Boys and Girls Club Extension has been awarded a $15,000 grant from the Comcast Foundation to support its Skill Tech program.  The digital arts program re-introduces culture to participants through technology and provides relevant, fundamental skills and a creative outlet for youth.

“The Skill Tech program provides youth with computer literacy skills, gang diversion programming and teaches the value of education as a pathway out of poverty. With financial support from the Comcast Foundation, we can continue to offer holistic, after-school educational opportunities for Little Earth students that include computers, cultural and social activities in a safe and nurturing environment,” said Bill Ziegler, President and CEO, Little Earth.

Little Earth will use the funding to purchase supplies for its digital arts training program, including computers, digital cameras, video equipment and robotics kits.  The materials will be used in weekly photography, video and robotics classes and labs.

“Comcast is proud to support Little Earth’s Youth Development programs that provide culturally relevant assignments and outreach.  By combining technology and the arts through interactive tutorials and hands on experience, Little Earth youth are exposed to new, creative uses for technology,” said Mary Beth Schubert, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Comcast Twin Cities.

Since Comcast started supporting the Little Earth Boys and Girls Club Extension in 2012, the company has awarded $30,000 of grant money to the Skill Tech program. Comcast also supported Little Earth’s attendance at the 2013 Boys & Girls Club Indian Country Summit in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Little Earth was founded in 1973 to create affordable housing in South Minneapolis.  As the first urban housing complex with Native preference, Little Earth serves as a national model, at the forefront of American Indian migration into urban areas.

About the Comcast Foundation:

The Comcast Foundation was founded by Comcast Corporation in June 1999 to provide charitable support to qualified non-profit organizations. The Foundation primarily invests in programs intended to have a positive, sustainable impact on their communities. The Foundation has three community investment priorities—promoting service, expanding digital literacy, and building tomorrow’s leaders. Since its inception, the Comcast Foundation has donated more than $123 million to organizations in the communities nationwide that Comcast serves. More information about the Foundation and its programs is available at

About Comcast Corporation:

Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is a global media and technology company with two primary businesses, Comcast Cable and NBCUniversal.  Comcast Cable is the nation’s largest video, high-speed Internet and phone provider to residential customers under the XFINITY brand and also provides these services to businesses.  NBCUniversal operates 30 news, entertainment and sports cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, television production operations, television station groups, Universal Pictures and Universal Parks and Resorts.  Visit for more information.


Media Contact:

Dave Nyberg

Phone: 651-493-5291


Video: Wild Ricing 2013

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Check out this amazing video about our wild ricing experience!


Remembering Trinidad Flores

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Click here to read full article

See the photo gallery here


Shortly before 9 a.m. on April 12, Cassandra Flores got the call she’d been waiting for: The University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital had a donor heart for her 16-year-old son, Trinidad.


“We were really excited and we were crying,” said his mother, who raced to South High School to bring “Trini” to the hospital. He had suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy for two years. This was going to be the start of a new life.


The 14-hour surgery went well. A room was set up for tribe elders and family to hold vigil. But a couple of hours later, “he crashed and his blood pressure dropped out,” said Cassandra. He had a massive stroke.


Word spread around Little Earth, a poor housing development in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis where the gregarious Trini had become a leader and mentor to other teens. Perhaps 200 of them filled his hospital room and flowed into the hallways. There were so many friends, some had to stay downstairs and come in shifts.


After all, Trini was the one with the quick smile and kind word, the first one to volunteer for an event and the last one to leave. He was the kid who raised the most money for the Indian Cancer Foundation and who brought food to elders.


If Little Earth had a program, Trini was in it, and usually led it. In a neighborhood where many kids don’t graduate from high school, he had diligently put money in a college fund. Not long ago, he was looking for a promise ring for his girlfriend, Danielle Pineiro.


“That’s the girl I’m going to marry,” he told everyone.

Their relationship “gave new meaning to the term ‘first true love,’ ” said his grandmother, Leona Flores.


The teen who still wrote his mother lovely letters, called her “mommy,” and dragged her everywhere, was so thoughtful that when he was 6 he said: “Mommy, I want to be an owner.”

“A what?”asked his mother.

“You know, when you die and give your organs to someone else.”

Trini recently got his driver’s license and made sure his status as an organ donor was on it.


Trini died at 12:55 Wednesday, but he was kept on life support so he could fulfill his childhood wish.


It is Indian tradition to start a bonfire when someone dies, to provide light for the spirit on its way to heaven.

So Trini’s friends gathered wood Thursday and started a fire that will burn for four days. As they worked, a heavy snow began to fall.


“That’s Trini,” said his aunt, Jolene Jones. “He loved cold weather and snow.”


Allicia Waukau knew Trini from Migizi Communications, a program that preaches success for American Indians. He was so proud of his heritage that when they were going to drop an Ojibwe language class he was taking, Trini started a petition and saved it.

“I don’t mean to idolize him, but he reminded me of a very spiritual person like a Mother Teresa,” said Waukau. “In two minutes he could console you, make you laugh and totally change your day.”


Trini was a skilled artist and he had recently begun to produce music. He kept score for Little Earth’s first basketball team in decades, which won the league championship.


“He was very thoughtful,” said his mother. “Everybody he met, he touched.”


Trini recently found the baby book his mother had started when he was born. He decided to write something back to her in it.


“Being your son is the best thing in the world,” he wrote to her.


Friday evening, friends and family gathered for Trini’s wake. Several people tended the fire in the courtyard of the American Indian Center. Inside, elders burned sage as the family gathered around Trini’s casket. Four people thumped a drum nearby.


Trini’s nurse, Jim Lynch, was one of the visitors. He had known the teen for more than two years, when Trini was implanted with a device to assist his heart.


“He was almost like a son,” said Lynch. “He had this facade [of being tough], but he had a big heart. Even with his condition, he was never sad or depressed. He was the class clown.”


“Things can be very hard here,” said Waukau. “But he was someone who could lift up the whole community.”


Little Earth in the NY Times!

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MINNEAPOLIS — Nothing in her upbringing on a remote Indian reservation in northern Minnesota prepared Jean Howard for her introduction to city life during a visit here eight years ago: an outbreak of gunfire, followed by the sight of people scattering.

She watched, confused, before realizing that she should run, too. “I said: ‘I’m not living here. This is crazy,’ ” she recalled.

But not long afterward, Ms. Howard did return, and found a home in Minneapolis. She is part of a continuing and largely unnoticed mass migration of American Indians, whose move to urban centers over the past several decades has fundamentally changed both reservations and cities.

Though they are widely associated with rural life, more than 7 of 10 Indians and Alaska Natives now live in a metropolitan area, according to Census Bureau data released this year, compared with 45 percent in 1970 and 8 percent in 1940.

The trend mirrors the pattern of millions of African-Americans who left the rural South during the Great Migration of the 20th century and moved to cities in the North and West. But while many black migrants found jobs in meatpacking plants, stockyards and automobile factories, American Indians have not had similar success finding work.

“When you look at it as a percentage, the black migration was nothing in comparison to the percentage of Native Americans who have come to urban areas,” said Dr. Philip R. Lee, an assistant secretary for health during the Clinton administration and an emeritus professor of social medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Recent budget figures show that federal money has not followed the migration, with only about 1 percent of spending by the Indian Health Service going to urban programs. Cities, with their own budget problems, are also failing to meet their needs.

One effect of the move toward cities has been a proliferation of Native American street gangs, which mimic and sometimes form partnerships with better-established African-American and Latino gangs, according to the F.B.I. and local law enforcement reports. Last month, a federal jury in Minneapolis convicted several members of the Native Mob, a violent gang, of racketeering and other crimes as part of one of the largest gang prosecutions ever undertaken in Indian Country.

The migration goes to the heart of the question of whether the more than 300 reservations in the United States are an imperative or a hindrance to Native Americans, a debate that dates to the 19th century, when the reservation system was created by the federal government.

Citing generational poverty and other shortcomings in reservations, a federal policy from the 1950s to the 1970s pressured Indian populations to move to cities. Though unpopular on reservations, the effort helped prompt the migration, according to those who have moved to cities in recent years and academics who have studied the trend.

Regardless of where they live, a greater proportion of Indians live in poverty than any other group, at a rate that is nearly double the national average. Census data show that 27 percent of all Native Americans live in poverty, compared with 25.8 percent of African-Americans, who are the next highest group, and 14.3 percent of Americans over all.

Moreover, data show that in a number of metropolitan areas, American Indians have levels of impoverishment that rival some of the nation’s poorest reservations. Denver, Phoenix and Tucson, for instance, have poverty rates for Indians approaching 30 percent. In Chicago, Oklahoma City, Houston and New York — where more Indians live than any other city — about 25 percent live in poverty.

Even worse off are those living in Rapid City, S.D., where the poverty level stands at more than 50 percent, and here in Minneapolis, where more than 45 percent live in poverty.

“Our population has dealt with all these problems in the past,” said Jay Bad Heart Bull, the president and chief operating officer of the Native American Community Development Institute, a social services agency in Minneapolis. “But it’s easier to get lost in the city. It’s easier to disappear.”

Despite the rampant poverty, many view Minneapolis as a symbol of progress. The city’s Indian population, about 2 percent of the total, is more integrated than in most other metropolitan areas, and there are social services and legal and job training programs specifically focused on them.

The city has a Native American City Council member, Robert Lilligren; a Native American state representative, Susan Allen; and a police chief, Janee Harteau, who is part Indian. But city life has brought with it familiar social ills like alcoholism and high unemployment, along with less familiar problems, including racism, heroin use and aggressive street gangs.

Lee Antell is the president of the American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center, which provides job training and operates an alternative high school in Minneapolis. “You can go down the list of all the urban problems — homelessness, having no money, on probation,” he said. “We’ve dealt with all of that, and if we had a student with just one of those, we’d jump for joy.”

But Clyde Bellecourt, a co-founder of the American Indian Movement who lives in Minneapolis and continues to be involved in a number of social organizations in the southern part of the city, where most of the American Indian population lives, said that despite the poverty, cities tend to provide Native Americans with greater opportunities.

“It’s not bad here,” Mr. Bellecourt said. “They come here and they get job training and don’t want to go back to the reservation.”

At the heart of one experiment to halt the cycle of poverty here is Little Earth of United Tribes, a sprawling 212-apartment complex, the nation’s only public housing project that gives American Indians preference. It offers a wide array of social services, from empowerment counselors and bike rentals to couples’ therapy and a teen center that offers homework help, computers and board games. Houses are being built next to the complex to promote homeownership.

The typical resident is a single mother. The unemployment rate, more than 65 percent, is only marginally better than at impoverished reservations like Pine Ridge in South Dakota.

Bill Ziegler, the housing project’s president and chief executive officer, said he came to Minneapolis from the Lower Brule reservation in South Dakota in 2004 with a wife and five young children. Within the first six months in the project, he said, there were five gang homicides, and from 2005 to 2007, only three students graduated from high school, a rate of about 5 percent.

During a community forum in 2007, he asked to see the hands of parents who believed that their children would graduate from high school. He said no one raised their hand. “We expect boys to join gangs, girls to get pregnant,” he said. “I told them, ‘Our kids are doing what they’re expected to do.’ ” His solution has been to offer programs that are widely used by residents and to install nearly two dozen security cameras around the complex, hire off-duty police officers and evict individuals who have committed crimes or other offenses.

Mr. Ziegler said the board was moving toward a requirement that every resident have a job, be enrolled in school at least part time or serve as a volunteer. Though unemployment remains high, he said, the complex now has more than 120 volunteers.

“When we’re talking about change, we’re not hunting vampires — there’s no silver bullet,” Mr. Ziegler said. “It’s like the Lakota hunters bringing down a buffalo. It wasn’t one shot. It was a series of arrows that led to success. And it’s going to take a series of arrows to bring down the beast.”

Read the full article here

See the slide show here


Star Tribune: Little Earth Basketball Revival

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With eight minutes to go in the half, 15-year-old Evan Denny found his sweet spot, the far right corner just past the three-point line.

Denny was one of the smaller guys on the court, but he’s known for his shooting accuracy and quick release.

Michael Demo maneuvered around a couple of defenders and zipped a pass to Denny, who turned and fired. Denny didn’t even bother to watch as the ball snapped the net, putting Little Earth up by 5.

A dozen little girls in the packed stands at East Phillips Cultural and Community Center screamed. Jolene Jones shot out of her seat and began to yell. “Defense! Get your hands up!”

It has been more than a decade since this kind of excitement rippled through Little Earth of United Tribes, a housing development in the Cedar and Franklin neighborhood serving the urban American Indian population. The basketball program has largely been dormant, a victim of disinterest, video games and changing priorities.

But this year Little Earth has fielded three teams of different ages. The one playing Wednesday night was the oldest group, ages 13-16. They practice at a makeshift Little Earth gym, which is so small that the free-throw arcs practically bump up against each other. The baskets are different heights and are bolted into the wall, so players doing layups often glance off the concrete blocks.

Muckwa Roberts is a security guard at Little Earth by day and lives in the complex. He coaches the older team at night and two of his sons play. He said they had just two practices before they played their first game, against established programs. They lost the first two games, then went 3-1, beating one team by 25 points.

“They couldn’t find a coach, so I’m doing it for my kids and the other kids,” said Roberts. He uses social media to keep track of them and remind them of practices and games.

Doug Limon, an artist and elder of the Oneida Tribe, coaches one of the younger teams.

“You could tell some of them had never played before,” said Limon. “In the first practice I was teaching them how to line up for free throws and check into games.”

But the effort the kids are putting into the teams is energizing the community, said Nathan Ratner, the athletic director, who said home games (played at Elliot Park) draw up to 60 people.

“I had someone from the community say to me after a game, ‘That’s the most excitement I’ve felt here in a long time,’ ” said Ratner. “There is a lot of hope and joy.”

“Some of these kids don’t have a lot of opportunities in life to set goals and feel like they are winning,” said Ratner. “One of the younger teams didn’t expect to win, ever. So when they won their first game, they were jumping up and down. They were delirious.”

“I think basketball is giving the kids a sense of responsibility,” said Ratner. “I’m seeing a sense of confidence and accomplishment.”

One of the players who exudes absolute joy on the court is Justin Brown, who is only 15 but is well over 6 feet tall.

Before the game he shook hands with little kids in the crowd: “These are my fans,” he said.

“Look at this picture of me,” said Brown, pulling out his cellphone. The photo showed an obese teen who looked nothing like Brown. Asked how he lost so much weight, he said: “I got addicted to basketball.”

Jones is one of the Little Earth members who come regularly to the games. Several of her nephews play on the team.

“They get us all out of the house to support them,” said Jones. “They’ve got great team spirit.”

During one practice, one of the players grabbed my hand. “You know we’re good kids, right?”

Coach Roberts explained: “Sometimes they get stereotyped because of the neighborhood.”

Cassandra Holmes’ son, Trinidad, is the trainer for the team. He has an enlarged heart and recently had a surgical implant to correct it, so he can’t play. But he loyally logs statistics, and during practices it’s his job to keep track of anyone who cusses so they can be dealt with later.

Little Earth ended up losing Wednesday in a tight game, but the crowd was entertained.

“All the kids are really great,” said Holmes. “They’ve got a great attitude and are good role models for the little kids. That’s why I made my little son get away from his games and come to watch them play. We’re really proud of them.” • 612-673-1702

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Shakopee Mdewakanton Award $250,000 to Little Earth

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Prior Lake, Minnesota – A grant for $250,000 to the Little Earth of United Tribes housing complex in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community funded a number of innovative initiatives. The two entities have worked together for many years to improve housing and services at Little Earth.