Minneapolis American Indian Center ushers in new era after massive renovation


MINNEAPOLIS — Soulful pride bellowed along Franklin Avenue where a beacon for the indigenous community was reborn. A parade ushered in a new era at the Minneapolis American Indian Center.

It hosted a reopening celebration to commemorate the massive renovation project over the past few years. Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan got a preview of the facility last week and was thrilled to welcome visitors Wednesday.

“This is an investment that will matter for generation after generation after generation,” she said before thanking the center’s executive director, Mary LaGarde, for her dedication to the project. “We are here for this ribbon cutting because of her heart and because of her love for the urban native community.”

With the ribbon officially cut, the center opened its doors to well over 100 people with wide eyes and smiles as several generations soaked in the newly renovated space that originally opened in 1975.

“Right when I walked through the door I was just like amazed,” said Connie Brownotter of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

“You can just feel the presence of all our ancestors in there,” said Jill Greendeer of the Ho-Chunk Nation.

Many elders in attendance were just kids when the building first opened nearly 50 years ago. They marveled at its new look and the potential it offered.

“This like a renaissance. It feels like another American Indian renaissance, kind of what it felt like in the 1970s when I was a young kid,” said Antony Stately of the Oneida Nation.

The $30 million project modernized an aging facility that was unfortunately known for its leaky roof. Highlights include the updated gym, new fitness center, large rotunda at the entrance, expanded restaurant, art gallery and shared office workspace. The Boys and Girls Club that operates out of the building also saw big changes.

The center provides 10,000 members a year with social service and education programs, a mission that just got a new lease on life.

“This space, it does offer more opportunities to empower and really elevate each other,” said Greendeer.

“I think it’s just an awesome opportunity for new beginnings in this community and I’m really excited to see the young people embrace it and make it their own, as well as all of the older generations, too,” said Brownotter.

Other new features include the Best Buy Teen Technology Center and a retail shop selling native jewelry and clothing. The center is open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm