I am a community member of the Duluth area and I wanted to voice a couple of things that have been concerning me as well as some things that have been brought to my attention surrounding the American Indian Community Housing Organization.
I know that the community was really excited when AICHO’s Gimaajii Building at 202 W. Second St. opened this past spring. I had very high hopes as to what this venue could do for the people, especially the urban Native Americans within Duluth.
As time has passed and the excitement and buzz about what this “could” be has since faded, I have heard from several current and former tenants of the Gimaajii Building that they have felt there is a lack of spiritual understanding from many of the staff members including the current executive director. They have felt that anything “cultural” that has taken place there has been more for show than for the people it serves.
This is very concerning to me since AICHO is supposed to be a wonderfully unique housing organization because of its supposed understanding and enfaces on cultural needs of the Native population it primarily serves. I have noted the lack of AICHO’s presence in the recent months at Native American community events and the Eagle staff that sits in Gimaajii’s lobby has never been represented at any of these events as well. This shows a clear lack of understanding and effort on the leaders of this organization.
From what I know, those employees of AICHO (along with a new executive director) who tenants felt were supportive to them in both their cultural and day-to-day needs have since left and I hope that the board of directors of the American Indian Community Housing Organization has taken a serious look into what was the reason these men and women left because to me that could be very telling.
Twenty-two people have either left or have been fired in the past nine months under the current leadership?!?
I write this solely because I was proud to see such a building in our community. I only want to see it succeed as a place where the Native community and Duluth as a whole can grow; where the Native American culture can thrive in a positive light. Although with what I have seen and what I have been told, I fear the way it is currently being run it will only shed negative light on and misrepresent the Native culture and will not be thought of as a place where people feel they are safe, supported, and can live in a culturally accepting and understanding community.
Who holds these leaders and board members accountable?
As community members it is our duty to investigate things like this. When people in need are crying for help and support we cannot turn our heads and look the other way. Otherwise corruption will continue to take place in organizations that were built with the intention of helping our community, not suppressing it.