I had the opportunity last week to participate in the 2015 Minnesota Indian Housing Conference hosted by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Hinckley, MN. The turnout was great, including 17 staff from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency — reaffirming MHFA’s commitment to help meet the housing needs of tribes in the state.
As part of the keynote address, Melanie Benjamin, chief executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, provided some encouraging remarks. She talked about the importance of the village in the upbringing of the individual in Native American communities. Today, just like the past 1,000 years, elders in the community play an important role in teaching younger generations how to become important members of the band — each with their own roles and responsibilities.
She pointed out that historically, the strength and survival of the band was dependent on the each member doing their part. That remains true today.
In order to build the capacity of that individual, Ms. Benjamin challenged the attendees to do more than simply build houses. She challenged tribes and TDHEs to build communities — where a range of services in close proximity can be provided in an environment where families and can grow and thrive.
The Mille Lacs Band is taking that advice to heart. On my way to the conference, I was able tour the newly-opened Hinckley Medical Building developed by Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures. The facility includes a full-service pharmacy, eye care, physical therapy providers, and a health clinic.
To facilitate that sense of community, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures has consulted with Travois to submit an application for Low Income Housing Tax Credits for a proposed housing development to be located immediately adjacent to the Hinckley Medical Building (where the trees are in the picture above). The proposed 28 townhomes with attached garages will include an outdoor community green space and playground area with direct access to the medical services next door. (Update: The housing is moving forward after receiving an LIHTC award!)
We are grateful to the conference planners to allow us to participate and appreciate the hospitality of the band in hosting the conference. We also applaud the band for acting on the advice of Ms. Benjamin to create strong communities.