Memo of the Week 55:
In 1972, the AIM Survival School in Minneapolis and the Red School House in St. Paul began by receiving children at a series of offices and houses.
The two schools started by providing services for a few students, and then up to 80 or more students at the Minneapolis school and 60 in St. Paul in their first few years, before Red School House secured its permanent quarters in December of 1974 at a former religious building at 633 Virginia Street and in the following spring the Minneapolis school secured its home in a former seminary building at 1209 4th Street SE near the University of Minnesota. The initial funding at both schools combined small grants from foundations with support from parents and the efforts of volunteer staff.
The first government funding came from the Office of Economic Opportunity in the form of $20,000 grants to American Indian Movement schools in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Milwaukee, to be administered by the Upper Midwest American Indian Center. Then funds were held back after OEO began an investigation into the possibility that some funds had been used for the November 1972 takeover of the BIA in Washington D.C. At first, the UMAIC voted to return the unused portion of the funds. Emily Peake, Executive Director, said they had not received sufficient information from the schools to continue to administer the funds, which potentially might have cost UMAIC about $20,000 a year to do. AIM leaders denied all charges and a hearing was scheduled for December. (Minneapolis Star, December 18, 1972, “Indian Center to Return Federal Funds.”)
From an email (Nov. 12, 2015) from attorney Larry Leventhal: The Office of Economic Opportunity was the agency that basically funded programs awarded grants under the former War Against Poverty initiated by President Johnson. There were community action agencies which existed at several levels. The more established agencies generally were grantees who directed monies to community people attempting to achieve direct actions.
Upper Midwest American Indian Center was the named grantee of a grant for $60,000.00 that was to be distributed with $20,000.00 going to AIM Survival School, $20,000.00 going to Red School House, and $20,000.00 being directed to the Indian Community School of Milwaukee.
OEO halted the grant specifying no real reason. The three schools sued with myself as attorney for AIM Survival School and Red School House. Another attorney, Thomas Dixon, represented the Indian Community School of Wisconsin. The case was assigned to Judge Miles Lord in United States District Court. OEO claimed that the three schools had no standing as the named recipient of the grant was Upper Midwest. Judge Lord was quite pro-active in the case. He called a meeting of the Upper Midwest Board of Directors to be held in his chambers prior to a scheduled court session. After determining a quorum was present, he stated he was making a motion that Upper Midwest oppose the cut-off of monies for the Schools and insist that the grants be honored and paid….The motion passed unanimously.
When Court convened, the Government attorney maintained that the cut-off was proper because the Government had specific information that grant monies (none of which had yet been received) were being misappropriated to the American Indian Movement and utilized to acquire weapons and engage in disruptive activities. The Court noted that no such documentation had been submitted to the Court, and without seeing the documents, the Court could not accept the representations; and further, that the plaintiffs had the right to examine and dispute any purported documentation to that nature. The OEO attorney stated it would take considerable time to accumulate the documents and have them sent to the Court. We advised that we could make arrangements to have them transmitted promptly if brought to Congressman Don Fraser’s Office. They had an early form of fax machine which could do this. The Judge stated that that would be a good idea and that he would give the Government until 4:00 p.m. to bring the papers to the Congressman’s Office and for them to be transmitted.
Just before Court reconvened at about 4:00, we checked with the congressman’s office and were advised that no such papers arrived. The Court noted, given the failure of the Government to forward the documents it had referenced the Court, it could only assume and would assume that the documents were full of praise for the Schools’ educational accomplishments and acknowledged that they complied with every federal regulation anybody could imagine. He issued judgment in favor of the schools.
In 1973, significant funding for the two Twin Cities schools and many others became available through the Indian Education Act of 1972, another offshoot of the Kennedy report of 1969, “Indian Education: A National Tragedy - A National Challenge.”
(Disclaimer: the principal researchers of Completing the Circle were employees of the two schools.)
This posting was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this posting are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.