In November, we celebrate Native American Heritage Month!
During the 2023 legislative session, Minnesota progressive leaders delivered countless wins for Minnesotans. Among the most notable were new pieces of legislation that support Indigenous people in Minnesota.
Here are a few of the new laws:
Free College for Native American Students
Minnesota progressives passed a new law establishing the American Indian Scholars Program, which will provide tuition-free education for Minnesota’s Indigenous students.
This new program will offer full tuition waivers for Native American students to attend any public two or four-year university or college in Minnesota. Anyone who is a member or citizen of a recognized Minnesota Tribal Nation is eligible to receive one of these waivers.
The program will help many Indigenous Minnesotans earn a college degree without the heavy financial burden.
Native American History Curriculum
Beginning in January, Minnesota teachers renewing or earning their licenses will complete training about Native American history and culture. The progressives in the legislature also introduced a requirement for schools with a certain number or percentage of Indigenous students to teach Native American culture and language courses.
Finally, schools in Minnesota will now be required to dedicate at least one hour of instruction time every Indigenous Peoples Day to observing the day.
The goal is to increase social awareness and ensure students learn accurate Native American history and understand how Indigenous culture is represented today. Tribal nations will also play a key role in developing the new comprehensive curriculum.
Under Minnesota’s new adult-use cannabis legislation, Minnesota-based tribal nations can legally begin selling marijuana for recreational use before commercial dispensaries are licensed this coming year. The Red Lake and White Earth tribes have opened commercial cannabis stores, and Red Lake even made history with the first recreational marijuana sale in Minnesota history.
The headstart for tribes selling commercial cannabis products before a licensing program is approved will bring in additional revenue for these tribes.
Ending the Use of Native American Mascots
A new law will prevent public schools from using a name or mascot that makes a direct reference to a Native American tribe or Native American culture.
The Tribal Nations Education Committee, which is a committee made up of Indigenous educators, will lead efforts to rename and rebrand schools currently using Indigenous mascots. This new effort will help prevent cultural appropriation and stereotypical depictions of Indigenous culture in public schools.
Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act
Representative Heather Keeler, a progressive Indigenous leader in the Minnesota Legislature, authored the “Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act” this session. The law adds to the Indian Child Welfare Act and provides protections for tribal sovereignty in cases related to children.
The law will help keep Indigenous families together and make sure that Indigenous children are raised with a strong connection to their culture.
Thanks to progressives in the Minnesota Legislature and Indigenous leaders across the state, Minnesota is taking meaningful steps to support our Indigenous communities better.
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