Friday, August 29, 2008

American Indians talk about the future at feast and forum

Niko LaFrinier, age 2, enjoys a slice of watermelon at the Duluth American Indian Commission’s Feast and Forum on Aug. 21. He is the son of Rachael LaFrinier.

The Duluth American Indian Commission focused on the future at its community feast and forum last month at the YWCA’s Trepanier Hall. As part of the program, Michelle Gordon, co-chairwoman of the DAIC, asked attendees to envision the 26 housing units for American Indians and the American Indian Center that the YWCA will soon contain. The facility will also provide space for an art gallery, offices for service organizations and a health-care clinic.
Gordon said she could imagine kids drumming on the stage, feasts like the one that night, artwork and Dr. Joycelyn Dorcher’s medical students visiting the clinic. (Dorcher is also co-chairwoman of the DAIC.)

In addition to the future, some attendees took time to comment on the present. Bart Long, for example, had kind words for Police Chief Gordon Ramsay and the current relationship between the police and the American Indian community. “There is more communication [where] previously there was none,” he explains. “There is follow-up. [Ramsay] calls back.”Ron Boushey, another member of the DAIC said he was impressed with the new city council and that Indian people do have a voice in Duluth. “This community as a whole does not realize that there are many Native American businesses in this town that support the community directly,” said Marlene Diver, a retired social worker. “We have so many successful people.” She cited Jim Perrault Construction, Grey Star Electronics, police officers, foster care parents and UMD professors as examples.

In her address, Melanie Ford, St. Louis County Attorney, advocated fair and vigorous prosecution of crime, focus on preventing crime, truancy prevention and racial fairness, and equal justice. Her office is forming an advisory committee of people involved in the juvenile justice system, service providers and community leaders of all races and ethnic backgrounds in the county.

The DAIC meets the third Monday of each month on the fourth floor of City Hall.