BY Nolan Levenson ’11
New York, New York
District Councils Collaborative of St. Paul and Minneapolis
The final report isn’t just a file on my computer; it will be used for public benefit and our data shared for further investigation.
At first glimpse a project about American Indians may not seem likely for an Urban GIS class, but I was soon captivated by the multifaceted problems associated with Indian land tenure.
We visited two reservations. Fond du Lac is located on gorgeous wild rice lakes in northern Minnesota, and there we learned about the community, public services, and the ecology of the lakes. We also visited the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in a suburb southwest of Minneapolis, to see how gaming has impacted American Indian communities.
After learning about the history of injustices that still impact American Indians, we spoke with Terry Janis from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF). He explained to us that our work would help build the case for a larger scale study of the entire country.
The class was divided into groups of three to investigate specific Minnesota Indian reservations. We communicated with members of the tribes, county assessors, and GIS managers to
acquire data for our maps.
This class gave me a fantastic real-world experience. In addition to creating maps about land tenure, land use, and demographics for each tribe, we gained perspective about power dynamics between American Indians and local, state, and federal government. The final report isn’t just a file on my computer; it will be used for public benefit.
At the end of the semester, we presented our findings at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis to the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, tribal office workers, county staff members, and potential funders for future ILTF GIS projects. Our maps are now available in the Native American Community Development Institute on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis on a large touch screen.