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Minnesota Native News

180 EpisodesProduced by Minnesota Native NewsWebsite

Minnesota Native News is a weekly radio segment covering ideas and events relevant to Minnesota’s Native American communities. Made possible by the Minnesota Art's and Cultural Heritage fund


Native Businesses Adjust During Pandemic

Marie: This is Minnesota Native News, I’m Marie Rock.

Headlines: Businesses, artists, and freelance workers, among many others… are being hit hard by the economic reach of the COVID-19 pandemic and the precautions necessary to prevent the spread.

But as times get even more uncertain, there are adjustments and innovations that are being made.

Here’s reporter Leah Lemm with the story.


The University of Minnesota’s Extension Center for Community Vitality, Bii Gii Wiin, and Minnesota’s Indigenous Business Alliance came together tohost a conversation with the the community of American Indian businesses, artists, and entrepreneurs who reside in the Twin Cities, Duluth, and Bemidji….

With the hope of further understanding the needs of Indigenous businesses right now, with the goal of helping find solutions and connecting businesses to resources.

Fawn Sampson is the American Indian Leadership and Civic Engagement Liaison for the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality.

FAWN SAMPSON: hoping that we would at least get three, maybe 10 people. So having 22 people, a part of that conversation, just even listening ears was really nice to have. Knowing that there's people that want to collaborate and want to give each other resources in some way.

REPORTER: Business owners, artists were on the call… but also those in philanthropy and other organizations willing to share their knowledge and resources were on the line as well.

The conversation was not recorded to allow for people to speak freely. But a theme that emerged from the conversation was… how can businesses and artists and entrepreneurs continue their work online? While not leaving many behind?

FAWN: this idea of moving things online is somewhat new. A lot of the younger generations can do that, but a lot of the craft in the way businesses work with American Indians is a lot of, you know, face to face selling going to was going to conferences.

So we wanted to see where they were at, if they needed help with technology. I know there's some places that, you know, maybe people use the library, you know, and libraries are colds.

REPORTER: Not only online, but also social media, which can make some people hesitant. So sharing these resources will be crucial. And this conversation is just the beginning.

FAWN: Speaker 1: (16:11) we've already been in conversations of talking about building webinars, having a podcast and kind of bringing in people just to, you know, talk more about either their leadership duties or even just their businesses highlighting businesses.

REPORTER: And in our own conversation, Fawn and I talk about cultural values that will help this work move forward.

FAWN SAMPSON: I think showing up and being present is courageous enough. Being humble, asking for help. A lot of people have to put aside their egos and remind themselves that sometimes we need to ask for help.

REPORTER: And in Duluth, the Indigenous First: Art and Gift Shop is a business that’s kicking their online presence into high gear.

JAZMIN WONG: the website started about a year ago and then we didn't have time to launch until about three weeks ago because it became a necessity to go online.

REPORTER: I spoke with Jazmin Wong who works at Indigenous First. The 3 year old shop is run by the American Indian Community Housing Center, AICHO, and is located inside their building. Even though the doors are locked, Jazmin is still at work, creating emergency food packages for tenants at AICHO and… preparing art for shipment or curbside pickup…

When the pandemic hit, Jazmin knew it was time to launch the site that had once been slowly worked on.

JAZMIN WONG: If you know, all this negativity, at least one thing at AICHO positively that came out of this pandemic, um, and it's getting our website pushed out there so our 70 different native American artists can continue to make an income from Indigenous First.

REPORTER: And the art that’s sold on the site, that’s supporting their artists, range from high quality prints, beadwork and jewelry, to some food items, and even seeds. And Indigenous First is open to new artists, though there is currently a wait time.

JAZMIN WONG: If we take on a new artist, the easiest way is to message us through Facebook, indigenous first arts and gift shop. Facebook. We're currently, we're on pause for probably about another month, but after that we would love to continue to take on new artists and do art shows.

REPORTER: Indigenous First: Art and Gift Shop is on Facebook and can be found online at Indigenous First DOT ORG.

For Minnesota Native News, I’m Leah Lemm.

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