SMSC

A $1.4 million Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community grant will help build a business incubator and workforce training center for a nearby Native American community, the two communities announced this week.

The grant will go toward a $6.5 million Intergenerational Cultural Incubator for the Lower Sioux Indian Community, located in Redwood County about 100 miles west of Prior Lake, according to a news release from the Shakopee community. The money cleared the way for an even larger grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Authority that will cover most of the project’s remaining cost.

“The center will support business development while celebrating our community, making it a place for multiple generations of Lower Sioux members to come together for training and production,” Lower Sioux President Brian Pendleton said in a statement, thanking the Shakopee community and the authority for making the project possible.

The center will include classrooms, kitchens, art studios and gathering spaces, according to the release. Construction should begin next summer and finish in time for an opening in 2020.

Pendleton in an interview said many community members are skilled in pottery, quilt-making, beading and other arts but often practice those arts alone. Others could can or otherwise sell food if they had the needed facility. The center will give them all a place to work together, share knowledge and perhaps start business ventures with their work, he said.

“We’ll have business coaches and a program in place for them to follow that leads them down that ownership or business plan,” tackling such topics as finances and developing websites, he said. “We’ve got a lot of talented individuals here.”

The center is just the latest step in a community-wide development project, Pendleton said. The Lower Sioux recently opened a health care center, created planning, education and cultural departments and started a Dakota language-based school for children from infancy through 5 years old.

Those additions and the incubator are the result of community members’ input and wishes for their home, Pendleton said. Once those priorities came together, the community sought out grants and other assistance to help them happen.

“There’s a lot of good things happening,” he said.

About $650,000 still needs to be raised for the center’s full construction, but Pendleton said he’s confident other grantees and foundations will be able to help the Lower Sioux meet their goal.

The center’s intended for community members at first, Pendleton added, but it might eventually open up to residents from throughout the area.

The Lower Sioux and Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux share a heritage as members of the Dakota, several bands of which lived along and around the Minnesota River for centuries, according to the communities’ websites.

The Lower Sioux are also mostly young and quickly growing, according to the Shakopee news release. The Shakopee community’s 2017 Donation Report also notes the Lower Sioux reservation sees unusually low graduation rates and high suicide rates, prompting the Shakopee community to direct donations to several programs aimed at kids and young adults.

The Lower Sioux community’s website says it includes about 1,000 enrolled members.

The Shakopee community has given hundreds of millions of dollars to tribes, nonprofits, cities and other organizations throughout the region and country in the past few decades, according to its online reports. The donations often go toward projects meant to help future generations, the environment and other priorities.

The Lower Sioux recently received more than $200,000 for solar panels, a computer lab, suicide prevention programs and events, and other improvements at its health care center, for example, according to a 2014 report on its website.

Shakopee community grants are often matching grants that don’t cover a project’s full cost but can be used to encourage others to contribute to Indian Country, as was the case with the center grant, a statement from the community said.

“Sharing our resources is a Dakota tradition that has guided our tribe for generations,” Shakopee community Chairman Charles R. Vig said in the release. “The SMSC is proud to support this important project that will help Native American entrepreneurs grow and thrive.”

Community editor

Dan Holtmeyer is the community editor for the Prior Lake and Savage papers. He grew up in Nebraska and worked as a journalist in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas before coming to Minnesota in 2018.

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