Minnesota is putting $880,000 into a new project to help members of the state's Ojibwe bands get degrees and start job training.
Tribal leaders joined Gov. Mark Dayton in Bemidji Wednesday to announce the launch of the Anishinaabe Basic Education Initiative.
The governor's office says it expects that in its first year the Initiative will help 150 adults earn the equivalent of a high school diploma and access training for in-demand careers in fields like health care and information technology.
After this year's one-time grant of $880,000, the state will provide $250,000 per year to keep the program going.
Funded with money earmarked for racial disparities
The money is part of the $35 million the Legislature approved this year to help reduce racial disparities in income, employment, and education.
The governor's office says the 32 percent of Minnesota American Indians who live in poverty triples the overall state average, while about half of American Indian high school students leave school without a diploma.
The Bemidji Pioneer reports the leaders of three northern Minnesota tribes – the White Earth, Leech Lake, and Red Lake bands of Ojibwe – were on hand for Wednesday's announcement.
Tuleah Palmer, executive director of the Northwest Indian Community Development Center, said "Our goal is to create 'on ramps' for people to get an education (and) either continue it or join the workforce with living wage jobs," the Pioneer reports.
Tribal lawsuit still possible
The education grant comes a week after Dayton made a separate announcement that has some tribes considering a lawsuit against the state.
Dayton ordered the Department of Natural Resources to keep the catch-and-release fishing season for walleye open on Lake Mille Lacs, even though state anglers have already surpassed their quota under a joint management agreement with tribes.
Mille Lacs' walleye population has plummeted in recent years, leading to much tighter regulations on catching the state fish there.
Melanie Benjamin, chief executive of the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe wrote in a Facebook post last week that the tribe's attorneys are working "to determine our best legal options to protect the lake and our rights."
Dayton, meanwhile will continue a tour that has him scheduled to be in all 87 Minnesota counties in 86 days. He'll be at the Mississippi River headwaters Thursday to discuss water quality.