Social Issues

State shuts down South Minneapolis’ ‘Wall of Forgotten Natives’ encampment

A tipi sits in the snow
The tipi at the Wall of Forgotten Natives in Minneapolis on Dec. 19.
Cody Nelson | MPR News 2019

State officials forced about 100 people from a homeless encampment in Minneapolis’ East Phillips neighborhood Thursday. 

The encampment was located along Highway 55, known as the “Wall of Forgotten Natives.” The Minnesota Department of Transportation, which owns the land, gave residents 24-hour notice of the encampment’s closure. State patrol officers assisted with the closure, which Kare 11 reports was initiated due to safety concerns.

Jase Roe, who works in the Native American Community Clinic, was there when residents were removed and believes police used excessive force. Most people in the encampment were Indigenous, and Roe said they were not provided culturally specific resources that are important to make people feel comfortable and safe. 

“Without those services … it's the same old, same old — they've been there, they've done that and they’ve faced that stigma,” they said.

The day before, as temperatures in the Twin Cities reached 100 degrees, a member of the community died at the encampment. Roe identified the man as ‘Dan Dan’ Robertson. 

Roe said Robertson had housing through Avivo Village but continued to visit the encampment for community connections. 

“He let me know he was lonely, because he didn't have any real friends that would come over to his house and visit or anything. He just kind of sat there. And he said, ‘you know, out here people know me. And when I'm at home, nobody does,’” they said. 

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner is investigating Robertson’s cause of death.

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