A New Beginning for MIGIZI

Native American nonprofit MIGIZI was able to continue summer
programming, despite the pandemic and the loss of their building. (Jacob Vang)

As protests swept through a south Minneapolis neighborhood, flames and destruction found their way to the home of Native American nonprofit MIGIZI. The organization’s 2-year-old building was reduced to rubble.  

The fire was a setback but not a roadblock for the organization.

Binesikwe Means, lead media instructor at MIGIZI, said the community came together for a healing event after the fire. 

She said, “We did everything to be able to find a place of healing for our community and then we went back into moving mode. We have to continue. MIGIZI is so much more than a building. Although our building went down, it doesn’t mean as an organization that we were going to stop serving our youth, so we came together.”  

The nonprofit was founded in 1974 and incorporated in 1977. It started as a journalism program to teach Native American people how to tell their own stories in the media. At the time of its founding, mainstream media was overwhelmingly made up of white men. Since then, MIGZI has branched out to cover more topics than journalism. It has also shifted its focus to empowering Native American youth in its community. 

MIGIZI uses programs such as Green Jobs Pathway, where students learn about solar power and other sources of green energy. This program teaches students through hands-on experience in the form of projects that eventually work to better the community.  

Some examples of these projects are the creation of small free libraries and food pantries outfitted with solar panels, which community members can use to charge their phones. Projects like this are designed to better the community.  

Another program MIGIZI provides is First Person Productions, which gives a voice to underrepresented stories and people. Like Green Jobs Pathway, this program also teaches students skills through real-life projects and community help. 

Students need to learn these skills because “a lot of times the communities that are underrepresented are not necessarily always the place people go to when they want to hear a voice, so we really look at empowering our youth and giving them the opportunity to tell their own stories from their own perspective,” Means said. 

In 2019 MIGIZI bought and remodeled a building to house its programming. According to Means, the building was remodeled by a Native American architect, and the students had a big say in the design. The students chose a lot of the colors of the walls and the types of floors. They also described what types of studios and spaces they’d like to see for specific programs.

Unfortunately, during the recent riots and protests in Minneapolis, the new building was burnt down. Despite people coming to the building to protect it from the outside, fire spread from neighboring buildings.  

MIGIZI is now operating out of the American Indian OIC and the American Indian Center, both located in Minneapolis, until this summer’s programming is over. In the fall, the nonprofit will be moving into a temporary space. It will rely on donations to help rebuild. The best way to donate and support MIGIZI is through its website or the “Save MIGIZI” GoFundMe campaign.