Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

April 13, 2023

The University of Minnesota Committed Genocide

Ojibwe and Dakota were Targets of Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing by the University of Minnesota

By Dan Kraker and Melissa Olson
Minnesota Public Radio
Read the full report

A massive new report details the University of Minnesota’s long history of mistreating the state’s Native people and lays out recommendations, including “perpetual reparations,” to improve relations between the university and Minnesota’s 11 tribal nations.

Among its troubling findings, the report by the TRUTH (Towards Recognition and University-Tribal Healing) Project concludes:

-- The U’s founding board of regents “committed genocide and ethnic cleansing of Indigenous peoples for financial gain, using the institution as a shell corporation through which to launder lands and resources.”

-- The U’s permanent trust fund controls roughly $600 million in royalties from iron ore mining, timber sales and other revenues derived from land taken from the Ojibwe and the Dakota.

-- The university has contributed to the “erasure” of Native people by failing to teach a full history of the land on which it was founded.

Researchers didn’t put a dollar figure to their call for reparations but urged the University to do more to help tribal nations, including providing full tuition waivers to “all Indigenous people and descendants” and hiring more Native staff and faculty.

Totaling more than 500 pages, the report released Tuesday marks the first time a major American university has critically examined its history with Native people, said Shannon Geshick, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council and a member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa.

‘Used as test subjects’

Researcher Audrianna Goodwin researched the medical experiments

Researchers say the TRUTH report is notable for its Native-centered, community-driven approach. Each tribe appointed a research fellow to explore histories important to their communities.

For the Red Lake Nation in northwestern Minnesota, Goodwin explored the history of medical research that was conducted by the University of Minnesota doctors on young Red Lake children in the 1960s.

After a disease outbreak in the 1950s killed a 2-year-old on the Red Lake reservation, U researchers planned a study around a decade later in which they enrolled about 100 children to conduct kidney biopsies. During that follow-up study, a second outbreak occurred.

According to Goodwin’s report, U researchers concluded during the first outbreak that a shot of penicillin was a viable cure for the disease. Yet in the second outbreak, they did not share that information with local doctors, the report said. Rather they enrolled more children in their study.

“Our tribal members were used as test subjects,” said Red Lake Tribal Secretary Sam Strong.

More at the Truth Project

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