Mayor Jacob Frey, Red Lake Nation leaders and city of Minneapolis staff members announced a plan to transfer two parcels of land to Red Lake. Credit: Zoe Jackson | Star Tribune

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With prayer and smoldering tobacco, Minneapolis leaders ceremoniously announced a plan Thursday to transfer two city-owned parcels to the Red Lake Band of Chippewa to build an addiction treatment center.

The two lots in the East Phillips neighborhood have been vacant—one with an empty building—for more than a decade after a developer’s plans to build multi-unit affordable housing never materialized.

Located at 2931 and 2937 Bloomington Av. S., the parcels will technically be sold for $1 each—pending City Council approval—to Red Lake Nation leaders to build a culturally sensitive opioid and fentanyl addiction facility.

Residents of Minneapolis need more than just compassionate care—they need harm reduction and treatment from people who understand the community, Mayor Jacob Frey said at a news conference. The Native American community is disproportionately impacted by addiction, he said.

“The work that we’re going to be doing in partnership with Red Lake is not just preventing people from dying, it’s letting people live. People deserve to live a brilliant life and that means tackling addiction head on,” Frey said.

The city acquired 2931 Bloomington Av. in December 1996 and sold it to Sherman Associates in 2007 to build housing. Sherman separately acquired 2937 Bloomington for the development. The City acquired both properties in February for $80,000.

Many cities and organizations are attempting to tackle opioid and fentanyl addiction, but Minneapolis and Red Lake leaders said they hope that the culturally sensitive treatment—from members of the Native community—will lead to better outcomes.

Working without judgment is key, as is opening doors with services said Cheri Goodwin, executive director of the Red Lake Nation. Tribal leaders are eagerly envisioning the facility, she said. “We could have whatever we dream…we’re going to get this done once and for all,” she said.

Renovations have already begun inside the property. Plans include a kitchen, food, showers and laundry access as well as treatment services. Outside, leaders envision a community garden to hold ceremonies, where medicines can grow.

Many people experience barriers to accessing and continuing medications to assist with opioid addiction treatment when coupled with other health issues, employment and transportation, said Damōn Chaplin, Minneapolis health commissioner.

The trauma experienced by the Red Lake Nation and other native Americans has existed for generations. Minneapolis wants to be partner in helping heal their people, said Red Lake Tribal Secretary Sam Strong, who said the tribe will build and run the facility.

“These are our family members … these are our people, and we cannot forget them. When we forget these people, we lose our place in the cycle of life and it impacts us all,” Strong said.

The plan will face the city Housing and Zoning committee before a City Council vote on October 5.

Race and Immigration Reporter at the Star Tribune.