The American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) transforms oppression into opportunity. Created in 1993, AICHO started in a parking lot outside a social service agency with a conversation between Native community members, who asked why our community had no resources, no community spaces, and no services that met our cultural needs. AICHO was created as an Indigenous response to social conditions in Duluth, MN, powered by the urban Native American community.
Our leaders continue to be Indigenous women. AICHO started with basic needs - shelter, housing, support - and this resulted in ongoing work to change systems. The issues are real: the impact of violence, housing and economic inequity, historical trauma, and racism. Our goal is to respond to crises while laying the path for long-term stability and our vision is to rebuild our Indigenous community.
We started with nothing. Today, we offer an American Indian Community Center, 44 units of permanent supportive housing, a domestic violence emergency shelter, legal advocacy, a climate, and cultural resiliency initiative, social enterprise activities, youth programming, and an arts and culture initiative. All of our work is anchored in our mission to honor the resiliency of Indigenous people by strengthening communities and centering Indigenous values in all aspects of our work. Our philosophy is that every American Indian person deserves to live in a non-violent and non-threatening environment and has the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
The Sweetgrass Model
AICHO is at a turning point in its history. We discovered early on that the intersectionality of issues our people face couldn’t be addressed by established mainstream systems - they require an equally intersectional approach, and we’ve successfully developed a model using art and culture as its catalyst.
Louis Riel famously said, “My people will sleep for 100 years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back." Our spirit of innovation is tied to our Indigenous community, the artists, and our commitment to creating community change. We strive for change that brings about concrete improvements for our people, rooted in the context of our community conditions. Our values and our artists are spearheading this social change and are providing solutions to not just our own communities, but problems faced by the world at large.
The American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) has advocated for housing for American Indian people since 1993. Over the course of nearly three decades, the need for housing has only increased and become more complicated. But the root of American Indian homelessness goes back much further. Native Americans comprise less than 3% of the city population and yet represent more than 30% of the Duluth homeless count.
Stepping On Up
AICHO supports the Stepping On Up proposal as an innovative idea designed to change the progression of homelessness in our community. This three-phase plan addresses the needs of those experiencing homelessness by meeting people where they are at in a dignified and sustainable way. This program is designed to be a fluid system that utilizes existing community resources more efficiently and benefits the people we are serving in a way that builds strength in individuals and strength in our community.
American Indian Community Housing Organization 202 W. 2nd St. Duluth, Mn 55802 (218)722-7225 www.aicho.org