Report Details University of Minnesota’s Historical Mistreatment of Native Americans

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Photo of the University of Minnesota

A new report released Tuesday reveals the University of Minnesota’s (UMN) founders committed “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” of Native Americans during the 19th century to gain financial benefits for the institution.

The 554-page document is part of the Towards Recognition and University-Tribal Healing (TRUTH) Project, a collaborative effort between UMN researchers and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council aimed at repairing relations between the institution and the state’s 11 tribes.

The report marks the first time a major U.S. university has conducted a critical examination of its history with Native people.

Through analysis of archival records, oral histories, and additional sources, researchers concluded UMN’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.” These actions have caused ongoing repercussions for the state’s Indigenous population, who still experience housing insecurity, poverty, and barriers to education at disproportionate rates, according to the report.

To redress the institution’s exploitation of Native peoples, the researchers urge the university to return land to tribal nations, allocate space on each campus for Indigenous gatherings and learning, provide reparations, increase Indigenous representation in staff and leadership positions, and enhance support for Indigenous students.

UMN released a statement in response to the report, saying that in recent years it “has committed to acknowledging the past and doing the necessary work to begin rebuilding and strengthening relationships with tribal nations and Native people.” The university says it will use the results in future decision-making but has not yet elaborated as to whether it plans to implement the researchers’ recommendations.