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American Indian Family Center Needs Assessment Report

Briel, Lann

The American Indian Family Center (AIFC) is an ‘American Indian Urban Center’ providing employment,
mental health and youth services for individuals and families residing in St. Paul, Minnesota. The
American Indian Family Center in coordination with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs are responsible for initiating this assessment with the hope that it will begin to determine and outline the cultural context in which Indigenous values are explicitly represented through the concept of the Medicine Wheel, and how it is or is not implemented within the programming at the AIFC. The Medicine Wheel has been used by Indigenous cultures throughout North and South America for centuries. It is a symbol of the circle of life, used in prayer and to bring balance to one’s life (J.Phillip). In the Anishinaabe culture the Medicine Wheel is continuous, with no beginning or end. Everything in life is sacred, and everything affects one another. The four components of the Medicine Wheel used to create balance in an individual’s life are physical, spiritual, mental and emotional. This is concept is fundamental to the programming at the American Indian Family Center. During this assessment there were definitive elements specific to Indigenous culture and values. Many of the staff reports had clear indicators relating to traditional Indigenous beliefs and traditional Indigenous activities like wild rice harvesting and smudging – connecting to both the spiritual and physical quadrants of the Medicine Wheel. However, a survey administered to the staff specified a need for a larger connection to nature, inclusion of the whole family, specifically elders, and a continual base of traditional beliefs throughout the organization and its programming. Based on the data collected and the prescribed context of physical, spiritual, mental and emotional components that presumably create balance for the AIFC’s participants it is recommended that the center continue its needs assessment by garnering additional information from program leads, participants, administrative leadership and the governing board. Creating a holistic balance within the center is dependent upon input from all aspects of the organization. Once each of these four components become educated on the concept and philosophy of the Medicine Wheel they can work together to develop a universal understanding of how the Medicine Wheel is best implemented throughout the organization, its programs and evaluation tactics. Once this is complete the American Indian Family Center can begin to define measures to meet the unique needs of the organization and its participants in a truly Indigenous and holistic manner. The ultimate goal according to Executive Director, Kristin Kinney, is to be in a position to share the great work being done now and in the future within a framework that can be appreciated and understood by the American Indian community as well as policy makers, community and business leaders interested in supporting American Indian persons. The result will be more resources and services provided to those needing them in a culturally-appropriate manner.

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Conducted on behalf of American Indian Family Center. Supported by the Kris Nelson Community-Based Research Program, a program of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota.
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