Report Accuses University of Minnesota of Genocide

Researchers say institution needs to atone for ethnic cleansing of Native Americans
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2023 5:20 PM CDT
Report Accuses University of Minnesota of Genocide
A woman walks on campus at University of Minnesota on April 21, 2020, in Minneapolis. A new report Tuesday, April 11, 2023, concludes that the University of Minnesota should hire more Native American faculty, offer students more financial support and give back land to atone for its historic mistreatment...   (Glenn Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP, File)

Researchers tasked with investigating the University of Minnesota's troubled relationship with Native Americans say they sometimes had to pause because they were overpowered by emotions. Their report concluded that the university's founders "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," CBS reports. The report said the university needs to do more to atone for its mistreatment of Native people, including hiring more Native American faculty and giving back land, including a forestry station on land that was guaranteed to the Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in an 1854 treaty but was later transferred to the university without the band's consent.

The TRUTH Project—short for Towards Recognition and University-Tribal Healing—was a collaboration between the university and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, the AP reports. Shannon Geshick, the council's executive director, says this is the first time a major US university has taken a critical look at its relationship with Native people. The university thanked researchers for "truth-telling" but didn't say whether it would adopt the recommendations. Like other universities around the country, the University of Minnesota was founded on the proceeds of land seized from tribes under the 1862 Morrill Act. The university's trust fund controls around $600 million in royalties from mining and other revenue from land seized from Minnesota tribes, the 554-page report says.

The report also accused the university of the "erasure" of Native people by failing to teach the true circumstance of its founding. Researchers were given access to thousands of pages from the archives relating to the university's founding. "I remember a couple of times just sitting at a table and starting to cry," TRUTH Project coordinator and researcher An Garagiola tells Minnesota Public Radio. "You're reading communications and policy and decisions that were made on a daily basis to commit genocide against people … millions of little cuts that we don't think about." The report called for an expansion of a program offering free or reduced tuition to some members of Minnesota's 11 federally recognized tribes. (More University of Minnesota stories.)

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