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MN American Indian Students Get Some Winter Help

Hundreds of American Indian students from lower-income families have received free winter jackets in Minneapolis. Credit: Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches
Hundreds of American Indian students from lower-income families have received free winter jackets in Minneapolis. Credit: Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches
November 30, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - A month before the official start of winter, hundreds of American Indian students from lower-income families in Minneapolis' Public School system have received free winter coats. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community donated about $25,000 to help buy some of the coats.

Louise Matson, director of the Division of Indian Work, says the idea is to keep these children warm so they can focus on their education.

"We particularly are giving coats to parents and families that qualify for free and reduced (price) lunch," says Matson. "With the need, it's very important in Minnesota. We've been lucky."

Federal data from last year shows graduation rates among Minnesota's American Indian students are far below the national average. At the same time, the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota says about 40 percent of American Indian children are living in poverty.

Matson says her group has been coordinating the coat drive for about 10 years, helping students in every grade from kindergartners to high school seniors. She says they give out the coats near the end of November, because it's a time of year many of these families can use extra help.

"Their child is going to be safe waiting for the bus in the cold and the dark, or can go outside and enjoy and play," says Matson. "To me, it's not a luxury, it's a necessity item here in Minnesota."

The Division of Indian Work also partnered with the law firm Lindquist and Vennum to deliver the coats to students this year.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN