A race relations survey in Bemidji, Minn., found many American Indians don’t feel the area is a welcoming place to all races, says a story in the Bemidji Pioneer.
While 71 percent of white people who responded to the survey agreed that the Bemidji area is a community welcoming to everyone, 73 percent of Indians living in the Bemidji area and 88 percent of Indians living on nearby Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth reservations disagreed.
The survey was sponsored by Shared Vision, a development of “Bemidji Leads!” and the Bemidji Area Race Relations Council, which tries to improve understanding between the Indian and non-Indian communities.
It was conducted by Wilder Research of St. Paul, which made random contact with 2,000 households in the Bemidji ZIP Code area, put the survey online and offered it to focus groups. The 501 people who responded showed, in most respects, a sharp division of perception and experience between the two communities.
“The survey really doesn’t surprise me so much,” said Michael Meuers, Red Lake Nation public relations specialist and Shared Vision member. “To me, that just verifies everything anyone who thinks about these things already knows. [Indians] are going to see this survey and say, ‘What else is new?’”
“Like any survey, I would guess a lot of the results are perspective,” said Joe Johnson, American Indian advocate liaison at North Country Health Services and Shared Vision member. “But whether it’s actual or perceived, the problem is there. There’s some reason people have these perceptions.”
Of Indians living in Bemidji, 35 percent said they experience discrimination “on a very regular basis,” and 42 percent Indians living on reservations said the same. Only 14 percent of Indians living in Bemidji and 2 percent of those living on reservations said they never experience discrimination. In contrast, 70 percent of white participants said they never experience discrimination.