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MIGIZI was founded in 1977 as Migizi Communications, Inc., with a goal of countering the misrepresentations and inaccuracies about Native people in the media. MIGIZI's first weekly radio production, The Native American Program, set the stage for First Person Radio and its nationally distributed programming. Today, First Person Productions is a multimedia training effort for Native youth aimed at providing state-of-the-art storytelling skills, enhancing self-esteem and improving academic performance. Additional MIGIZI efforts address youth needs in jobs, culture, leadership and more.


  • American Indian Journalists and university students meet together to discuss the possibility of a regional news organization after the American Indian Press Association in Washington, D.C. closes its doors. They discuss the damage the mid 1970s recession had done to newspaper publishing in Indian America. Over half of all newsletters, newspapers, and other publications had gone under, victims of the rising costs of paper and printing and the plummeting revenues from advertising.




  • The journalist and student group choose the name, “MIGIZI,” the bald eagle in the Ojibwe language for the organization because the bird signifies communication as well as guardianship and high standards. These elements are what the group wants the organization to aspire to throughout its history – excellence of communication, guardianship of the public trust and high standards for reporting and ethics.

  • MIGIZI Communications, Inc. is incorporated as a nonprofit organization in the State of Minnesota The all-volunteer board assumes the duties of a staff and begin producing a half hour weekly program called, The Native American Program. The show is broadcast over KUOM and a local commercial station KQRS. Audience response is positive, particularly that of late night truckers who are hearing the program at midnight on the FM station. Development of plans for regional and national distribution of the program follow.

  • The founding board members were: R. Scott Raymond, Janice Command, Laura Waterman Wittstock, Sherry Wilson, Henry Greencrow, Andy Marlow, Tom Gammel, LaNae Warren Sexton, and John Huerth

  • Funding provided by the Dayton Hudson Corporation, General Mills, and the Honeywell Corporation enables MIGIZI Communications to move into independent offices.

  • The Division of Indian Work of the regional Council of Churches provides furnishings, supplies, and funds for travel to produce news segments.

  • The program grows and picks up subscriber stations from Minnesota and some of the Western States.

  • MIGIZI is training up to eight university interns at a time in radio production, engineering and management techniques.

  • Gary Fife (Creek-Cherokee) is hired as the first executive director and the news director. He comes from the American Indian Press Association and Association on American Indian Affairs and has formal and professional training in journalism.

  • Michael Dalby joins MIGIZI as a producer and engineer. He designs the new studio facilities and installs and calibrates all the new equipment.


  • Distribution of First Person Radio grows to 55 stations across the U.S. and Canada.

  • MIGIZI’s first federal grant is approved, supporting work with American Indian high schoolers and broadening training and education to include core academic studies and the use of communications as a tool for learning.

  • First computer lab is built in 1983 and first computer camp conducted jointly with Robbinsdale School District American Indian students.

  • The educational portion of MIGIZI grows to include adult students and cultural education.

  • MIGIZI supports the annual Sugar Bush Camp, directed by Walter Porky White, assisted by Madeline Moose.


  • The series Coming from America, receives the National Headliner Award for best radio documentary.

  • First Person Productions becomes the umbrella for diversified media production within MIGIZI. It produces the tour tape for the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s largest American Indian Plains exhibit which opened in October, 1992.

  • MIGIZI discontinues producing First Person Radio due to rising production and distribution costs and hampered by waning funder interest and the inability of stations to pay for the program’s costs.



  • The Community Technology Consortium is formed, comprising 14 Twin Cities’ organizations, is formed to close the “digital divide” for Native Americans and people of color by providing access to technology learning centers.

  • iMac computer lab expanded to accommodate 25 tech interns.

  • MIGIZI provides internet access and/or technical and administrative support for building tenants.

  • MIGIZI continues to develop Web sites for small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

  • The consortium completed a strategic plan using The Drucker Method to determine direction for the next three to five years.


  • MIGIZI is awarded its first grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Native Americans to strengthen American Indian families through a return to traditional cultural values and practices. The program is conducted in partnership with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

  • MIGIZI is a founding member of the Native Media and Technology Network, a national association of Indian media organizations dedicated to the creation and distribution of Indian media content.

  • Laura Waterman Wittstock, founder and long-time President of MIGIZI, retires after 27 years of service. She is succeeded by Elaine J. Salinas.


  • Following a year-long review, a decision is made to close Introduction of new web creation software has dramatically reduced the market for the website development services provided by and enabled organizations and individual entrepreneurs to do this work on their own.


  • MIGIZI receives the Commissioner’s Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Native Americans for its outstanding youth development work with American Indian high school students.

  • Native Academy is recognized with its third multi-year grant award in the past ten years from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Indian Education.

  • A second multi-year grant is received from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Native Americans to support the development of a cultural and economic corridor on Franklin Avenue and train Indian youth in new media production to support and sustain the cultural corridor development.


  • First Person, MIGIZI’s nationally-distributed Indian Radio News Magazine, is resurrected as a one hour/per week program on KFAI Radio by Laura Waterman Wittsock, MIGIZI’s founder and long-time President.

  • Native Academy completes its fifteenth year of providing culturally-based academic support programming for American Indian students in Minneapolis.

  • MIGIZI launches a new girls’ leadership program entitled, “In the Footsteps of Our Grandmothers” to build the self-esteem and economic independence of Indian girls.


  • MIGIZI staff travel to Montana to participate in a Community Learning Exchange hosted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Salish-Kootenai Tribe.

  • Twelve MIGIZI students and staff attend the first Native Youth Summit held in conjunction with the National Indian Education Association Conference in Oklahoma City, OK.

  • MIGIZI staff receive training in the Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) process and tools.

  • Through a grant from the Northwest Area Foundation, MIGIZI pilots IDA (Individual Development Accounts) as a means of moving Indian youth toward financial independence.


  • MIGIZI sold its “home” of nearly thirty years and moved to leased offices at the corner of Bloomington Ave and Lake Street where the organization will be located for the foreseeable future.

  • 60% of MIGIZI youth graduating from high school enrolled in postsecondary education.

  • Bdote Learning Center, an Ojibwe and Dakota language immersion charter school, that MIGIZI helped to found, opened its doors to its first students.

  • MIGIZI is selected to be among its first cohort of Youthprise Accelerator organizations.















  • American Indian university students broadcast a five-minute daily news segment on KUOM–AM, the University of Minnesota radio station. Discussions on formation of a regional news organization continue.

  • Resources are extremely limited. The first grant in the history of the organization comes from the Lutheran Church – American Indian ministers on the grants committee see value in the little fledgling organization.

  • MIGIZI’s The Native American Program becomes First Person Radio, named by board member, Janice Command. The title is simple and captures the essence of American Indian identity.

  • MIGIZI continues to gain recognition and attract funding sources.

  • The Producer and News Director positions will be handed over from the volunteer board members to paid staff and a search will commence for an Executive Director.

  • First Person Radio becomes the first regular Native offering to be carried over National Public Radio’s satellite system.

  • MIGIZI begins producing the weekly local television public affairs program, Madagimo, for KARE-TV.

  • MIGIZI continues to produce other live radio programs (Other than First Person Radio and Madagimo), video documentaries and technical support to other organizations.

  • Support for the organization now totals $200,000.

  • Program distribution for the weekly half-hour program is 15 stations.

  • MIGIZI produces The Cloud Family Collection, with language arts lessons and with eight radio plays elementary students can produce. The storyline of the collection is about a modern Native family living in an urban area and the day-to-day problems they encounter and solve. It demystifies ideas about what Native people are like, and teaches the fun of using communications arts in the classroom.

  • As First Person Radio disappears from the center of MIGIZI’s work, and diversification continues, the most significant outgrowth of First Person Productions becomes the creation of—National Native Internet Communications.

  • In education, Native Academy replaces Achievement through Communications as the core educational program.

  • The Family Education Center is developed to address health issues in the American Indian community, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

  • MIGIZI completes a significant renovation to accommodate two new tenants: Native Arts High School and Minnesota Transitions Charter School: Middle School Campus.

  • The new Running Wolf Fitness Center is built and opened by MIGIZI, serving children and adults. The center has a special focus on diabetes

  • MIGIZI is selected by W.K. Kellogg Foundation as one of six sites around the country to launch its new Kellogg Leadership for Community Change Initiative.

  • Native Academy is awarded the first of three multi-year grants from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Indian Education to increase the graduation rates and postsecondary preparedness of American Indian students.

  • Two graduates of MIGIZI’s programs travel to Los Angeles to participate in the week-long American Indian Summer Institute sponsored by FOX Entertainment, Diversity Division. The Institute exposes Indian young people from around the country to all facets of the entertainment industry with a focus on production of a media product for national distribution.

  • MIGIZI begins development of its New Media Pathway Project that will provide Indian youth with a multi-year learning experience related to new media production and 21st Century careers.

  • Running Wolf Fitness Center is transferred to the joint sponsorship of the Indian Health Board of Minneapolis and the Native American Community Clinic enabling the Center to remain open to the community and continue as the only fitness center in the Twin Cities metro area specifically designed to serve the needs of the American Indian community.

  • MIGIZI’s 30th Anniversary celebration is held at The Travelers Insurance Company and is attended by over 150 former staff, board members, and supporters. The theme for the celebration is “Honoring Our Past…Embracing Our Future” and features a traditional walleye dinner, speakers, an anniversary video, and an honoring ceremony for past and present organizational leaders and supporters.

  • A student who participated in MIGIZI’s Native Academy program for the previous four years is selected from a national field of other Indian students to present her project at the International Science Fair held in Reno, Nevada. She is the first American Indian student from Minneapolis to earn this opportunity.

  • MIGIZI, along with others, successfully advocates for inclusion of the contributions of MN Tribes and communities in Minnesota’s core academic standards.

  • MIGIZI, and its education equity partners, launch a statewide education equity rubric project in partnership with the MN Department of Education.

  • Youth involved in MIGIZI’s New Media project generate nearly $100,000 in revenues from their media contracts.

  • Two MIGIZI youth present at the President’s National Youth Summit in Washington, DC. MIGIZI launches its Native Youth Futures Program, the first youth entrepreneurship program in the Metro Area Indian community.

  • Students and staff from MIGIZI attend and present at the National Indian Education Association Conference held in Rapid City, SD and a Community Learning Exchange hosted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.

  • MIGIZI and other education equity partners secure passage of an Equity and Diversity Policy by the Minneapolis School board that requires that a racial and economic impact assessment be conducted as part of all district decision-making.

  • MIGIZI is recognized by Philanthropedia as one of Minnesota’s top 15 organizations serving “at risk” youth.

  • MIGIZI student selected from among her peers to represent the Indian community nationwide at the International Science and Engineering Fair held in Pittsburgh, PA. At the fair, she presented her research on the effects of Ceremonial Smudging on Indoor Air Quality.

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