The original Minnesotans were people from the Ojibwe and Dakota tribes. Eventual immigrants included those who moved west to find land for farming, Irish who fled famine, and Finns who sought to escape Russian control. Recently, immigrants moved here after escaping devastating hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, and drug wars. Rochester is home to Mayo Clinic doctors from around the world. Medtronic, 3M, and other local headquarters — including the college system — employ many immigrants. 

Early refugees arrived because they worked on behalf of the U.S. military and their homeland was bombed during the Vietnam War. Since1979, Minnesota has welcomed 100,000 people with refugee status from 100 different countries. Refugees are allowed to relocate to the U.S., after a government vetting process, to offer safety from persecution and civil war. Often those who arrive as refugees become U.S. citizens after five years. 

According to a 2016 report by Minnesota Compass, 80 percent of the state’s immigrant community live in the Twin Cities metro area, but a growing number of Somali, Mexican, and Korean immigrants are moving to towns like Marshall, Worthington, Owatonna, Faribault, Willmar, and St. Cloud. 

A recent MinnPost article indicated that nonprofit leaders in these communities hear three primary reasons for the move to Greater Minnesota: access to jobs, affordable housing, and the desire to live in a place similar to small town and rural communities left behind.

How do Minnesotans authentically create inclusive and equitable communities? How do immigrants and refugees find a sense of belonging in a space and place that is not their home of origin? How do Minnesotans become aware of each other’s diverse cultures?