Heart of the Earth Survival School

Heart of the Earth/Oh Day Aki
1209 4th Street Southeast


United States
School districtMinneapolis Public Schools
PrincipalDr. Darlene Leiding
Staff7 (as of 2007-08)[1]
Teaching staff19.7 (FTE) (as of 2007-08)[1]
Enrollment192 (as of 2007-08)[1]
Student to teacher ratio9.7 (as of 2007-08)[1]
Color(s)Red, Black, and White
Team nameEagles

Heart of the Earth School was a Native American survival school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Established in 1972, the school served students in kindergarten through twelfth grade until its closure in 2008.


Heart of the Earth Survival School was established in January 1972[2] by the American Indian Movement.[3] Instrumental in the creation of Heart of the Earth was Title VII of the Indian Education Act, adopted by Congress on June 23, 1972.[4] This act allowed Indians to have control over educating their people; a different policy than the US government had previously adopted with the boarding schools that dominated Indian education throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.[4]

In 1999, Heart of the Earth/Oh Day Aki became a charter school.[5][6] Minneapolis Public Schools ended the district's sponsorship of the school in August 2008 after an audit revealed more than $160,000 in financial discrepancies.[7]

In 2010, the former executive director of the school, Joel Pourier, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing more than a million dollars from the school, a crime that forced the school to shut down.[8]


The school's location on 4th Street Southeast was located in the Dinkytown district of the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood of Minneapolis.


A “survival school” serves as an alternative to public and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools offered most commonly to Indian communities on reservations. Survival schools provide language instruction in native languages like Ojibwe and Lakota. The courses, even the basics, are centered on Indian culture.[9] Part of Heart of the Earth's original purpose was to teach Indian children living in cities about disappearing life skills like "hunting, fishing, maple syrup gathering and wild rice harvesting", and helping Indian students identify to their culture.[10] Initially, the school provided practical training for Indian students who would not pursue higher education.[9] Later, as a charter school, Oh Day Aki provided a unique opportunity for Indian students to explore their cultures in a school setting while simultaneously preparing for higher education and self-sufficiency.[11]

Extracurricular activities

Oh Day Aki Charter School's athletic teams, known as the Eagles,[12] competed in the Minnesota State High School League, Class A, Section 4. The school fielded teams in baseball, basketball,[13] cross country, softball, track, and volleyball.


  1. ^ a b c d "District Detail for Heart of the Earth Charter". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  2. ^ "Heart of Indian school beats strongly". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 1992-03-09. There were no desks, pencils or paper when the school for American Indians opened with two children in January of that year...
  3. ^ Ross, Jenna (2009-06-01). "Minneapolis charter school director allegedly embezzled $1.38 million". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Archived from the original on 2009-06-14. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  4. ^ a b Glogower, Ari. "The Indian Education Act of 1972" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-11-15.[dead link]
  5. ^ "School revival is at the heart of test success". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 1999-05-01.
  6. ^ "Editorial: Indian school closure holds lessons". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 2008-08-13. Archived from the original on 2008-08-19. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  7. ^ Relerford, Patrice (2008-08-12). "Minneapolis cuts ties to Heart of the Earth charter school". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  8. ^ "Pourier sentenced to 10 years in jail for stealing from school". KARE 11, Minneapolis-St. Paul. Aug 31, 2010. Retrieved Aug 26, 2013.
  9. ^ a b Fardelmann, Charlotte (1983-03-17). "Survival Schools Rescue Indian Students, Culture". Christian Science Monitor.
  10. ^ Norrell, Brenda. "Gentle Rage: Clyde Bellecourt remembers the birth of the American Indian Movement". Retrieved 2009-10-26.
  11. ^ "Oh Day Aki (Heart of the Earth) Charter School". Center for School Change. Retrieved 2009-10-26.
  12. ^ Nelson, Tim (2008-08-08). "American Indian charter school faces closure". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  13. ^ "After 16 years, basketball arrives at Heart of the Earth". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 1988-01-21. Until this season the Heart of the Earth, an all-American Indian school in southeast Minneapolis with an enrollment of 75, didn't field athletic teams.

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