The Franklin Avenue movement: Road to revival

Thomas Leblanc begins his “Unholy Tour” of Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the All My Relations Art Gallery/Pow Wow Ground Coffee Shop on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle)

By Miranda Stiles & Jaida Grey Eagle

Franklin Avenue, a street located at the edge of Minneapolis, is a hub for Native American culture. This street is home to multiple Indigenous tribes.

Some would say that this street is now unrecognizable compared to what it used to look like. Tom LaBlanc, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota Tribe and long-time resident of Franklin Avenue, recalls a totally different street 50 years ago.

“We used to just call it ‘the ave,’” said LaBlanc. “You probably wouldn’t recognize it now because there were bars. There were probably four major bars here.”

Franklin Dollar Plus Inc, sign during the Thomas Leblanc and Alan Gross’s “Unholy Tour” of Franklin Ave in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle)

LaBlanc gives tours of the street, what he refers to as the Unholy Tour of Franklin Avenue, discussing the history and struggles the Native American community has faced and continue to face today.

“The American Indian Movement, the American Indians, we closed down all these bars, there’s no bars on this avenue, in this territory. They call it the cultural corridor now and those days it was totally different,” said LaBlanc.

There are many resources that have been put into place for the Native American community living there. A tour with LaBlanc begins at the Pow Wow Grounds, a bright yellow coffee shop full of life. Attached to the shop is an art gallery, All My Relations, which exhibits the work of many local and nationally acclaimed Indigenous artists. The buildings and architecture encompass culture and customs.

The facade of the All My Relations Gallery, the beginning of Thomas Leblanc and Alan Gross’s “Unholy Tour” of Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Photo by Jada Grey Eagle)

The Native American Community Development Institute can also be found here. NACDI has played a role in creating this cultural corridor by implementing community projects such as Open the Streets, Indian Month parades and pow wows. Some of the art on this street, including the utility box wraps of important Indigenous figures, were created by NACDI. Down the street, school age youth congregate at the Franklin Street Library where they offer an entire section of Native American literature. Free weekly Ojibwe and Dakota language classes are taught and open to the public every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Thomas Leblanc explains the history of Franklin Avenue and its ties to the indigenous people of this area during his “Unholy Tour” in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Saturday, Sept 14, 2019. (Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle)

Down the street, the Native American Community Clinic exists to provide services to all Native American citizens regardless of their ability to pay. Its goal is to provide health care to all Indigenous families in the area.

The Minneapolis American Indian Center, also located on Franklin Avenue, provides a variety of services to everyone in the community including advocacy, senior and youth services, and job training.

The Takoda Center offers help to people of all races, ages and genders in the community and provides an educational base so that individuals are able to find jobs. In the Lakota language, Takoda means “all are welcome.” Job training, GEDS and educational resources are offered here to help fight unemployment and poverty within the community.

A passerby finds respute against the Minneapolis American Indian Center Sign on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Saturday, Sept 14, 2019. (Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle)

The Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, a nonprofit located in this area, offers social and educational resources such as mental health and domestic abuse programs to American Indian women and their families. This center works to empower and educate American Indian women in the community.

Along the streets and walls, murals and paintings can be found that relate back to the American Indian culture. Statues, monuments and other pieces of artwork and architecture tell a story of the people that continue to live here today. The colors in the artwork and the designs in the brick relate back to the local Indigenous culture that is rooted on this avenue. Even the power boxes along the sidewalks are decorated with photos of influential AIM members.  

Leblanc after finishing his “Unholy Tour” of Franklin Avenue to NAJA Fellow’s and Mentors in Minneapolis, MInnesota, on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle)

“What we are trying to do is to tell you the raw truth,” said LaBlanc. “It’s real people with real problems and as long as we can keep that we have hope.”

Alan Gross during his “Unholy Tour” of Franklin Avenue to NAJA Fellow’s and Mentor’s in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019.


The American Indian Center – 612-871-4555

The Takoda Institute – 612-341-3358

Franklin Street Library – 612-543-6925

The Native American Community Clinic – 612-872-8086

The Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center – 612-728-2000

Pow Wow Grounds – 612-545-5598

The Indigenous Journalist Association Empowers Indigenous Voices in Journalism.
IJA © 2023 All rights reserved.