ONAMIA (AP) -- Even though Delores Heglund spent most of the past 30 years in the Twin Cities, childhood memories of making birch-bark baskets and ceremonial dances on the Mille Lacs reservation kept a strong hold on her.
So she was ready to go back when her husband, Larry, left his manufacturing job two years ago.
While he found work as a slot-machine attendant at Grand Casino Mille Lacs, she has been spending time with elders and grandchildren and renewing ties with traditional culture.
"I liked it when I was a young kid here on the reservation; it was really nice," said Delores Heglund, 57. "I didn't plan to live in a city all my life. I knew someday I would come home and stay."
She's not alone.
Census numbers released last month show that overall, Minnesota's American Indian population grew 10 percent, to 54,967, counting only those who said they were 100 percent Indian. But within that number there was a decline in the Twin Cities coupled with substantial growth outstate.
Lots of people like Heglund went home in the 1990s.
A long-standing urge to return to the reservation and the creation of thousands of gaming jobs that provided the means drew American Indians out of the Twin Cities and back to outstate Minnesota in the 1990s, Indian leaders say.
The picture is somewhat fuzzy with another 26,000 people who said they were Indian plus another race, mostly white, and it's not clear how those people were counted in 1990. Regardless, no other metropolitan area with a sizable Indian population had the same experience, and as a result the Twin Cities dropped from eighth to 16th among urban Indian populations.
Among the gainers were Portland, Ore., Albuquerque, N.M., San Diego and Denver, which all surpassed the Twin Cities in Indian population.
Joe Day, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, said most bands began reporting growing numbers of members moving back in the mid-1990s. By 2000, the share of Indians living on reservations in Minnesota had grown from 25 percent to 40 percent.
"A lot of folks went home to work with the tribes," Day said. "The development of 14,000 jobs since 1990 provided new opportunities for members to go home and work."
Sheldon Boyd, commissioner of administration for the Mille Lacs Band, grew up in Minneapolis. Like many relatives, he returned to the reservation.
"Having roots here, you have an option," Boyd said. "For some Indian people it's like, we've got to get out of the city, we've got to go back home.
"Maybe it's just slowing things down," Boyd said. "You can see the lakes and the woods and the birds and all that. Making maple sugar, ricing, fishing. There are people who live around here who have done that always, but in my case it's kind of getting back to that."
Getting back in touch with traditional ways also was a big motive for Heglund's move.
"I just lost some of my culture, and I want to get it back," Heglund said. "There are ways to do that here. I talk to my elders a lot. I'm trying very hard to speak Ojibwe again. I understand every word but it's hard to speak it."
The boom at Mille Lacs and other reservations would have been even greater if the bands had enough housing for all the members who want to move back, leaders say.
"I would fill up 100 homes if I had them, but I don't have any place to put them," said Bob Peacock, chairman of the Fond du Lac band.
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