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Cultural Diversity in our Community

Many residents of Stevens County are interested in, and proud of, their family heritage as the children of immigrants from Scandinavia, Germany, Ireland, and other European countries. When Morris was founded, western Minnesota was a mosaic of different nationalities. If you were to walk down Atlantic Avenue in 1905, you would likely hear German, Norwegian, Swedish, and other languages spoken on the street, as well as observing ethnic differences in social customs and dress.

Although Stevens County today is largely populated by people of European descent who have lived in the U.S. for several generations, the county has an increasing number of residents from other ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds. Census data indicate that, while the county's total population changed little between 1994 and 1997, our total multi-ethnic population rose about 100 percent. Stevens County in 1996, for example, had 63 residents who were African American; 52 who were Native American, Eskimo, or Aleut; 147 who were Asian or Pacific Islander; and 60 who were Hispanic or Latino.

Minnesota, too, has entered a new, modern era of racial and ethnic diversity. The state's population of African Americans, American Indians, Asians, and Hispanics grew by 72 percent during the 1980s. More than 24 percent of the state's children will be of African American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic, or other multi-ethnic descent by the year 2020, according to the State Demographer.

Many of Stevens County's non-white and non-Euroamerican residents came to the area to seek social and economic opportunity, just as Europeans did in 1900. Many of our community's diverse residents came to Morris to escape war or civil strife in another country, to attend school, or to pursue a business or career. These members of our community can be found owning small businesses, working as soil scientists, employed in local industries, and staffing the hospital and other institutions. Many have school-age children who are enhancing the ethnic, cultural, and racial diversity of our local schools.

Students and faculty at UMM also come from a variety of backgrounds. There were 290 students of color registered at UMM in the Fall of 1999, for example. They included 125 American Indians, 22 Hispanic Americans, 45 Asian Americans, 96 African Americans, and 2 students of other multi-ethnic descent. UMM's faculty and staff are also diverse. In 1995-96, for example, 20 percent of UMM's 123 faculty were members of non-Euroamerican ethnic or racial groups.

Diversity in Stevens County embraces not just race and country of origin, but also marital status, age, sexual orientation, physical ability, and religion. Our community provides an opportunity to make friends and cultural connections that extend beyond our own background and traditions, and makes Morris a microcosm of the world's variety of human experiences.

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