On October 11, Americans celebrate Indigenous People’s Day. It’s a day to honor the cultures of Native American people.
Right now, there’s there is a push by Indigenous Americans to become self-sustaining. You will see signs of poverty when you first enter Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. But as you continue along Highway 18, you’ll come across something unexpected.
Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation is located in the middle of Badlands National Park. Tatewin means, who is part of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, said they chose to embark on the project in order to build a self sustaining community.
“Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation started from a prayer. It was from a group of young people that were restless for change, that were reconnecting to our Lakota lifeways, to our songs and ceremonies,” Means said.
Crowdsourcing enabled them to create energy-efficient homes. This led to the construction of homes for first-time homeowners.
“We know that we can build the most beautiful community, the most beautiful homes that are energy-efficient, that are sustainable, that check all the boxes of what a community should have,” Means explained.
It is also considered a food desert. Means claims that Thunder Valley has a plan.
“We have a two-and-a-half-acre demonstration farm with nearly 500 chickens at any given time to provide local fresh eggs, a community garden where we can provide farmer’s markets to community members.”
Each piece of the Thunder Valley puzzle serves a purpose. It’s a purpose of circling back to their roots.
“Each of the houses are in circles of seven. Otani Shockey said that the seven council fires were how each house was arranged when they would come together. They open to the east to welcome the sun,” Means said.
She tells us it’s their way of healing from the past. She encourages her people to get out of poverty and move on.
“It’s our own living expression of liberation. It’s not only the right way. It is not the right way. But it’s our way,” she said. “And we want as many people as possible to come along in this journey as we define what it means to be Lakota in this day and age, in the 21st Century.”