Charles Michael Ray reports on the groundbreaking for a big new housing development and community near Sharps Corner on the Pine Ridge Reservation:
Officials with the USDA announced a grant of nearly $2-million for the project. [Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation exec Nick] Tilsen says phase one over the next three to five years includes; 21 homes, up to 100 multi-family units, a workforce development center, and a sustainable agriculture education center plus other facilities. The overall housing shortage in Pine Ridge is much bigger than this community. Economic development officials estimate the cost for infrastructure and housing needed for this tribe alone exceeds $1-billion [Charles Michael Ray, “Thunder Valley CDC Aims to Forge New Tribal Community,” SDPB Radio, 2015.06.22].
Thunder Valley CDC calls the development a “regenerative community”:
The Thunder Valley community is the first implementation project of the Model Community Development initiative. The goal of this initiative is to create sustainable and interconnected communities that provide better housing, places for business to thrive and a healthy supportive environment for youth, elderly and families. Model communities are living laboratories to build skills, knowledge and capacity for residents. This project will explore and refine new ways of living that build on traditional Lakota values to develop innovative, homegrown Native solutions to a variety of challenges.
The site of the proposed planned community is comprised of 34 acres located ¼ mile north of Sharps Corner, in the Porcupine District of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota. The project is driven by the need for jobs, housing, facilities and new opportunities that do not currently exist on the Reservation, and emphasizes the need to create new systems that foster and bolster proposed development is located on fee-simple land, deeded land, which will help enable it to secure financing more easily than tribal land. Ultimately the site will feature single family, multi-family residences, youth shelter, childcare facility, commercial and industrial buildings [Thunder Valley CDC, “Regenerative Community Development,” downloaded 2015.06.23].
The new community will promote self-sufficiency with an organic community garden. Thunder Valley also recognizes that self-sufficiency requires growing smart young people: they want to raise a generation of their own Oglala Lakota leaders through “Youth Mentoring, Sacred Sites & Decolonization and Political Education.” Hmm… young Indians who learn how South Dakota politics work and fight to take apart Western colonization—sounds like a heck of an idea!
Thunder Valley CDC lists several accomplishments, including a Community House built entirely by volunteers in 2006 and 2007 and the E-Tanka Café that gave Oglala Lakota youth experience in financial literacy and entrepreneurship.