Eco-Spirituality

Published on October 7th, 2014 | by Gina Merlino

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Lakota Indian Tribe Receiving New Sustainable Housing

sustainable housing coming to the Lakota Indian Tribe

The conditions on Native American reservations are known for being difficult, offering little support and resources for tribes. Poverty and crime make life a daily struggle for the indigenous people of this country. But there are good signs of change in some regions. One place that is becoming more sustainable and upholding its heritage at the same time is the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It is the rural homeland of the Oglala Lakota Indian tribe.

Building for a Sustainable Future

Historically, the Oglala Lakota Indian tribespeople were nomadic and lived in tipis. Like other Native American tribes, they resided in harmony with nature, their surroundings providing for all their needs. As times changed, so did their housing. The tribe went from living off the land to living in run down mobile homes with inadequate resources.

Now, new sustainable homes are being built for the Lakota Indians. Some of the building materials being used are straw bale insulation and solar panels, and they will have systems to filter and reuse water. Practicality is an important consideration while designing for the needs of the tribespeople, as well as keeping their culture and spirituality intact.

The new home development is being done by the Thunder Valley Regenerative Community Plan and the Native American Sustainable Housing Initiative. There is a big team working on this development project, including tribal elders, students, architects, engineers, and other specialists from three colleges.

Good Changes Are Coming to Pine Ridge Reservation

The designers’ ideas are to work with nature, not against it. Their priorities are not only to provide for the people, but to do so in keeping with the Lakota Indian beliefs. It is a big undertaking, but with new funding and determination, changes are coming to Pine Ridge Reservation.

The goals are to make community-based living that is low-cost and more environmentally friendly. Nick Tilsen, the executive director for the Thunder Valley plan said, “As an Indian philosophy, we believe we are stewards of everything around us.” The new community being developed needs many homes to house all the people. The plan is estimated to cost around $9 million and will include more than just housing. The community will also have features like pow wow grounds, space for retail stores, and a youth center.

Lakota dancer at pine ridge res by stephanie lafayette flickr

Designing by the People for the People

The new housing design reflects the beliefs and traditions of the Lakota tribe. Developed by the people, for the people, progress will take place in two stages. The first will consist of 45 homes and be followed up by a further 18. It is a lot of work and there are challenges ahead, but this plan will do a lot of good for the community.

The Lakota Indians have always been a tight-knit community of people and they have profound respect and appreciation for the Earth. Their ancestors were hunters and gatherers, organizing their lives around the movement of the sun and stars. The tribe had no formalized religion prior to Christianity, but they worshiped guiding spirits, including their ancestors and the highest Spirit of all, “Wakan Tanka.” From early on, the Lakota people believed the Great Spirit created everything, from the Earth to all its inhabitants. For them, there is no difference between regular life and spirit; it is all intertwined within every rock, tree, and bird.

Bringing the Lakota Indian Tribal Community Together

This is the start of a new chapter on the reservation. With new and improved architecture, the people of the Lakota tribe will have better housing and more resources to improve their standard of living. New facilities and programs will facilitate community tribal gatherings, sustaining their culture and beliefs.

Scott Moore, an architect on the Thunder Valley project said, “Community members approach this project as an expression of what it means to be Lakota in the 21st century.” In a part of the country that has experienced so much despair, this development plan provides hope. It can help Native Americans flourish again, enjoying modern infrastructure while appreciating and respecting nature.

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About the Author

Gina Merlino is a freelance writer who cares about environmental issues. She has a Bachelor's in Philosophy, a Master's in Engaged Humanities, and is an avid reader of the news. You can find me on Twitter.



  • Mark Roest

    Wonderful.

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