Lakota Lands Recover Project Develops Searchable Allotment Map for Members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe

Village Earth’s Lakota Lands Recovery Project is excited to announce the release of our latest mapping project, the merging of the original allotment maps with the contemporary parcel map for the entire Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and was realized with support from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. This updates the current parcel map on the Pine Ridge Land Information System (PRLIS) accessible at and makes it possible to locate the original allotments by entering a surname into the search form. Alternatively, one can identify the original allottee of any parcel by hovering over it with their mouse and clicking on it which opens a pop-up information window (see image below). This project entailed the manual entry of data for 20,584 separate parcels. 

Summary of the Data

  • Total Unique Parcels = 20,584
  • Total Allotted Parcels = 16,762
  • Total Un-Allotted Parcels = 2,739
  • Total Number of Unique Surnames = 2,229

The creation of allotments was part of the General Allotment Act, also known as the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887. The creation and issuing of allotments began on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1904, under Executive Order of July 29, 1904 and continued until 1923. During this period, government officials carved up the Reservation into parcels and issued them to Lakota families. United States policy towards Native Americans during the first part of the century was focused on the cultural and economic assimilation of Native Americans into the majority culture. Furthermore there was a great deal of pressure to open up Indian lands to white settlers. “By the 1880’s settlers had filed upon most of the arable land in the West under the Homestead Act and other federal statutes. Indian reservation land then, in a sense, comprised the agrarians’ last frontier” (Gibson, 1988: p 227). Furthermore, the practice of communally managed lands by tribes was viewed as a non-productive and irrational use of resources. To address these interests, in 1887 the U.S. congress passed General Allotment Act (GAA) also known as the Dawes Severalty Act. The purpose of the act was to liquidate Indian land holdings by dividing the land up into 160-acre allotments to heads of households. After all the allotments were issued remaining lands in the West, which totaled over 60,000,000 acres, was opened up to homesteaders (Gibson, 1988).

Click here to access the Pine Ridge Land Information System

Special thanks goes out to Subashini Subbaiah, Emma Giles, Bryanna Gilbert, Alex Dierker, Steven Spence, Rachel Stevenson for their help on this project.



Village Earth is Looking for a GIS/Data Analysis Intern in the Fort Collins, Colorado Area

Village Earth is looking for a GIS/Data Entry and Analysis Intern in the Fort Collins, Colorado area to assist with new and ongoing research and advocacy projects with Native American communities. This is an unpaid internship but may turn into a paid position. Interns will be expected to commit 10hrs per week under close supervision and training from existing Village Earth staff. Interns could work from home or at the Village Earth offices at Colorado State University’s foothills campus but must be available for regular (weekly) in-person meetings in Fort Collins, Colorado. Eligible applicants must have either completed academic courses in or have related experience with social research methods and GIS and be comfortable using ESRI ArcMap, QGIS, MS Excel/Libre Office Calc. Academic credit may be available but must be coordinated first with your academic adviser. This person (ideally) would start their internship immediately.

Interested applicants should send a resume and cover letter describing their experience and qualifications for this position to

Village Earth Launches Latest Version of the Pine Ridge Land Information System for Members of Oglala Sioux Tribe

Village Earth has launched the latest version of its web-based mapping system for members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The original Pine Ridge Land Information System (PRLIS) was  originally launched back in 2012 in partnership with the Oglala Sioux Tribe Land Office and with support from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. Preceding the PRLIS was the Pine Ridge Allottee Land Planning Map Book. The impetus for all these projects was the desire of Lakota landowners to gain more information about their land resources, in particular, to be able to identify parcels where they own an interest.

Today, of the remaining 1,773,716 acres of land on Pine Ridge, nearly 1,067,877 acres (60%) is allotted to individuals. Over a century of unplanned inheritance has created a situation where lands have become severely fractioned. This created a management nightmare where, in order for a land owner to utilize their lands, they may have to get the signed approval of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of separate land owners. As a result of this complexity, most land owners on Pine Ridge have few choices be-sides leasing their lands out as part of the Tribal/BIA Range Unit leasing system. Nearly 65% of all lands on Pine Ridge are included in these Range units.



Naturally, this situation has had a dramatic impact on the overall economy on Pine Ridge. Like other Reservations across the United States, fractionation is a major obstacle to housing and business development but also native owned farms and ranches. According to the USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture for American Indian Reservations, the market value of agriculture commodities produced on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 2012 totaled $87 million. Yet, less than 1/3 ($24 million) of that income went to Native American producers.

Pine Ridge Allotments

In addition to parcel information, Village Earth and the OST Land Office has made available the original allotment map for Pine Ridge. Until now, this information was not available to members of the tribe and over the years, many people have asked us to try get this information for them so they can can begin to reconstruct the history of their lands, especially lands liquidated by the Federal Government through a process known as forced fee patenting. The creation and issuing of allotments began on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1904, under Executive Order of July 29, 1904 and continued until 1923. During this period, government officials carved up the Reservation into parcels and issued them to Lakota families.

The PRLIS also includes:

  • Basemaps including recent high resolution satellite imagery
  • The historic treaty boundaries
  • NRCS designated prime agriculture lands
  • Range units
  • Tutorials on how to locate your lands using your Individual Trust Interest Report

We plan to continue to add new layers and information the PRLIS as they become available. We also invite suggestions by commenting below or contacting




2016 Holiday Fundraising Campaign to Support Village Earth’s Global Affiliates


Olimometer 2.52

 Global Affiliate NameGeographic FocusAbout 
Facebook-Vert-LogoVillage Earth Area of Most NeedGlobalLet Village Earth decide how best to allocate your donation.
AmahoroAmahoro ProjectBurundiAmahoro project is a collaboration betweeen Colorado State University and Ngozi University in Burundi (UNG) to establish UNG as a ongoing site and dissemination center for research in sustainable peace and development.
CRDTCambodia Rural Development Team Northeast CambodiaWorks to sustainably improve food security, incomes, and living standards of subsistence rural communities in support of environmental conservation throughout Cambodia.
Earth TipiEarth TipiPine Ridge Reservation, SDWorks to sustainably improve food security, incomes, and living standards of subsistence rural communities in support of environmental conservation throughout Cambodia.
Eco_VEco-Friendly VolunteersSri LankaECO-V is a voluntary organization engaged in environmental conservation in Sri Lanka. ECO-V has a network of 400 volunteers throughout Sri Lanka who contribute to research and community work to support conservation of the environment.
EYCEmpowering Youth CambodiaPnom Penh, CambodiaEYC is a organization working to improve the lives of young people and their families. Our vision is to see youth empowered with skills & confidence to be leaders who actively develop themselves, their families and community.
FOFCODForum for Community Change and DevelopmentSouth SudanFOFCOD envisions a new generation of productive and self-reliant south Sudanese who can ably participate in community development programs to meet their needs and those of other disadvantaged groups.
GOLDGrowing Liberia Democracy (GOLD)LiberiaGOLD promotes poverty reduction as well as democratic & high quality governance by empowering local communities to effectively engage their law makers as to make policy decisions favorable for Liberians and to be fully transparent.
ICA_NEPAlInstitute of Cultural Affairs (Nepal)NepalICA’s mission is to promote social innovation through participation and community building. We do this throughout the country through training, facilitation & development activities.  
Human-and-Hope-Association-500x500Human and Hope AssociationSiem Reap, CambodiaHuman and Hope Association works to empower Cambodians to create sustainable futures for themselves through projects focused on education, vocational training and community support.
JalambaJalamba Nursery School ProjectThe GambiaThe goal of the of the Association is to empower youths, children and vulnerable families through education. The project has government support as a new school  which will serve ages of one through six. 
JenzeraJenzeraColombiaSupports community processes so that people can freely decide on their social, political and economic lives by defending their territories, empowering their own governments and developing a self-managed economies.
KnifeChiefKnife Chief Buffalo NationPine Ridge Reservation, SDThe Knife Chief Buffalo Nation, a grassroots project on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, works to reclaim 1800 acres of ancestral lands for restoring buffalo, and Lakota culture and lifeways.
LBCCLakota Buffalo Caretakers CooperativePine Ridge Reservation, SDThe Lakota Buffalo Caretakers Cooperative (LBCC) is a 100% Native American owned and operated cooperative association on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Its membership is made up of small family buffalo caretakers who respect the buffalo and the land. Members of the LBCC are committed to the restoration of the northern plains ecology, self-sufficiency and strengthening the sovereignty and self-determination of the Oglala Lakota Nation and all indigenous peoples.
LLRPLakota Lands Recovery ProjectSouth Dakota ReservationsThe LLRP works to reclaim and consolidate tribal lands and access the resources needed for the Lakota people to live on, protect, and utilize it — promoting self-determination and sovereignty.
MalocaMalocaAmazon BasinWorks with Indigenous Peoples living in the Amazon Basin. It works directly with Indigenous leaders to raise awareness about the needs of their communities and find means to establish self-sustaining strategies to address their needs.
TasunkeWakanTasunke WakanPine Ridge Reservation, SDOur primary goal is to develop and implement Lakol Wicohan (Lakota life ways and laws, which includes language, values, beliefs, ceremonies and laws of the Lakota people) within the Oyate (Community).
TRCDATitukuke RCDAPetuake, ZambiaTRCDA is devoted to to uplifting livelihoods, reducing illiteracy, poverty and HIV/AIDS Health problems among the communities in Petauke, Zambia

Learn About Utah Tar Sands Resistance – April 22nd at the Fort Collins Old Town Library.


Join Village Earth and 350 Ft. Collins, a local affiliate of, April 22 at the Old Town Library at 6:30 PM for a screening of “Last Rush for the Wild West” a documentary about the tar sands mine currently under construction on the Tavaputs Plateau in Utah, part of it is on Uintah Ute tribal land, so there are several indigenous groups involved opposing the mine. In June 2014, the EPA told U.S. Oil Sands that it needed additional permitting to proceed because its mine sits on traditional Uintah and Ouray Ute tribal land. They continued operations without the permitting.

Melanie Martin, who organizes with Peaceful Uprising and Utah Tar Sands Resistance, we be speaking and answering questions following the screening. Last year she spent her summer and fall on the East Tavaputs Plateau working to halt the first potential fuel-producing tar sands mine in the U.S. She writes on climate justice issues for a range of publications such as Yes!, Waging Nonviolence, and Truthout, creates short film pieces, and makes a pretty badass chipmunk mask.

How Sustainable Land-Based Economic Development Promotes Tribal Sovereignty and Self-Determination


Support this project at

Believe it or not, land is one of the most underutilized resources available to Plains Indian Tribes and Tribal members. And unlike other sources of income, sustainable land utilization can bolster Tribal sovereignty, self-determination and cultural revitalization. Consider these statistics, according to the Indian Land Working Group, 6 of the 9 million acres of Indian Lands suitable for agriculture in the United States are leased to non-native and consequently, non-natives collect 92% of all agricultural income generated on these lands.

The leasing of Indian Lands by the Federal Government dates back the the the Act of February 28, 1891 which amended the General Allotment Act to give the Secretary of the Interior the power to determine whether an Indian allottee had the “mental or physically qualifications” to enable him to cultivate his allotment. In such cases, the Superintendent was authorized to lease their lands to non-tribal members. In 1894, the annual Indian Appropriation Act increased the agricultural lease term to 5 years, 10 years for business and mining leases, and permitted forced leases for allottees who “suffered” from “inability to work their land,” and dramatically increased the number of leases issued across the country (Source:LLRP).

These policies have meant that the Indian landowners across the country have been separated from their allotted lands, in many cases, for generations. In fact, many Tribal land owners know very little about their lands; where they are located, how they are being used, who they share ownership with, etc. This has had devastating impacts on the ability of landowners to manage and benefit from their land-based resources – economically or culturally.

Since 2003 the Lakota Lands Recovery Project has been providing direct support support to individual American Indians seeking utilize their lands. The most recent effort is a project initiated by Edward Iron Cloud III on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Mr. Iron Cloud seeks to acquire a lease to 1500 acres of land on the Reservation to establish a cultural camp for native youth and a campsite for tourists and different organizations visiting the Reservation. The lease for this land is only $8000 per year so by being creative and developing revenue streams from the land, like tourism, that do not require a lot of start-up capital, he can transform this land into something that more directly benefits his family and his community. Of course, the emergence of crowdfunding sites like and as well as online “reservation” services like,,, etc open up new possibilities for non-agriculture based enterprises on Reservation lands.

Earth Tipi


Some of these sustainable low-capital enterprises viable on a reservation setting might include.

  • Renting campsites using online booking services like AirBnb
  • Horseback riding
  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Birdwatching
  • Collecting wild plants
  • Making land available to groups for camps, ecological research projects, etc.

Unlike conventional agriculture, enterprises like the ones listed have a greater multiplier effect (keeping dollars changing hands locally) in their communities by creating more local jobs and benefiting the entire support economy by increasing patronage at local gas stations, restaurants, hotels, supermarkets, etc.

If you’re interested in utilizing land on your reservation, contact David Bartecchi at

Order Tanka Bar and Support Lakota Bison Restoration and Land Recovery Efforts


This Holiday Season, give the gift the healthy, delicious buffalo meat products produced by Native American Natural Foods, a 100% Native American owned and operated business based on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Even better, 20%  of each order will support Lakota Bison Restoration and Land Recovery/Restoration Efforts. 

All Tanka Products are 100% Natural, never use Preservatives, Erythorbates, Potassium Sorbate, Fillers, or Artificial Flavors. They are Certified Gluten-Free by the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO). They are also Soy-Free, and contain NO Hormones or Antibiotics, and NO MSG. There are NO added Nitrites or Nitrates. Our products are packed full of Energy. At Native American Natural Foods, we follow the stringent Whole Foods product approval list.

Use the links below to order online at Native American Natural Foods. We’ll receive 20% of anything you order from their site.





Made from tart-sweet cranberries and prairie-raised buffalo, the Tanka Bar is a delicious real food bar with a smoky, slightly-sweet flavor.

100% Natural and only 70-calories, Tanka Bars are the perfect food for anyone who’s on the go — athletes, outdoor enthusiasts, students, busy moms, and pow-wow dancers. Gluten-free, hormone-free and low-fat, the Tanka Bars are deliciously perfect for every diet lifestyle. Tanka Bars are guaranteed shelf-stable for up to 12 months.

There are three delicious flavors to choose from:





With the same great taste and amazing nutrition as the Tanka Bars, our Tanka Bites feature 3 ounces of bite-size buffalo and cranberry nuggets in a resealable package.

Tanka Bites are the perfect way to enjoy Tanka’s grass-fed bison goodness with your family and friends. Since the Bites come in 3-oz. pouches, you don’t have to hoard your Bison anymore.

There are three delicious flavors to choose from:


Like the bars, Tanka Bites are also 100% Natural, 70 calories per serving, low-fat, gluten-free and hormone-free. Throw some in your purse, backpack or your saddlebag to enjoy on the trail. Tanka Bites are guaranteed shelf-stable for up to 12 months.



A great alternative to the usual processed sticks, Tanka Sticks combine the goodness of prairie-raised Buffalo and tart-sweet Cranberries in a convenient, eat-as-you-go snack stick.

Perfect for a quick, healthy pick-me-up, the 1-ounce Tanka Sticks come in three great flavors:


Tanka Wild Gourmet Summer Sausage: In addition to our great Sticks, this recipe is also available as a Gourmet Summer Sausage. Tender and savory, this perfectly seasoned sausage also features the delicious combination of Buffalo, Cranberries and Wild Rice. Available in Original flavor only.

Tanka Sticks and Gourmet Summer Sausages are 100% Natural, low-fat, gluten-free and hormone-free and guaranteed shelf-stable for up to 12 months.



Made from tart-sweet cranberries, jalapeno and habanero peppers, and prairie-raised buffalo, the Tanka Onnit Warrior is a delicious 2-ounce real food bar with 14 grams of protein and 140 calories.

Perfect as a “recovery food” for high-performance athletes, Tanka Onnit Warrior Bars are gluten-free, hormone-free and low-fat. They are guaranteed shelf-stable for up to 12 months.





Created because YOU asked for it, our Tanka Gourmet Buffalo Cranberry Jerky is deliciously meaty, wholly satisfying and 100 percent natural.

Made from top premium whole-muscle cuts, we slow-cure each slice of our tender Gourmet Buffalo Jerky in real cranberries, with no artificial ingredients. This is simply the best buffalo jerky you will ever taste.

Tanka Gourmet Buffalo Jerky is guaranteed shelf-stable for up to 12 months.



We’re happy to introduce our new selection of Tanka Gifts, perfect for any special occasion. Choose from a seasonally available assortment of gift baskets, each filled with a carefully chosen selection of healthy Tanka products that are perfect to share with family, friends and co-workers.

Smoky and slightly sweet, Tanka Bars, Tanka Bites, and Tanka Sticks are made from tart-sweet cranberries and prairie-raised buffalo. All are 100% Natural and only 70-calories per serving. Gluten-free, hormone-free and low-fat, Tanka products are deliciously perfect for every lifestyle.

Seasonally available in a range of sizes, Tanka gift baskets are right for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries or just to make someone smile.

NOTE: Not all gift baskets are available year-round.

Non-Natives Collect 84.5% of Agriculture Income on South Dakota Reservations


The USDA recently released the results for their 2012 Census of Agriculture for Native American Reservations and as most Residents of South Dakota Reservations already know, non-native farmers and ranchers dominate. According to the USDA data, a whopping 84.5% of all agriculture income on South Dakota Reservations is collected by non-native producers. In terms of land control, non-native producers control nearly 60% of all agriculture land and 65% of all the active farms and ranches on Native American Reservations. Data for Individual South Dakota Reservations is below.

 % of Farms Operated by American Indians% of Land Controlled by American Indians% of Agricultural Income Collected by American Indians
Cheyenne River48%42.49%23%
Crow Creek27%NA1%
Flandreau Santee14%NA0%
Lake Traverse5%5.04%0%
Lower Brule39%44.14%39%
Pine Ridge55%61.98%28%
Standing Rock25%18.74%13%

Despite the Federal Government’s “highest and best use” policy for Native American Lands, the USDA Agriculture Census data demonstrates that non-natives are the primary beneficiaries of the Resources from American Indian Reservations, not just in South Dakota but throughout the Untied States. The disparity that exists on Reservations today is the outcome of over a century of racist and exclusionary policies that functioned to alienate Tribal members from their lands to make their agricultural and mineral resources available to non-tribal members for lease below market rates. Many Tribal members weren’t even paid some or all of the lease income owed to them by the Federal Government. Even today, virtually all of the lease income collected on some South Dakota Reservations goes directly the USDA to pay down loans created in the 1970s and 1980s for tribes to consolidate highly fractionated lands (a problem created in the first place by the Federal government’s failure to properly manage the conveyance of allotted trust lands from one generation to the next).

Agricultural Inequality on American Indian Reservations (2012 Ag Census infographic)

The USDA-NASS recently published the results from their 2012 Census of Agriculture for American Indian Reservations. Naturally, we were interested in what this long-awaited data tells us about the degree of access that Tribal members have to their own lands who, through a history of exclusionary policies and discriminatory practices by the Federal Government,  have been pushed off their legally allotted lands to open them up to non-tribal farmers and ranchers – mostly through leasing programs managed by the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. We developed the infographic below to help illustrate what these numbers tells us. However, we feel these numbers, while the most complete to-date, still do not accurately reflect the actual situation of Agriculture on American Indian Reservations – which we believe to be much worse.

Agricultural Inequality AIAN




















































Note: This infographic does not include data from the Navajo Nation because it represents an outlier relative to all other Reservations in the dataset.

Technical Support & Training for Tribes/TDHE’s for Challenging the Indian Housing Block Grant


March 30th, 2014 is the deadline for Tribes/TDHE’s to submit challenges to the Federal Census numbers used for allocating funds for the Indian Housing Block Grant as well as other programs including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, The Child Care and Development Fund, Social Services Block Grant, Administration on Aging, Special Programs for the Aging, Title III, Part C, Nutrition, Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, Community Services Block Grant, funding for local schools, road construction and repair.

No entity has more experience conducing IHBG challenges than Village Earth. We can assist you to collect the data population and needs that meets HUD’s guidelines for Census challenges. Plus, using the latest digital data collection technology, we can help you keep costs low while ensuring high-quality data. Call today for a free consultation and estimate 970-237-3002 Ext. 504. or email David Bartecchi at

Pine Ridge Reservation 1887 Allotment Map Now Available For Order


Available printed in full color 60″ X 40″

In response to several requests from Tribal members, we have made the Pine Ridge Allotment map available for purchase in a large printed format. We have teamed up with’s high-quality print-on-demand service to make this possible. This map contains the original allotments along with the names of the original allottees as well as hand drawn notes and color-coding to designate different classes of lands.

The creation and issuing of allotments began on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1904, under Executive Order of July 29, 1904 and continued until 1923. During this period, government officials carved up the Reservation into parcels and issued them to Lakota families. Village Earth created this map by scanning and georeferencing the original allottment books provided to us by the Bureau of Indian Affairs office on Pine Ridge. As far as we know, this is the only known source for this map.

We have made three different versions available for purchase.

1-9-2014 12-34-22 PM

Sample resolution of map – note that you read hand-written names of allottees, notes made by Bureau of Indian Affairs, streams and roads.

1-9-2014 12-28-40 PM

Zoom-in of map with districts, roads, town names, and topography.

Chronology of the Plan to Create a Bison Pasture in the South Unit of the Badlands

View above map in online map viewer

For an interactive map of the Pine Ridge Reservation with layers of the Badlands Bombing Range and Original Allotment maps go to

The South Unit of the Badlands has a long history riddled with controversy and violence and that’s no different today with the current conflicts regarding the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s proposed plan to create a 100,000 acre bison pasture in the South Unit. The so-called “Highway-to-Highway” plan was approved by the Oglala Sioux Tribe on June 11th, 2013 through OST Tribal Ordinance_13-21. The ordinance also called for the cancelling of leases for all ranchers in the proposed area by October 2015 and left many Tribal land owners and inhabitants to the area confused about their future – would people living in the proposed area be forced to move? Would tribal land owners be forced to sell their lands? What would happen to sacred sun-dance circles utilized on an annual basis by the families in that region? What about the livelihoods of the ranchers leasing land in this area and the lease income collected by the Tribal landowners?  This ordinance also exposed historical trauma deeply embedded in the people and the land when in 1942 the U.S. Government forcefully evicted the Lakota residents to make-way for a bombing range.  But it also served as another site of conflict for the ongoing struggle between the Oglala Lakota people (the Grassroots Oyate) and a Tribal government that many Lakota distrust – a government imposed upon them by the U.S. Government through the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act and one that many Lakota feel is illegitimate. The layers of this conflict run deep – so deep in-fact that it sometimes makes it hard to understand things from a rational perspective. Is expanding the buffalo pasture a good thing? If so, does that somehow outweigh the impacts it will have on residents and ranchers or the ongoing struggle between the Tribe and the Grassroots Oyate? That is not for Village Earth or any outside organization to decide. Rather, we believe this must be a debate that takes place among members of the Tribe. However, we do feel we can help facilitate this dialogue by providing objective information which I have attempted to do here.  We feel the best way to understand the current situation is to look back into the history of this contentious landscape. With this goal in mind, we have put together a chronology of the South Unit from 1890 to the present. I hope to update this as new information becomes available. Much of the information here is excerpted from a post written in 2010 by former Village Earth employee Jamie Way: The Fate of the Badlands South Unit and a Forgotten History

In 1890, after the Lakota along with their Cheyenne and Arapahoe allies, were massacred by the 7th Cavalry in the Wounded Knee massacre, the survivors fled to what is now the Southern Unit. They took shelter in the natural fortress formed by a butte surrounded by cliffs. The area served as a refuge for those who escaped the cavalry. For this reason, and because Lakota Ghost Dancers were buried in this location, the land came to be considered sacred.

On July 20, 1942 the War Department advised the Commissioner of Indian Affairs that they would be taking over an area of 40×15 miles across the northern portion of the reservation. While a small portion of this land lay within what was then Badlands National Monument (337 acres), the vast majority of the land was located within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation ( The dispossession would impact some 125 Oglala families. And while the dispossessed families were to be supplied with some relocation compensation, assistance and supplies, actual accounts vary as to how much the families received if any at all.

Until 1958, the land was utilized for bombing and gunnery practice by what was then the Army Air Force. Even past this date, the South Dakota National Guard retained a small portion of the land for training purposes. When they left, the land’s future was far from resolved. Moreover, they left behind them dangerous ordnance and never fully lived up to their responsibility of cleaning the land. To this day, unexploded ordnance can be found on the site.

In 1968, Public Law 90-468 was finally passed, and lands declared excess by the Air Force were to be transferred to the Department of Interior. The law afforded those displaced (whether their land was held in trust or in fee) the possibility of repurchasing the land that had been taken from them if they filed an application with the Secretary of Interior to purchase the tract. This application needed to be filed within a one year window from the date a notice was published in the Federal Register that the tract had been transferred to the jurisdiction of the Secretary. Needless to say, the displaced were not properly notified of this option in many cases, in part due to their geographical dispersion. The law also stated that the original inhabitants that wished to repurchase their land were to pay the price the U.S. government had paid for the land, plus interest. Thus, those that decided to repurchase their land explained that they paid much higher prices for the land than they had originally been paid for it when the government confiscated it.

By the end of the early 1960’s it was clear that Department of the Interior bureaucrats intended that the area should be taken over by a Department of the Interior Agency, and not returned to the Tribe.” The Park Service promised the tribe that by creating the park, they would invigorate the reservation economy through tourism, while the a Senate committee simultaneously strong-armed the tribe threatening to “dispose of the land in question under surplus property agreements if the Tribe refused to lease land,” (Igoe 2004 – Bridge_Report_Good_Land_Igoe).

In 1976, the Tribal Council under Chairman Dick Wilson, whose questionable leadership during the AIM struggle on Pine Ridge has solidified his legacy as a harsh and corrupt leader, signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the National Park Service. The Stronghold District of the Badlands National Park, which includes 133,300 acres of land, from this point on has been held by the National Park Service in conjunction with the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

In 2002, relations between the NPS and some tribal members degenerated to the point where a grassroots movement of Lakota defending the burial place of Ghost Dancers, called the Keepers of the Stronghold Dream, felt it necessary to physically occupy the land, guarding it from the invasion of hikers, park visitors and fossil poachers in an attempt to reclaim it (Igoe 2002). Unfortunately, this confrontation settled nothing and the issue remains unresolved to this day.

The NPS and the tribe both had complaints about how the area is being managed. The NPS complained that they had not been given proper access to manage the site as needed. The tribe felt as though the NPS had not lived up to its promises in the 1976 MOA including filling NPS jobs at the site with tribal members and reintroducing buffalo into the area. Moreover, they were concerned with fossil poaching and environmental destruction of the region by outsiders.

In 2006, after the park failed to resolve this matter through negotiations, the NPS decided to initiate a separate management planning process for the South Unit which did not begin until 2008.

By 2010, the NPS had developed seven management options available for comment by the public. While none of the NPS options include returning land to those that were displaced prior to WWII nor giving the land back to the tribe with no obligations, the options did include giving the tribe more control over this portion of their land. Option 2, considered the “preferred option” by the NPS, would have the NPS and the tribe create a “National Tribal Park.”

June 2, 2011 – OST President John Yellowbird Steele signs record of decision (ROD) with the NPS affirming the Tribe’s acceptance of proposed Option 2 which recommended the creation of a Tribal National Park.

April 26, 2012 – NPS releases its final management plan which recommended the creation of the first Ever Tribal National Park.

May 2012, Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority (OSRPA) with support from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) solicited consultants to assist with the development of a feasibility study for expansion of the tribe’s bison herd. Ranch Advisory Partners based in Bozeman, MT was awarded the contract fall of 2012.

south_unit Study

Download Study:

On May 17th, 2013 Ranch Advisory Partners finalized the South Unit Bison Feasibility Study which provided various recommendations for the expansion of the Tribe’s bison herd as part of the broader development of a Tribal National Park. The preferred option, referred to as the the “Stronghold – Highway to Highway” option, would establish a bison pasture encompassing 100,000 acres approximately between State HWY 40 to the west and BIA 33 to the east and include range units 501, 503, 504, 505, 506, 507, 508, 510, 515, 518, 536 (the area highlighted in yellow in the map above)

June 11th, 2013  Ordinance_13-21 “Approving and Adopting Alternative A – The Stronghold Unit – Highway to Highway as recommended per the South Unit: Buffalo Expansion Feasibility Study was passed by the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council 6-11-13 special minutes. The ordinance directed the BIA to notify all permittees and landowners, as well as prioritize all land sales and exchanges within the proposed area.

November 12th, 2013 – Members of the Red Shirt Community (which is at the western edge of the proposed pasture) learn about Ordinance 13-21 and call a public meeting inviting members of the Tribal Council.

November 26th, 2013 – Another meeting is held in Red Shirt where community members voice their concern about their lands located in the proposed bison pasture and the impact it will have on ceremonial sites including several sun dance circles in the area.

December 10th, 2013 – Despite the public outcry, the  Oglala Sioux Tribal Council voted to postpone a motion advanced by Tribal Council member James Cross  from Pass Creek District to rescind Ordinance 13-21 until after the Tribe could facilitate presentations on the Tribal National Park in each district of the Reservation. Note: this chronology originally included information from a December 13th Rapid City Journal article which stated that the motion to rescind Ordinance 13-21 had passed. I have since received information that it was postponed and corrected the article. However, I do not have a copy of the meeting minutes to verify this.


January 13th – 17th – OST President Bryan Brewer along with the “core team” working on the Tribal National Park including Ruth Brown, Trudy Ecoffey, Barry Bettyloun, Anita Ecoffey, Birgil Kills Straight, Shawn Swallow, Chuck Jacobs, Michael Catches the Enemy and Angie Sam will host a series of informational meetings in each District. Also attending will be a representative from the OST Land Office and Eric Brunneman from the National Park Service. According to the press release dated January 15th, “[t]he sole purpose of these meetings is to bring correct information to the oyate regarding the issue of the proposed Tribal National Park in the South Unit.” According to Susan Shockey Two Bulls, one of the leading opponents of Ordinance 13-21, ” these presentations should have been done months ago.”

January 29th, 2014 – Tribal Council upholds Resolution 13-21. But Tribal ranchers and those opposed to the resolution continue to organize holding a meeting January 31st at Rocky Ford School.

October 6th, 2014 – OST Tribal Council tabled draft proposed federal legislation needed to authorize the Tribal National Park. During the same meeting the Council voted to rescind the controversial ordinance 13-21. Source: Rapid City Journal

We encourage community members to provide any corrections to this chronology and provide us with new information as it happens.

Program Update from Village Earth Global Affiliate: “Earth Tipi” on the Pine Ridge Reservation, SD.


It was a great year and we would like to thank all of our supporters for contributing to our success!


Just as the cold was subsiding and the warmth came we started the installation of a rocket mass heater. We were joined by community members and others to learn about the process! The bench is now complete and keeping the home office warm while being a great inspiration to others who would like to build an efficient wood heater for their homes.


Thanks to your support and through collaboration with the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation we were able to plant five new fruit tree orchards throughout Pine Ridge Reservation and gave away 100 fruit trees to community members for a total of 300 apple, pear, plum, cherry, apricot and peach trees planted.  Thank you also to Audubon, Fargo, North Dakota for collaborating to apply for and win the TogetherGreen  Volunteers Day grant which supported associated costs.


The first orchard was planted at Red Cloud School. Red Cloud serves approximately 400 Kindergarten through High School students.  There were 32 trees planted with the help of the 9th and 10th grade sciences classes. Next up was Lakota Hope in White Clay, NE located on the southern most border of the reservation. We are very excited about this location as there is a nursing home currently under construction right across the street. Lakota Hope has committed to serving the 82 elderly residents that will occupy the new space as well as serve the Pine Ridge community. At Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation located at Sharps Corner in the Porcupine District we planted 15 trees to add to the permaculture food forest they started there last year. There were also 20 trees planted at the Oglala Lakota College at Piya Wiconi . These trees will be part of a study to determine best planting practices for our area. Lastly,  at Little Wound School in Kyle 82 trees were planted. Little Wound serves approximately 1000 pre-school – high school students as well as young parents working towards their G.E.D’s.


We welcomed the Ave Maria Church from Parker, CO. They were here to help welcome a new member to our family the same day she arrived. ChetanWin Sylvie was born in the light straw clay office on June 26! Here she is at four months to with a great view of the home office that we started last year!


It was great to partner with Re-Member this year on our garden! They sent wonderful volunteers each week on Mondays and Tuesdays through September and made sure the garden was a great success! Earth Tipi and Re-Member shared the produce. Re-Member gave their produce to the comment and we used our share to feed ourselves, volunteers and to put on canning workshops!


We welcomed two church groups. They brought supplies, materials and professional labor to assist the Zaitz family in Wounded Knee towards finishing a home project they started in 2011.  Over $2500 in materials was donated and approximately 870 hours were donated to the family. Projects completed were wiring, plumbing, drywall, flooring and more!

Thanks to two Americorps NCCC teams who came in July and August we completed a number of projects around the homestead that really add to the site. The bench for the rocket mass heater we started in April was completed and a marked trail complete with detailed brochure describing local herbs and foods along the trail. Other projects we could not have completed without the help of Americorps was the organizing of our storage trailer, new fencing along the border (materials donated by Ave Maria Church), a chicken coup, plastering on the outside of the home office, grey water system improvements and garden gate replacement to name a few!


It was also great to see the folks from the William Penn House again! They came for a week with their youth group and helped alongside the first Americorps NCCC team.

We were happy to welcome the Wolf Creek School 8th grade class for a jam making and canning workshop. The class of 5 enjoyed making chokecherry jam and each took home a jar for their families.

Exciting things are being planned for next year including a collaboration with Will Allen of GrowingPower ( We are always looking for support both financial and volunteer. If you would like to support us with a donation please visit us on our website or use the donation page through Village Earth .

If you or your group would like to join us next summer please email us!

Thanks again for your interest and support!

With Kind Regards,


Founder/Executive Director
Earth Tipi

Transform Columbus Day into Indigenous People’s Day


Today, in the United States, much of Latin American and the Caribbean, people are celebrating the holiday of Columbus Day. In the United States, it’s even recognized as a Federal Holiday. The story of Christopher Columbus is woven into the mythical imagination of Americans at a very young age as the hero who defied his critics and great odds to “discover” America. It’s a narrative that is very central to the American dream and the promise of this county. Yet, despite the centrality of this story to the origin myth of the United States, the average person would be appalled by the true story of Christopher Columbus which is more a story of unfettered greed and brutality than that of a noble explorer. No historian has been more successful and correcting the popular understanding of Columbus than the late historian Howard Zinn. His bestselling book “A People’s History of the United States: 1492-present” uses Columbus’ own writings and first-person accounts to tell a story very different from the one most children learn in grade school. Below is an entry from Columbus’ log as quoted in Zinn’s book.

They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

— Quoted in Zinn, Howard (2005). A People’s History of the United States: 1492-present. Harper Perennial Modern Classics

Columbus made good on his promise to subjugate the people’s of Arawak. According to a first-hand account by the priest Bartolome De Las Casas, also quoted in Zinn 2005, “there were 60,000 people living on this island, including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery, and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this? I myself writing it as a knowledgeable eyewitness can hardly believe it….”.

As an ally with Indigenous peoples and their organizations, Village Earth is part of the growing movement to transform “Columbus Day” into “Indigenous People’s Day.” You can join us by educating your friends and family about the truth of Christopher Columbus but more importantly, you can help contemporize this day by educating yourself and others about the current and ongoing subjugation of Indigenous Peoples around the globe and by taking an affirmative stand by joining them in their struggle as an ally.

Part of our mission at Village Earth is to help create these kinds of connections. Through our Global Affiliate Program, we serve as bridge for innovative indigenous-led and allied organizations from around the world – connecting them to people with passion, time and resources. Celebrate Indigenous People’s Day by supporting one of these organizations today.

Tasunke thumb







A sampling of Grassroots housing efforts at Pine Ridge Indian reservation: A community development tool


By Clinton Wood

Author’s note

This paper is a brief summary of research performed for a master’s degree program at Colorado State University. If you would like more information, please contact Clint Wood at

Research participants’ names have been coded to protect privacy.


Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is in need of several thousand houses to alleviate overcrowding and improve living conditions. The United States government has failed to provide appropriate or sufficient housing, and other individuals and organizations who have attempted to build homes for the Lakota have met with widely varying results.


In an effort to document reasons for housing failures and successes, I asked the following questions:

  • What problems and barriers have the Lakota encountered in their community-based efforts to build homes on the reservation?

  • What factors contribute to success or failure of such housing efforts?


To answer these questions, I interviewed twelve individuals who have attempted to build a home and three who are otherwise knowledgeable about housing efforts on the reservation. The process began with leads suggested by colleagues as well as leads established on past visits to Pine Ridge. The method of initial contact varied greatly: some participants were called by phone, but most were initially contacted by visiting them at their home because this is generally the most reliable way to find people on the reservation. All interviews were completed in two visits to the reservation of four to five days each during fall and winter of 2010.


These fifteen Pine Ridge residents talked about about their experiences with numerous housing technologies. These technologies included:

  • Earthship (tires rammed with soil, extensive use of salvaged items, earth berms)

  • Wood framing

  • Straw and clay insulation/infill

  • Log construction

  • Cob (sand, straw, and clay built in a monolithic manner)

  • Straw bale

  • Dismantling of abandoned buildings, building a new structure


In the process of transcribing the interviews, several themes, or common experiences, emerged from participants’ accounts of their projects:

  • Use of local and salvaged materials

  • Reliance on the local “informal” economy

  • Planning a house of a manageable size

  • Valuing home ownership

  • Factors influencing success or failure.

Use of Local and Salvaged Materials

Participants used local and salvaged materials extensively, such as:

  • On-site materials, such as logs, clay, soil

  • Locally-sourced lumber, straw bales

  • Salvaged wood, shipping pallets, concrete slabs.

Local materials reduced costs because they could often be obtained for free and they were often obtained from on or near the building site and hence did not need to be shipped or hauled. Local materials were also readily available and hence more could be obtained quickly if necessary.

Reliance on the Local Economy

Observations about or activities within the local economy


Observation or activity


Promoting locally produced, renewable energy to prevent money from leaving the reservation


Advocating for factories to be built on the reservation to provide jobs


Supporting business and networking on the reservation; recognizes “underground” economy


Milled and sold lumber from local trees

P6 (and P13)*

Bartered for heavy equipment and salvaged wood


Would like to see the tribe have access to their timber, as granted through treaty rights, for possible sale value


Runs community development organization; says houses need to be viewed as an investment


Attempted to barter with labor (unsuccessful)

P13 (and P6)*

Bartered for heavy equipment and salvaged wood


Does gardening work in trade for heavy equipment; giving excess materials to helper

  • P13 and P6 collaborated on the same project but were interviewed separately in order to record different perspectives.

 A great advantage of working within the local “informal” economy was significant reduction of costs. Through trade and bartering, builders could:

  • Obtain materials at reduced cost

  • Use equipment, such as tractors, to which they otherwise would not have had access

Planning a House of Manageable Size

Several participants mentioned that building a small house, or one of manageable size, was important to the success of a project because the house could be completed in one summer before bad weather set in. Similarly, a roof was an important construction milestone because it provided both shelter for workers, protection for the structure, and protection for tools and materials, regardless of the extent of progress.

P6 suggested that getting the roof on the house had an important psychological benefit: the walls were going up steadily, but once the roof was completed he thought, “I didn’t think it would be happening, but it is now.”

Valuing Home Ownership

Participants spoke of numerous benefits of owning a home, such as being able to have a garden, having more space for kids to play safely outside, not having to pay rent, and getting away from the cluster housing situation. Table 2 summarizes participants’ views about benefits of home ownership, or reasons they live in their own home.

Table 2: Views on benefits of home ownership, or reasons for owning a home




Can have sweat lodge, garden, livestock.

Kids can go out and play and learn while they’re playing.”


Help the people become more independent of Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) government


Wants to build a sturdy, warm house


More leniency with utility payments.


I’m safer out here. I never lock my doors.”


Home is an asset: “…it’s where you live, it’s where you spend most of your time, you’re probably going to pass it on to your kids.”


Wants to have a choice of housing, and show his kids they can have a choice, too.


I can do anything. No rules or nothing. I can do what I want to.”


Provide a place where family can be the best they can be.

Less likely to be vandalized.

Factors Influencing Success or Failure

While many factors affected a project’s outcome, three main factors emerged:

  • Experience and leadership

  • Resources and funding

  • Accountability and follow-through of off-reservation organizations or individuals.

Other factors, in particular issues with land ownership, were common. These are detailed at the end of this section.

Experience and leadership.

Several projects call attention to the importance of experience and leadership, but P13’s and P8’s projects highlight these skills particularly well. Their projects had three things in common: one, they involved outside volunteer or apprentice labor; two, they utilized alternative technologies; and three, the land was owned by the intended occupant. Nonetheless, their outcomes were very different because of differences in abilities and competence of the respective leaders and managers. P13’s construction leader had been building cob houses and leading internships for years and P13 ensured materials were on site when needed and put forth great effort to ensure everyone involved had good working relationships. In contrast, P8’s construction leader attended a few workshops and seemed to generate discord among the construction workers.

The construction of a house requires considerable skill, dedication, and preparation. A successful project must have the guidance of at least one skilled and knowledgeable person and be overseen by an effective leader (Clough, Sears, and Sears 2000). This is true both on and off the reservation.

Availability of resources and funding.

Lack of money may be an obvious obstacle when constructing a house, but in remote and impoverished areas such as Pine Ridge this obstacle seems to be magnified considerably. There are at least three reasons for this:

  • Running out of key construction materials and volunteer support may delay a project so severely that the house deteriorates beyond repair or workers may lose motivation.

  • Builders often do not have enough money to pay for gasoline to transport materials or workers, pay for help, or provide lunch for workers.

  • Up-front costs are difficult to cover because financial credit is difficult to obtain.

Accountability of off-reservation Organizations.

Both P7 and P9 suggested that outside organizations’ motives may not always be what they seem or be completely altruistic. P7 said that the woman who came to lead the construction of P7’s house may not have had P7’s interests foremost in mind, and P9 was concerned that her dome house project was being used for the organization or church to make a profit or gain prestige.

The organization that came to help P8 with her housing project was not well organized. The builders lacked experience and good leadership. Off the reservation, contractor licensing and similar registrations reduce the likelihood of incompetency and lack of follow-through. P7 suggested that registration or a clearinghouse could perform similar services and help alleviate such problems.

Other Factors.

The above factors determining success or failure were the most prevalent; however, participants also mentioned other challenges. These are summarized in table 3 below.

Table 3: Various housing obstacles and challenges encountered by participants


Housing obstacles or challenges


Land disputes


Land disputes, undeeded land

Difficulty in getting loans

Incompetent inspectors for tribal housing

Getting workers to building sites


Cost of materials, especially shipping costs

Societal and familial problems

Difficulty in getting loans

No sense of purpose or ownership


Lack of help and materials (his own home)

Lack of money to feed volunteers or pay for electricity to run tools

Lack of experience

No knowledge of funding or other assets

Political issues, derailment


Difficulty in accepting a house that was mostly a gift


Technical incompetence

Cultural insensitivity

No access to forest resources granted by treaty

Questionable motives of outside help


Ineffective leadership

Technical incompetence

Owner (P8) feels she should have been more involved


Inappropriate housing (“transition houses”)

Questionable motives of outside help


Black mold

Lack of financial literacy

No sense of pride or ownership


Lack of resources”

Equipment breakdowns

Lack of help, help backing out


Finding materials

Getting materials to site

Maintaining community relations


Age and safety of home


Lack of money and help

Of particular note are construction obstacles that arise due to land tenure issues. When a parcel of land is passed to children it is not divided among them in a manner that gives each person a deed for a distinct piece of land. Instead, all the heirs get a percentage share of the entire undivided parcel. This can create problems with home building activities if the builder does not first secure the written permission of a sufficient number of his or her fellow heirs. Several participants advised that any aspiring builders secure the written permission of all stakeholders prior to beginning any construction project. P2 stated, “So if you are building and you have permission from your father and then he passes away and siblings say ‘I wanted that piece of land,’ unless there is something in writing, it will stop everything.”


Based on this research, I offer the following four recommendations for residential construction on the reservation:

  • Do not use Pine Ridge as a testing ground

  • Change the focus of government and outside assistance

  • Build community capacity, not just houses

  • Use construction to support and grow the local economy.

Do Not Use Pine Ridge as a Testing Ground

Beware the pitfalls of conducting “demonstration” projects. Keep these points in mind:

  • The reservation is not a testing ground; the Lakota need real solutions and real houses.

  • Demonstration projects may include innovations that are not easily replicated or practical.

  • Projects that are intended to demonstrate a housing technology but do not have habitation as the goal do not demonstrate value and are, therefore, not likely to persuade people to try the technique.

For example, a straw bale or cob structure intended to be a playhouse or passive shelter can indeed be simple and quick to build because plumbing, heating, and electrical needs are not part of the equation, but in a house intended for full-time habitation such requirements account for a significant portion of the planning, permitting, inspection, and, perhaps most importantly, cost and expertise (Steen, Steen, Bainbridge, and Eisenberg 1999).

The Lakota’s housing situation is serious and life-threatening. Therefore apply technological innovations prudently:

  • Builders must not indulge in innovation for its own sake, but should apply innovations thoughtfully in response to a change in circumstances (Fathy 1973).

  • New technology and materials should address the social and cultural needs of the community rather than relying on the community to accept and adopt the latest innovation (Davis 1995).

  • To have far-reaching and significant impact, technologies must be readily understood and easily replicated.

Nevertheless, there are times when alternative technologies are the most appropriate:

  • Traditional adobe or wood may be most appropriate in one case, whereas reinforced concrete, steel, and glass may be most appropriate in another. Function, climate, cost, building codes, and personal taste are some of the deciding factors. (Krinsky 1996).

  • There should be a balance between tradition and innovation (Davis 1999).

  • Buildings do not have to be primitive to be culturally appropriate.

Spence et al. (1993) state that the important thing about housing is not what it is, but how it supports people’s lives.

Change the Focus of Government and Outside Assistance

While test projects may be ineffective, housing on the reservation should also not take the “one size fits all” approach. Cultural and familial needs should be understood and direct the housing process.

In the past, the government’s answer has been to primarily focus on cluster housing. While cluster housing may reduce up-front infrastructure costs, research has shown that housing that does not meet the needs of its users will be poorly cared for and not last long (Strub 1996). Therefore, housing in general will likely cost more in the long run. Both P3 and P10 stated that houses that have been provided through government programs have not been well-maintained because there is no sense of ownership or purpose. Other participants mentioned destructive practices, dependency on government handouts, and inefficient use of government funds as problems associated with government housing.

The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) of 1996 established the housing block grant system through which individual tribes can create their own tribal housing programs and apply for federal monies based on population and need. In spite of tribes reporting that the Act is generally effective (US Government Accountability Office 2010), it has not been effective at alleviating the housing shortage on Pine Ridge. For example, when P4 was asked if NAHASDA was helping to correct IRA policies and remove obstacles to housing on the reservation, he said, “I have no idea. You know, we still have waiting lists of 3000 or better.”

Build Community Capacity, not just Houses

On Pine Ridge there is a huge disparity between appropriate housing and housing supply. Housing, however, is more than shelter. Well-built housing encourages wealth generation because it provides healthy, comfortable spaces in which to raise a family and care for the elderly, provides places of employment, and confers status upon its owner (Spence et al 1993). Furthermore, family, religious beliefs, connections to environment, and life in general are all reflected in homes and their form and organization are influenced by the social interactions and rituals of the culture in which they develop (Lee and Parrott 2004; Ozaki 2002; Pottinger 1994). Jiboye et al (2005) state that not only is housing a reflection of culture, but contributes to the growth of culture and morals and is a reflection of the societal system that creates it.

These social and cultural interactions were important to the projects with which P13 and P4 were involved. P4 said the most successful part of the straw bale house project with which he was involved was bringing all the people together to do it: “There was initially a spirit that came in to it….” Similarly, P13 said that, overall, her family’s cob house is great and rates it an “8” on a scale of one to ten of satisfaction. She worked hard to maintain healthy community relationships and to keep everyone inspired, and her efforts paid off.

A healthy building culture is one in which people improve their own lives by being involved in the creative aspects of the housing process (Davis 1999). Housing is not just a product; it is also a process that is fundamental to the cultural well-being of the society that creates it and uses it (Mitchell and Bevan 1992; Minnery, Manicaros, and Lindfield 2000). Hence, local projects must employ and involve local builders and designers (Strub 1996). When outsiders command the housing process they take away a significant portion of the housing benefits.

This concept is reinforced by several participants’ assessments of their own projects. Completion of a house was not the sole metric of a successful project. P7 encountered significant obstacles and did not complete her house, but still rated her project a “five” because she had learned technical aspects of building and valuable lessons about how to recruit competent people. Similarly, P11 said that the most successful aspect of his log home project was “learning the do’s and don’ts” and he gave his project “beyond ten” on the rating scale. P15’s project is not yet complete, but he rates his project a “seven.” He says his current construction efforts are “just the beginning.” These ratings suggest that even when a project is not completed, participants benefit from the process.

Outside help should not be categorically rejected because there may be insufficient community expertise in engineering, planning, or architecture. Nevertheless, lasting and comprehensive solutions to the housing problem are more likely to be found when projects are conceived and controlled by the Lakota.

Use Construction to Support and Grow the Local Economy

The Lakota have devised numerous ways to survive in the tough Pine Ridge economy. Much of that economy is driven by “subsistence production, home-based enterprise, and socially based exchanges of goods and services” (Pickering 2000b, 149). P3 referred to the “horse trade thing that goes on to get enough materials to build a building.” The local, informal economy is significant and should not be overlooked in housing programs; in fact, it should be supported (Spence et al.1993).

In his interview, P1 offered the following advice: “whatever you do it has to come from the land.” If the Lakota use local natural resources, follow community-based approaches, and keep money and resources on the reservation, they may have more successful housing projects. It is not necessary to be relatively close to cities and airports to prosper in a rural setting. Identifying resources and knowing how to use those resources are more important skills (Isserman, Feser, and Warren 2009). However, political and economic environments have made it difficult for the Lakota to control their own natural resources (Pickering and Jewell 2008). To fully realize the potential of local materials and stimulate the local economy on Pine Ridge, Lakota control needs to be re-established. P5, for example, demonstrated the viability of local timber and lumber production, both as a profitable business and means to build his house; similar opportunities may exist for adobe brick making or production of construction-grade straw bales.


Many participants in this study attempted to construct their own homes to re-establish a sense of pride in their dwellings and free themselves from discontent with government cluster housing projects. They met with numerous challenges, but even when their projects were not completed most still showed a desire to try again and said they had learned many things about building a house. Such “side benefits” of the housing process are important. The Lakota need to benefit from the process by:

  • Earning a living

  • Learning construction techniques

  • Developing a sense of ownership

  • Building appropriate houses that enrich lives and build pride.

Government and outside assistance is important but should focus on removing obstacles in the housing process and making reparations for past transgressions. Outside assistance should make it easier for the Lakota to access, manage, and utilize their own local natural resources.

Pine Ridge is in need of anywhere from 3000 to 6000 houses. Simply “gifting” finished houses is neither an appropriate nor sustainable method of meeting this need. The Lakota should be integral to the planning, designing, building, and maintenance of homes and communities.


I wish to thank the residents of Pine Ridge Reservation for their time and hospitality during the interview process. The Oglala Sioux Research Review Board and Colorado State University Research Review Board also offered excellent advice on how to conduct the research in a respectful manner. Kathy Sherman, director of the Department of Anthropology at Colorado State University, provided much-needed background on the cultural aspects of the reservation. David Bartecchi, Director of Village Earth, shared his knowledge about land and housing issues. Brian Dunbar, the director of the Institute for the Built Environment, also gave important feedback regarding the content of this report.

References and further reading

 Bartecchi, David C. 2003. Social capital, structural change, and development on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Thesis. Colorado State University.

Biles, Roger. 2000. “Public housing on the reservation.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 24: 49-63.

Burke, Terry. 2004, February. Managing social housing for indigenous populations. Paper presented to conference of the Asia-Pacific Network for Housing Research, Hong Kong.

Chiu, Rebecca L. H. 2004. “Socio-cultural sustainability of housing: a conceptual exploration.” Housing, Theory, and Society 21: 65-76.

Clough, Richard H., Glenn A. Sears, and S. Keoki Sears. 2000. Construction project management. New York :John Wiley and Sons, Inc..

Corum, Nathaniel. 2004. Building one house: A handbook for straw bale construction. Bozeman, Montana: Red Feather Development Group.

 Davis, Howard. 1999. The culture of building. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 Davis, Sam. 1995. The architecture of affordable housing. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

 Fathy, Hassan. 1973. Architecture for the poor. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

 Isserman, Andrew M., Edward Feser, and Drake E.Warren. (2009). “Why some rural places prosper and others do not.” International Regional Science Review 32: 300-342.

 Jiboye, Adesoji D., L. Ogunshakin, and I. A. Okewole. 2005. “The socio-cultural dimension of housing: quality in Osogbo Nigeria.” International Journal for Housing Science and Its Applications 29: 153-163.

 Kilickiran, Didem. 2003. “Migrant homes: Ethnicity, identity, and domestic space culture.” In Constructing place: Mind and matter. edited by Sarah Menin, 99-110. London: Routledge.

 Krinsky, Carol H. 1996. Contemporary Native American Architecture. New York: Oxford University Press.

 Laderman, Elizabeth and Carolina Reid. 2010. “Mortgage lending on Native American reservations: Does a guarantee matter?” Journal of Housing Economics 19: 233-242.

 Lee, Hyun-Jeong and Kathleen Parrott. 2004. “Cultural background and housing satisfaction.” Housing and Society 31:145-158.

 McDowell, Kenneth. 1989. “Housing for native groups in Canada.” In Housing, Culture, and Design, edited by Setha M. Low and Erva Chambers, 43-55. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

 Memmott, Paul. 2004. “Aboriginal housing: has the state of the art improved?” Architecture Australia 93: 46-48.

 Minnery, John, Michelle Manicaros and Michael Lindfield. 2000. “Remote area indigenous housing: Towards a model of best practice.” Housing Studies 15: 237-258.

 Mitchell, Maurice and Andy Bevan. 1992. Culture, cash, and housing: Community and tradition in low-income building. London: VSO/IT Publications.

 National American Indian Housing Council. [NAIHC]. 2001. “Too few rooms: Residential crowding in Native American communities and Alaska Native villages.” Retrieved from

 Neutze, Max. 2000. “Housing for indigenous Australians.” Housing Studies 15: 485-504.

 Ozaki, Ritsuko. 2002. “Housing as a reflection of culture: Privatised living and privacy in England and Japan.” Housing Studies 17: 209–227.

 Pickering, Kathleen. 2000a. “Alternative economic strategies in low-income rural communities: TANF, labor migration, and the case of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.” Rural Sociology 65(1): 148-167.

 Pickering, Kathleen. 2000b. Lakota culture, world economy. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

 Pickering, Kathleen and Benjamin Jewell. 2008. “Nature is relative: Religious affiliation, environmental attitudes, and political constraints on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.” Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture 2(1):135-158. doi: 10.1558/jsrnc.v2i1.135

 Pottinger, Richard. 1994. “Sheltering the future.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 18(1): 119-146.

 Rodriguez, Anita and Katherine Pettus. 1990. “The importance of vernacular traditions.” APT Bulletin 22(3): 2-4.

 Rolnik, Raquel. 2009. Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, UN Human Rights Council, A/HRC/10/7, available at: [accessed 13 June 2012]

 Spaghetti Documentary Productions (Producer). 2004. Pine Ridge session one: A documentary on life and grassroots community development on the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota U.S.A. [Motion picture]. (Available from Village Earth, P.O. Box 797, Fort Collins, Colorado 80522)

 Spence, Robin, Jill Wells, and Eric Dudley. 1993. Jobs from housing: Employment, building materials, and enabling strategies for urban development. London: Intermediate Technology Publications.

 Steen, Athena S., Bill Steen, David Bainbridge, and David Eisenberg. 1999. “Benefits of straw bale construction.” In Ecological Design Handbook, edited by Fred A. Stitt, 169 – 184. New York: McGraw-Hill.

 Strub, Harold. 1996. Bare poles: building design for high latitudes. Ottawa: Carleton University Press.

 US Census Bureau. 2010. Retrieved from the “American Fact Finder” online data tool at

 US Government Accountability Office 2010. “Tribes Generally View Block Grant Program as Effective, but Tracking of Infrastructure Plans and Investments Needs Improvement.” Highlights of GAO (Government Accountability Office) Document GAO-10-326.

 Van Hal, Anke. 2000. Beyond the demonstration project: the diffusion of environmental innovations in housing. Culemborg, Denmark: Aeneas Technical Publishers.

 Village Earth. N.d. Pine Ridge Reservation allottee land-planning map book. (Available from Village Earth, P.O. Box 797, Fort Collins, Colorado 80522)

Support Innovative Leaders and Organizations on the Pine Ridge Reservation


It’s that time of year again when your mailbox gets filled with countless appeals for help and funding. I know a great many of those appeals end up in the recycle-bin so I want to thank you for making it this far and reading ours.With so many great organizations, I know it can be difficult to decide where to direct your year-end giving.  We at Village Earth believe the most effective and efficient way to support the empowerment of marginalized peoples around the globe is to support and strengthen their own local and indigenous-run organizations. This is just as true for Native American Reservations, where local grassroot organizations often struggle to find the resources needed to design and carry-out their programs.

Village Earth partners with innovative local and grassroots organizations across the Pine Ridge Reservation, connecting them with donors and resources that enhance their programs and increase their impact.

Village Earth has been working on the Pine Ridge Reservation for over a decade supporting the work of grassroots leaders and organizations. Village Earth connects you with these grassroots projects, our Global Affiliates. You share the vision, hopes and challenges of the people and communities we work with.  Please take some time to learn about these innovative grassroots programs on Pine Ridge. We hope you will become as inspired as we are and decide to contribute to them.
Buffalo HumpEarth Tipi

Knife Chief Buffalo Nation

Lakota Buffalo Caretakers Co-op

Lakota Lands Recovery Project

Medicine Horse

Wounded Knee

Thank you!
David Bartecchi


WIKOSKALAKA YUWITA PI (Gathering of Young Women)

During the transition from being a girl to becoming a young woman, sometimes this can be a challenging time for young girls and their families. We would like to offer an opportunity to you to gain some Lakota traditional teachings related to becoming a young woman. We are offering a Young Women’s Gathering for up to 10 girls, ages 11-13 and their adult female guardian/parent/relative from October 19-21, 2012 in Porcupine, SD at the Tasunke Wakan Okolakiciye Center.

There will be teachings, activities and healing opportunities throughout the days and will end with a ceremony called Isna Ti Awicalowan Pi (They sing for her that lives alone – a reference to the time of isolation during a girl/woman’s monthly purification time) for those girls who are going through the ceremony after having their monthly purification time (Please note: do not plan on attending if you will be on your monthly purification time during the camp as spiritual ceremonies will be taking place during the camp).

As the future women leaders of families and of our great Lakota Nation, we humbly invite you to join us. Click here to download the complete info and registration packet.

Detailed Maps of Keystone XL Pipeline

For those of us concerned about the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline it can be frustrating trying to find detailed maps of the proposed routes, information critical for assessing potential impacts. Drawing on data obtained from a FOIA request, the Keystone Mapping Project has assembled an excellent mapping tool based on Google Earth’s KML format.

Map layers include:

  • Keystone XL Route
  • Milepost Markers
  • Waterbody Crossings
  • Gas Well. Within 1 mile of KXL route
  • Water Well. Within 1320 feet or 1 mile of KXL route

To view the highest resolution maps and interactive data, install the free Google Earth software and then download the Keystone Mapping Project’s KML file here.


Native Strategic Land Planning – A New Online Training Course from Village Earth

Village Earth and Colorado State University’s Online Plus is pleased to announce the launch of a new online training offering specifically developed for Native American land owners or anyone interested in learning more about Native American Land Tenure in the United States. The new course titled “Native Strategic Land Planning: Now and For Future Generations”  draws heavily from the curriculum of the same name developed by the Indian Land Working Group (ILWG). The original curriculum as well as Village Earth’s online adaptation was developed with support from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF) based in Minnesota. Village Earth originally utilized this curriculum in 2008 during a series of Strategic Land Planning Workshops we hosted across the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota as part of a grant from the ILTF during which we developed the Pine Ridge Strategic Land Planning Map Book. Just this year, Village Earth and ILTF launched a new, enhanced mapping resource for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation The Pine Ridge Land Information System (PRLIS), a free web-based mapping tool that gives Oglala Lakota Tribal members access to information about their lands. The online training takes advantage of the PRLIS as well as other online mapping tools not available when the ILWG curriculum was originally developed. We also hope that this new format makes this valuable training more accessible to Native American land owners across the United States.

This online training lasts 5-Weeks. The next session of this course will take place January 18th – February 22nd, 2013. Registration Deadline is January 14th.

For more information please contact David Bartecchi

Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Hosts Children’s Camps on Pine Ridge

The most natural place for a young Lakota boy to be – on the back of the Sunka Wakan (horse)!

By Ethleen Iron Cloud

The summer has been extremely busy with two cultural spiritual camps that were held in June and July and a children’s cultural camp that was held in July also. Two young men went through the Wicasa Ihuni (Becoming a Man) ceremony at the first part of June. The purpose of the ceremony is for the young men to receive traditional teachings on becoming a man and more specifically, becoming a Lakota man. The young men go through four consecutive nights of Inipi (purification lodge ceremony) with other men who provide teachings, guidance and assist with the preparation for the buffalo hunt they do on the fifth day. During the preparation period, they are asked to make relatives with the spirit of the buffalo they are going to kill so that there will be a spiritual bond between them. The buffalo provides nourishment; sustenance and spiritual teachings for the young man to emulate and these teachings are intended to provide a path for the young man. For example, the Pte Oyate (buffalo nation0 protect their young by placing them in the middle of the herd when danger is imminent. Likewise, the young man is taught that when he has children, he must protect them at all costs. This is a very important teaching given contemporary times and situations where the father is absent is too common.

Covering the Arbor with pine boughs, a neighbor donated the pine boughs from his arbor, so we didn’t have to cut or kill any more trees! The arbor is where some activities took place and where the naming ceremony for the children took place.

The children’s camp was a great success! There were 22 children and their parent/guardians for a total of 45 people participating in the camp on July 17-20, 2012. The children’s camp focused on the ages of 7-10 and those who experienced grief, trauma and major loss. 19 of the children experienced the “wopakinte” (spiritual purification) by Elders, the intent of the ceremony is to provide an opportunity for the children‘s spirit to be wiped with sage which represents medicine for the spiritual wound they carry from the trauma, grief and loss they experienced. The Lakota belief is that only sage and eagle feathers can wipe away the spiritual residue left from the trauma; in this case sage was used. 9 children received a Lakota spirit name which is an important milestone in their lives as the Lakota people believe that the Lakota spiritual name anchors one more solidly to the earth and strengthens the cultural and personal identity. Another healing activity for them was the horseback riding provided by Bamm Brewer who did an excellent presentation and was very patient and kind while teaching the children who did not know how to ride. It was extremely hot during the camp, the temperature exceeded 100 degrees every day. Thankfully, there was a swimming pool for the children and one day Dr. Mark Butterbrodt treated them to the water slides in Rapid City. This camp would not have been possible without the prayers and hard work by all the volunteers as well as the people who donated to this camp. Lila Wopila Tanka (thank you very much)!! The children and their parent/guardian wrote such beautiful words about the camp and that they hope there will be another; one little girl said she had prayed for a camp where “ we sleep in tipis, where everyone loved each other, where we had good food , ride horses and where we went swimming and my prayers were answered”. She seemed amazed that her prayers were answered; her mother commented that the camp was a blessing for her family. It is hoped that we can offer another opportunity like this; we received a request from a neighboring Tribe to have a similar camp for their community. Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to offer such a camp on a regular basis. The ideal situation would be to offer a camp like this on a quarterly basis so that the children can stay connected to an important resource. With the suicide attempts and completions among our young people (there were 2 completed suicides of young men, both age 22 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the first two weeks of August!); a regular and ongoing camp would be an important suicide prevention resource.

Setting up the tipis. Each tipi pole represents a Lakota value or virtue and the cover represents the womb of our mother.

One of the Tipis that the campers stayed in. Ti Ikciye is the proper Lakota term for tipi

The adults participating in the camp also benefited, they participated in Talking Circles, participated in the Inipi (purification lodge) ceremony with their children and had Dr. Larry Burke share his Emotional Freedom Tapping (EFT) approach with them as a response to depression, diabetes management and obesity prevention/intervention. Hmuya Mani (Richard Two Dogs), Lakota Traditional Healer, provided immeasurable help not only in conducting the spiritual ceremonies for the children but he and Tony Bush, a local Porcupine community member and Vietnam Veteran made sure the arbor was covered with pine boughs. Gene Kolaczkowski, Psychotherapist from Gunderson Lutheran in Wisconsin provided great therapeutic activities for the children and Dr. Elizabeth Warson from George Washington University brought some Art students and did art therapy with the children. The volunteers were exceptional – Gina Good Crow, Susan Hawk, Savannah Jensen, Tamara Red Owl, Johnnie Big Crow, Dawn Frank, Jolene Martin, Wilma Kills In Water, Bev Tuttle, Mary Iron Cloud, Santee Baird, Chris Valandra, Brice Valandra, Elder Isaac Last Horse, Stella Iron Cloud, Laura Wilcox, Cindy Giago, Forrest Calhoun, Eugene Giago Jr., Bamm Brewer, Mark Butterbrodt, Yamni Frank, Ed Iron Cloud, Eileen Iron Cloud, Ramona White Plume, Tilda Long Soldier , Elizabeth, the Art Students, Uma, Peter, Gene, Larry and the ladies and gentleman from Gunderson Lutheran who helped with the sewing of the Inipi dresses for the little girls – all truly amazing in their caring and hard work!. I hope I did not forget anyone! All in all, it was a great experience for many; this quote from one of the volunteers says it all:

I will never forget this experience. All of the children were/are so special and unique in their own little way. I saw them experience unconditional love from family, Grandparents, Aunties, Uncles and Community Members. I also saw that for the children whom did not have a sense of identity, they left with a stronger sense of self and who and where they come from.”  

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 Future Events

We hope to start the fencing of the additional pasture so that the buffalo will have more land to graze and roam; and so that the current pasture does not get overgrazed. We hope to be working with Wild Idea Buffalo and their affiliates on this project. 7-8 miles need to be fenced and it will take about a mile a week to complete so the entire project should take about 7-8 weeks. We are also planning an Ista mni Wicakici Pakinta Pi (Wiping of Tears) ceremony for the Porcupine community on Saturday, September 1, 2012. There have been many deaths in the community over the past year and this ceremony is a way to acknowledge the loss, provide comfort through prayer, song, words of encouragement and food. The Lakota belief is that this signifies a way to strengthen fellow community members as they adjust to the absence of their loved one but does not mean it is the end of the mourning period or grieving. Traditionally, Lakota people have a dinner and giveaway upon the one year anniversary of their loved one’s passing. The Wiping of Tears ceremony is the Lakota way of saying “we know you are hurting, here are some encouraging words, food and prayers to help you on your journey without your loved one here on earth”.


Wopila (thank you) to all the people who have contributed to Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Organization, your generosity is most appreciated and have made it possible to continue with our work!