Thunder Valley CDC in the Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Eillie Anzilotti:

"One example is an initiative launched in 2007 on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Oglala Lakota, which centers around the principle of community, but it’s about much more. Pine Ridge has long encapsulated many issues that Native tribes currently face on their lands: lack of investment, little infrastructure, few jobs, and next to no economy. Government assistance, which is scant, is one of the few forms of financial support people on the reservation receive. This struggle stems from centuries of persecution at the hands of white settlers and decisions by the U.S. government to erode indigenous culture—up until 1978, for instance, many Native religious traditions were outlawed.

But now, members of younger generations are starting to reconnect with their culture’s traditions—and rebuilding community power. Nick Tilsen is among the more prominent of them. In 2007, he founded the nonprofit Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation to build prosperity on the Pine Ridge Reservation from the inside out. Tilsen spent hundreds of hours meeting with residents and cocreating a plan for the initiative. The design for Thunder Valley CDC includes a plan for the construction of affordable houses in a place where many families share trailers; youth are being trained in construction to carry out the plan and gain skills through an employee-owned company launched on the reservation. The project will also include amenities like playgrounds, farms, and community buildings. “At every step, the vision and building of the regenerative community arose from and within many circles of the community,” Kelly and Howard write.

Fostering well-being and stability for the Pine Ridge community is the primary goal of Thunder Valley CDC, but it’s also rooted in place—another principle of democratic economies. Previously, every dollar brought onto the Pine Ridge Reservation would leave again in 48 hours because there were no opportunities for people to spend money locally. By building out assets like homes and shops, Thunder Valley aims to create ways for wealth to remain in the community, instead of being pulled outward." (