March 24, 2008

Strawbale Homes and Green Jobs at Pine Ridge Reservation

We are Tiyospaye/Winyan Maka (tee-OH-shpah/WEEyon maKAH), Lakota for “extended family” or “women of the earth.” Our mission is to help Lakota families at Wounded Knee and the rest of Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota (a community with 95 percent unemployment and life expectancies similar to those living in Bangladesh-a third-world nation within our own borders).

We have made a winter share drive to the Wounded Knee District on Pine Ridge for the last 20 years. In order to make a lasting difference on the reservation, we must address the housing, energy and nutritional issues that the Lakota face on a daily basis: lack of reliable winter heat because of exorbitantly high utility bills relative to low monthly incomes; black mold that has taken the lives of elders and infants; formaldehyde in cheap trailers sent to the Rez because they’re no longer useful in the outside world; limited access to fresh, affordable, healthy food.

Imagine having three babies in a trailer that’s hardly heated or ventilated, that uses cement blocks for steps and has no railing around the small platform by a front door that strong winds have blown off the hinges. Martha American Horse’s family consists of 16- and 5-month-old daughters, her 4-year-old sister, 14 and 16-year-old brothers, 17-year-old sister. She and her small family often choose between food, utilities, gas for the car or clothing.

Before winter sets in, we partner with Village Earth and Colorado Strawbale to retrofit strawbale insulation under and around this and other trailers on the Rez. We’ll begin work on a sun space the length of the front of the trailer for growing veggies, a wraparound deck to ensure a safe play area for the little ones and a wind turbine to help with utilities. This year we’ve started a scholarship fund for young people on the Rez who want to train in organic gardening, health and nutrition. The teens will learn in all aspects of straw bale construction so they can do their own maintenance.
        -B.M.A. & C.E.

To participate in a Christmas drive to Wounded Knee, email: Beverly Morris Armstrong and Christinia Eala.

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