Aug 9, 2016

15,000 Trees Have a New Home

Residents of Pine Ridge, SD work to plant trees
Residents of Pine Ridge, SD work to plant trees

This planting season has been a great success! With the 15,000 ponderosa pines in the ground, thanks to the hard work of 39 Native Americans, we have beaten our previous year’s planting by 5,000 trees. And that’s just the start! We have a goal this year of planting 17,000. However, we wiped out the Colorado State Forest Service Nursery’s supply of ponderosas with our 15,000 order, so we have to wait for the remaining 2,000 trees to sprout! This is all part of TWP’s goal to plant 1 million trees on tribal lands over the next several years.

TWP's Tribal Reforestation Project came about in response to several wildfires a few years ago on Tribal lands in southern South Dakota. It is estimated that 20,000 acres of ponderosa forests were lost, with very few seed trees surviving to naturally replant themselves. That’s why we’re working to help put the “pine” back in Pine Ridge! Planting the ponderosas will, improve air and water quality, reduce soil erosion, re-establish wildlife habitat, and enhance ecosystem resilience, and sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gases while engaging Native Americans in the protection of their lands.

And there to capture all the action on film was a videographer from Vision Makers Media. This Native filmmaking organization empowers and engages Native People to tell stories. They envision a world changed and healed by understanding Native stories and the public conversations they generate. We're excited to be teaming up with Vision Makers Media to show you the progress made in our reforestation efforts. With their 40 years of experience, we know you will enjoy the captivating footage of the scenic plains. Stay tuned for the video in the coming soon!

Jun 30, 2016

Making a House a Home for a Lakota Family

The open house was a wonderful celebration!
The open house was a wonderful celebration!

The following is written by Adelle McDaniel, the Trees, Water & People National Intern, after traveling to the Pine Ridge Reservation. The reason for her trip was to help prepare the finishing touches on the Compressed Earth Block home before giving it to the Shields Family.

Traveling up to Pine Ridge Reservation for the very first time, I had a lot of questions. Statistics about poverty, living conditions, and health tumbled around my head; I could (and did) rattle them off to anyone who asked where I was going for the weekend. But at that point, I didn’t really know where I was going for the weekend. I didn’t even really know what I was doing when I got there.

When Richard, Trees,Water & People’s Executive Director, pulled up next to a newly built, sustainable Compressed Earth Block (CEB)  house on the reservation and I hopped out, the latter question was quickly answered. I would be helping to clean, organize, and prepare the building for the open house the following day. More importantly, I would be part of giving the gift of a home. The three bedroom earthen block home features solar-heated floors and forced air, a PV system on the roof, and one happy family inside. Very little is more rewarding than making others happy. Knowing that you created a safe, beautiful place for a family to spend their years, though, far surpasses that. 

It was more than a privilege to be included in the occasion. I couldn’t begin to choose my favorite moment from the weekend. Would it be shaking hands with the new owners, seeing tears in their eyes? Sharing laughs and meals and work with the other volunteers and gaining a new perspective without even noticing? Maybe just taking in the scenery, the soul of a place I had ever been.

The question of where I was going was perhaps both more and less easily answered than what I was doing. I was going to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. I came back from a place filled with devastation and hope, injustice and integrity, deeply embedded history and courageous new beginnings.

Thank you all so much for your support while constructing this home. The Shields Family has settled in and they thank you for your generosity as well. You have changed their lives. 

Jun 9, 2016

The Home Stretch!

The inside of the family's new home
The inside of the family's new home

We are almost done building the house for Paul and his family! Some final touches are required such as painting the walls, putting the flooring into the house, a few more pipes to hook up. Our Assistant National Director, John Motley, and a few of our Board Members will be driving up to Pine Ridge from Colorado this weekend to finish some of the bigger tasks, including the floors. Once the floors are in place, all of the household appliances will then be installed. One final coat of stucco is required for the outside of the house, and then it’s on to the roof!


From June 20th-23rd, Trees, Water & People will be hosting a solar panel installation demonstration for Native Americans. The house will be fitted with solar panels that have been donated to with the help of Jonny of Solar Energy International. The panels, the racking for the house, and the inverter were all donated. So far we have five people signed up, but we are expecting 20 people to come for the installation.


On June 24th, we will be throwing an open house so friends, family, neighbors, and supporters can take a look at this CEB building. The open house will also be a house-warming party for the family; this is when we will hand over the keys and help them move into their new home. We are very excited for the family to move in, and we could not have done it without your help! Thank you for all of your incredible support!

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