6 Safe, Eco-Friendly Homes for Pine Ridge Lakota

by Altai Mir University
Project leader Christinia Eala
Project leader Christinia Eala

Thank you for your contribution to safe housing for the Lakota Sioux.

The Lakota Sioux tribes have come to national attention recently as "Water Protectors" working to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline from crossing the Missouri River. A leak would compromise the water quality and potability of the whole Missouri basin -- and pipeline leaks are almost a certainty.

What has not been in the news, however, is the ongoing, horrific living conditions on the Lakota reservations.

The Colorado State University chapter of Engineers Without Borders normally undertakes humanitarian engineering projects in other countries. However, after meetings with our project leader Christinia Eala, they are undertaking a project in their "own backyard."

For the past several months, they have been designing a community center to be built on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation in South Dakota. They expect to break ground this spring and for the project to take 6 years to complete. The structure will be built, at least partly, from earth-packed tires -- a type of "green" construction dubbed "Earth Ships."

We look forward to keeping you updated.


1st 10 of 1000 grandmothers at Standing Rock
1st 10 of 1000 grandmothers at Standing Rock

Our South Dakota project manager, Christinia Eala, writes from the camp near Cannonball, North Dakota, that our partner organization has made in solidarity with the Standing Rock Lakota in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which if completed will run under the Missouri River and has the potential to contaminate the drinking water of at least 18 million people who depend on that water for drinking and farming.  

"Since our first trip there in the second week of August, we are starting a "1000 Grandmothers" movement to draw more attention to the actions of the various law enforcement agencies at the site.  It's pretty dangerous there right now and there has been no media coverage of it, so anything we can do to draw the attention of the world to what is happening, we are willing to do.  Please see the FB page of the same name and please do what you can to help get the word out.

"If you peruse the FB pages I mentioned above, you can glean the history of the beginning of the gathering of the Protectors as well as see the escalation of provocation of the law enforcement agencies. They are arresting reporters and legal observers, strip-searching arrestees. One 16-year-old girl was left naked in jail overnight.
"They are trying to get an angry reaction from the Protectors so they can "attack" and remove the camps from the area.  It's a pretty scary story.  Right now, I am in Chicago on R&R but will be returning to North Dakota towards the second week in November to help get our camp set up for winterization.
"You can gather information about the Protectors on FB at "Red Warrior Camp" as well as "NoDAPL", or "Sacred Stone Camp".  There is a video on the "Red Warrior" page in which I was interviewed re: an "action" that I was involved with where the police and sheriffs pointed guns right at us.  It was truly one of the more terrifying moments of my life.  
"There will be a Skype meeting on the 26th (I believe) between the women who are supporting the "1K GM" as we call it, which can be found on our organization's site….winyanmaka07.webs.com.  Holly wrote and performed the song by the same name in the 70's.  Listen to it on youtube if you get a chance."
Christinia reports that the Pine Ridge Housing Project, located in the district of Slim Buttes has been officially presented to Engineers Without Borders/USA. We're looking forward to a Spring build with them.
Beading & Quillwork Business
Beading & Quillwork Business

Life expectancy on the Pine Ridge reservation is the 2nd lowest in the Western Hemisphere - second only to Haiti. Poverty is rampant, with average annual incomes around $3,000. We have slowly made progress over the past many years, helping families establish safe and viable homesteads on their ancestral lands and develop sustainable lines of income through cottage industry.

In our continuing search for ways to adequately fund this project, we have been offered a true gem.

One of our most promising areas is the development of a business plan that would build a strong foundation for the beautiful, artistic bead and quillwork that many families create together to sell during tourist season.  Their businesses are small and seasonal, their income dwindle down to almost nothing during the late fall and winter months.

Over 30 years, company founder Susie Cotcher built a large and successful beading and quillwork business www.truewestmagazine.com/beadwrangler-makes-magic/. Susie passed away this past spring. Though there are other substantial offers to buy the business, before she died she made it clear that she wanted the business to be sold to the women of the Lakota nation, living in poverty at Pine Ridge, even if it meant giving a substantial portion of the company's value as a gift.

We are now raising the capital needed to carry on this profitable and culturally-strengthening business endeavor. Your continued support is hugely appreciated!


Walipini that we will finish this summer
Walipini that we will finish this summer
For several years, our Lakota partner organization Tiyospaye Winyan Maka has been working on a partnership with Engineers Without Borders/Colorado State University Chapter, and the Community Engineering Corps in Fort Collins. On On February 11th, we met at CSU for a "Domestic Project Kick-Off."
As I have written in earlier reports, all the materials (including a car), physical infrastructure, and supplies for Tiyospaye Winyan Maka's housing project were stolen a year ago. Our project leader Christinia Eala forged onward, despite recent triple-bypass heart surgery, to form a strategic alliance with Bryan Deans of the Oglala Lakota Cultural and Economic Revitalization Inititative, better known as (O.L.C.E.R.I.), whose shares our objective of safe, sustainable housing (plus construction skills for Lakota youths).
Bryan's vision is to create a community center for the nine communities in the Slim Buttes area. In addition to a gathering place for community events, there will also be various workshops on permaculture design, organic gardening techniques, solar power and wind generation, and alternative building methods using repurposed items and materials found discarded around the reservation.
The conceptual design and work of the Community Center will be done with EWB/CSU and will take a period of at least three years to complete. It will include:
  • Meeting Room
  • Kitchen
  • Restrooms
  • 2 Offices
  • 6-8 Bedrooms
For the build season, June through early October, 2016, the work of TWM will be forward work to establish the campground for International and Domestic volunteers. Our plan is to install an earthen (adobe) floor in the outdoor kitchen, repair, reinforce, refinish the roof, and work on the enclosure sides, build a minimum of two outdoor loos, and two solar showers. We will help with fundraising to buy the material to complete the walipini (greenhouse), which is underground and can grow fresh vegetables and herbs year round.
We expect that this will enable us to rebuild a secure and necessary foundation from which to continue with the core objective of building safe, sustainable housing on Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation.
Thank you for your ongoing support!
International volunteers digging out the walapini
International volunteers digging out the walapini
     Last May, Lakota Project leader Christinia Eala took a team of Engineers without Borders from Colorado State University (EWB/CSU) to the property of Joe and Lena Fast Horse to build the foundation to build the foundation for the battery house for the solar array panel. Joe and Lena have been working for years to create a safe house for Lakota children. They are currently living in cramped, mold-infested federal housing in Wounded Knee.
     Tiyospaye Winyan Maka, Christinia's nonprofit organization, is starting the process of formalizing our relationship with EWB/CSU, who have excellent mentoring and guidance from  EWB/Professionals here in Fort Collins as well as EWB/USA headquartered in Denver.  Everyone is very excited about this. However, it rained almost the entire time the EWB team was in Wounded Knee, but they did get the foundation complete and installed a 350 gallon water tank. Unfortunately, three of the cars got stuck in the deep gumbo-like mud and Christinia's clutch got burned up while trying to get the car out.
     Then, with international volunteers arriving for the summer, Christinia learned that the entire contents of the project's Fast Horse camp had been looted. So…in the Spirit of always moving forward, she visited with Bryan Deans who has a ranch and homestead in Slim Buttes on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He has an organization called Oglala Lakota Cultural and Economic Revitalization Initiative. The volunteers spent their time working on his  homestead, where he is currently building a “Walapini” or underground greenhouse in order to have fresh vegetable year round. These projects are always viewed as model projects for the larger community.
     In December 2015 and January 2016, Christinia returned to Wounded Knee to reassess the Fast Horse site to determine how prepared the family was to move forward with the project and discovered that they weren’t as prepared as necessary to accommodate the international volunteers in the upcoming season. This is heart-breaking because the need for the safe house is so great and the Fast Horses have been working for so long and so hard to create it. 
     So, the project team will focus on Bryan Deans' projects again this summer, reinforcing his outdoor kitchen as needed, building one or two more “outhouses,” refreshing the solar shower, and clearing and maintaining the campground.
     We are extremely grateful for the ongoing support for this project through GlobalGiving.

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Organization Information

Altai Mir University

Location: Shoreline, WA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.AltaiMir.org
Project Leader:
Carol Hiltner
Shoreline, Washington United States

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