An effort to build a new sustainable and energy self-sufficient community on Pine Ridge is underway.
The Thunder Valley CDC held a groundbreaking near Sharps Corner on Pine Ridge for the new housing development and community. Hundreds of people including a number of federal and tribal dignitaries attended. The event comes with an announcement of major funding made available through the federal government for the project.
Nick Tilsen sees the groundbreaking at the Thunder Valley CDC as an historic event that signifies a tide change on Pine Ridge.
“Today is the beginning of the end of poverty on Pine Ridge,” says Tilsen.
Tilsen is the Executive Director of the Thunder Valley CDC. He spoke just before the entire crowd of community members lined up in front of a set of shovels to each take a turn at the official ground breaking. Tilsen says this project is different than housing efforts in the past, in part because it’s bottom up.
“This project came from the people. This plan came from the people. This work was derived by the grass roots people on Pine Ridge coming together to make a change to make a difference for our community,” says Tilsen.
Tilsen and others involved say they found ways around the barriers that restricted tribal housing and community building in the past. He says those barriers include lack of access to funding and extensive government red tape.
“We’re taking ownership over our future by creating opportunities that are grounded in what we want for our future. So, I think over the next three to five years you’re definitely going to see a lot of building happening here, streets and water and sewer these things coming up but I think you’re also going to see this project replicated all throughout Indian Country, because this project is providing inspiration to people everywhere. “ says Tilsen.
Tilsen’s work is championed by President Barack Obama. The recent federal designation of Pine Ridge as a Promise Zone also fast tracks government funding for community projects like Thunder Valley CDC. Officials with the USDA announced a grant of nearly $2-million for the project. Tilsen says phase one over the next three to five years includes; 21 homes, up to 100 multi-family units, a workforce development center, and a sustainable agriculture education center plus other facilities. The overall housing shortage in Pine Ridge is much bigger than this community. Economic development officials estimate the cost for infrastructure and housing needed for this tribe alone exceeds $1-billion.