The Pueblo Chieftain, out of Pueblo, Colorado, began its series about Village Earth’s work on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The series entitled, “In Search of Buffalo Nation” begins in todays paper and will feature several articles highlighting Village Earth’s community-based projects on the reservation through Wednesday. Since articles are only available on the Chieftain’s website for two weeks, I have decided to re-print the articles on this Blog so keep checking back for updates.
IN SEARCH OF THE BUFFALO NATION
Today on Page 1B, The Pueblo Chieftain begins a series titled, “In Search of the Buffalo Nation.”
The series is the result of a cultural exchange taking place between a handful of Puebloans and a group of Lakota from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Last September, a Rye-area buffalo rancher, Ken Danylchuk, and his wife, Kathy, donated 10 head of buffalo to the Adopt-a-Buffalo Program at Pine Ridge. Next month, the Danylchuks are making a second donation of buffalo to a reservation family.
Henry Red Cloud, a fifth-generation descendant of the famous 19th century Chief Red Cloud, is the Pine Ridge coordinator for the Adopt-a-Buffalo Program. He will return to Pueblo in September to receive the donation of live buffalo and take them back to South Dakota.
Red Cloud says the return of the buffalo to the Lakota, or buffalo people, is more than symbolic. He believes the buffalo may be the catalysts for spiritual and economic revival for the Lakota. He said the delegation represented about a dozen Lakota families attempting to build buffalo herds on the reservation.
“It’s the eternal dream of grandfathers and grandmothers to go back to the natural life,” Red Cloud said. “We come from the buffalo. We’re part of the buffalo nation.”
The buffalo donation was arranged by former Puebloan David Bartecchi, director of program development at Pine Ridge for Village Earth, a nonprofit group based in Fort Collins. Bartecchi helped the Red Cloud family and others start the Adopt-a-Buffalo Program, a nonprofit fundraising effort to help the Lakota with the costs associated with reintroducing buffalo to the reservation Ñ fencing, wells, and breeding stock.
Bartecchi’s father, Carl Bartecchi, told the Danylchuks about the project and they agreed to contribute a truckload of buffalo.
Chieftain staff writer Juan Espinosa, who reported on the first buffalo exchange between the Lakota and the Danylchuks, traveled to Pine Ridge earlier this summer to learn more about the reservation, Henry Red Cloud’s plan for seven generations and what role the buffalo are playing in the spiritual and economic revival of the people who worship them.
Today is the first installment of Espinosa’s reports from Pine Ridge.
FIRST IN A SERIES
Stories by JUAN ESPINOSA
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
PINE RIDGE, S.D. – Henry Red Cloud is a man on a mission.
On the surface, it appears his mission is to become self-sufficient on a 320-acre buffalo ranch.
To hear him tell it, the journey is just beginning. The Oglala Lakota are at the end of one seven-generation cycle and embarking on the next seven-generation cycle.
According to Henry Red Cloud, his father, Bernard Red Cloud, just before his death reminded family members that in the mid-1800s their ancestor, Chief Red Cloud, and other Lakota leaders devised what today might be called a strategic plan for seven generations.
“Getting the goodness of light-skinned society” is how Henry Red Cloud summarized what Chief Red Cloud had said. “Learn to live among them, learn their education, their language – all the goodness.”
According to Lakota tradition, a generation is 25 years. Seven generations have been born, signaling the end of that part of the strategic plan.
Henry Red Cloud says it’s time to begin planning for Phase 2 of the plan.
“After the seventh generation, we would become self-sufficient by taking their goodness and that (goodness) of the Lakota,” Henry Red Cloud said.
To secure the future for the next seven generations, Henry Red Cloud believes the Lakota need to regain control of their land.
“Secure the land base,” he said. “If we don’t have any land, we are not a nation.”
On the day Bernard Red Cloud died, “there were seven lightning strikes and a fire (at Tatanka Isnala – Lone Buffalo Ranch),” Henry Red Cloud remembered. “We took that as a sign,” he said.
Henry Red Cloud’s vision for the Lakota is for them to regain control of their land and become less reliant on U.S. government programs and handouts.
COURTESY PHOTO/DAVID BARTECCHI
Descendants of Chief Red Cloud pose with his portrait and a propeller from a wind generator on the 320 acres where they are building their self-sustaining buffalo ranch.
“After seven generations, we’re still tight with our language, our culture and our ceremonies,” he said. “The main thing is to get back to the land.
“Buffalo, land, wind, sun, water – we understand these things. Like the sacred medicine wheel, red, white, black and yellow – it ties us to our culture.”
Henry Red Cloud, who once left the reservation and worked as a structural steelworker for about 15 years, has returned to live on his father’s land and to create the model for the future by striving to become self-sufficient.
He and wife Nadine and their two boys and a daughter live in a mobile home on 20 acres, formerly owned by Bernard Red Cloud, near the town of Oglala.
Earlier this summer, Henry Red Cloud divided his time between tending a large garden near his home and to the 13 head of buffalo 20 miles away on 320 acres of family land.
A large tepee and tent are left set up in the yard to accommodate the curious who come to visit. The park-like yard also serves as a storage area for a large collection of windows, doors and other building materials neatly stacked under the trees. Henry is stockpiling the materials for houses he intends to build at the buffalo ranch.
At one end of the camping area is the frame of a sweat lodge, considered by many to be the Native American church. About a block away were three walls of an earth and tire “earthship” structure of what is to become a meeting hall.
In one corner of the family’s living room is a contemporary computer. At the other end of the same room is a heavy-duty sewing machine used to sew the Red Cloud Tepees the family makes and sells on the Internet. There was no running water in the house, and a makeshift shower and
outhouse are shared with guests.
COURTESY PHOTO/DAVID BARTECCHI
Henry Red Cloud shows his children, Johna ‘Princess’ Red Cloud (left) and Wakinyan ‘Thunder Boy’ Red Cloud, how to transplant tomato plants in the family garden. The garden is one of the ways the Red Cloud family is trying to become self-sufficient.
Through Village Earth and David Bartecchi, Henry Red Cloud has become heavily involved in the Adopt-a-Buffalo Program. Earlier this year, they toured Europe for a month promoting Village Earth’s land restoration projects on Pine Ridge to audiences in 10 cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France.
Henry Red Cloud organized the delegation that came to Rye last fall to pick up a trailer load of buffalo from Ken Danylchuk and is coming for another shipment next month.
Though he is keenly aware of the spiritual aspects of bringing the “sacred” buffalo to the Lakota who worship them, he is also aware of what it takes to prepare a pasture to hold them.
He works with a network of backyard engineers who are producing biodiesel fuel, making electric wind generators from used auto parts and drilling wells.
Last week, Bartecchi, Henry Red Cloud and the others presented a series of workshops on the reservation on developing sustainable technology. In addition to presentations about biodiesel production, raising buffalo, and wind and solar technologies, the group built a straw-bale structure.
Collectively, they are planting a tiny seed they hope will grow to fulfill their vision for the next seven generations.
“The fire of hope almost went out; we have to rekindle it,” Henry Red Cloud said.
CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/RALF KRACKE-BERNDORFF
Pueblo native David Bartecchi, who works at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as an organizer for Village Earth, invited The Chieftain to visit the reservation to see first-hand the various examples of sustainable technology taking place there.
On the day the seed herd of buffalo were released on the Red Cloud land, Henry spoke of the seventh generation. “They need to know that we have suffered greatly but that we are strong and resilient. This ceremony and these buffalo will teach our children that we are returning to health and vitality.
“Buffalo can heal us. We can heal each other. At the dawn of the 21st century, we stand here, seven generations since Chief Red Cloud’s capture, to make a powerful statement: We are strong. The Lakota people, families and individuals have a strong future together.”
“(Great Spirit, Grandfather). . .You have given. . .from the south, the nation’s sacred hoop and the tree that was to bloom. To the center of the world you have taken me and showed the goodness and the beauty and the strangeness of the greening earth, the only mother – and there the spirit shapes of things, as they should be, you have shown to me and I have seen. At the center of this sacred hoop you have said that I should make the tree to bloom.
“With tears running, O Great Spirit, Great Spirit, my Grandfather – with running tears I must say now that the tree has never bloomed. A pitiful old man, you see me here, I have fallen away and have done nothing. Here at the center of the world, where you took me when I was young and taught me; here, old, I stand, and the tree is withered, Grandfather, my Grandfather.
“Again, and maybe the last time on this earth, I recall the great vision you sent me. It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives. Nourish it then, that it may leaf and bloom and fill with singing birds. Hear me, not for myself, but for my people; I am old. Hear me that they may once more go back into the sacred hoop and find the good red road, the shielding tree!”
“In sorrow I am sending a feeble voice, O Six Powers of the World. Hear me in my sorrow, for I may never call again. O make my people live!”
Oglala holy man, Black Elk’s last prayer, recorded by John G. Neihardt during the summer of 1931. Black Elk participated in the defeat of Gen. George Armstrong Custer at Little Big Horn and was a survivor of the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1891. He was a contemporary of Crazy Horse and Chief Red Cloud. Neihardt is author of “Black Elk Speaks.”
SECOND IN A SERIES
BY JUAN ESPINOSA
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
From out of a thundering rainstorm, we reached the land of the Oglala Lakota
Even before we left Rapid City, S.D., it started to rain. A billowing bank of thunderheads loomed on the horizon directly in our path. I told my wife it looked like a bad day to be in a bad thunderstorm in the Badlands. We laughed at my bad play on words and a little because the storm made us nervous.
We were on South Dakota Highway 40, which turns into Highway 41 in Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and passing through the western edge of the Badlands. But through the pounding rain, it was difficult to make out the terrain. Lightning flashed all around us. Some bolts struck so close, I barely got to “one thousand one . . .” before hearing the loud clap of thunder.
The windshield wipers were on high speed, but could barely keep up with the blinding rain. Somewhere in the storm, the rough, paved road turned to gravel. I knew we had to be within 50 miles of Pine Ridge, but there were no towns on the map for a long way. I felt my Chevy S10 pickup hydroplaning on the water running down deep ruts in the middle of the road, but was afraid to slow down for fear of getting bogged down in sticky clay.
We passed a sign that invited us to pull over for a scenic view of the Badlands, but all we could see was a thick sheet of rain. Suddenly, the storm broke and the sun illuminated a wet and colorful landscape of rolling hills of tall grass and an occasional butte. We passed large farms, or ranches, looking every bit as prosperous as those we had seen in the Nebraska Panhandle.
Soon, we were on Highway 18 driving into the town of Pine Ridge.
Mobile homes, dilapidated houses and junk cars were scattered haphazardly on the landscape. In contrast, small clusters of identical houses or drab gray mobile homes were grouped in disconnected grids. I was told later that housing is so scarce that sometimes a two-bedroom unit can be occupied by as many as four families, or more than 20 individuals.
It was about 11 a.m. and we were to meet David Bartecchi at Henry Red Cloud’s place in the early afternoon. All we had was a phone number to call. We found the Sioux Nation Shopping Center, a windowless metal building in the center of town. The heavy metal doors with scratched plexiglass windows looked more like the entrance to a jail rather than the main entrance to a grocery store.
Inside, the market had narrow aisles, goods stacked to the ceiling and looked a little like the former SOLO Market in Pueblo’s Bessemer neighborhood.
We bought a few groceries and called Henry Red Cloud from a pay phone. He answered and said he was expecting us. He lives in Oglala and said we had driven past his house on the way to Pine Ridge.
“Did you see a sign that said, ‘Red Cloud Tepees?’ ” Henry asked. We had seen the sign and knew where we had to turn.
Ten minutes later, we turned off at the tepee sign and drove throu
gh deep and rutted mud puddles left by weeks of heavy rains. Soon we saw Henry’s mobile home snuggled in the trees. There were a half dozen people milling about. Through the open front door, I could see Henry working at a computer.
He greeted us warmly and introduced us to members of his family, some friends and several young women from France. The French women were members of the Committee in Solidarity with American Indians and had come to Pine Ridge and Oglala the weekend before for the 30-year commemoration of a shootout between members of the American Indian Movement and federal agents in which two FBI agents were slain in 1975.
Leonard Peltier, a member of AIM, was convicted of the murders and has been in federal prisons since. He has maintained his innocence and was the subject of a documentary film, “Incident at Oglala.”
Henry said the shootout took place about 3 miles from where we were. The French visitors had arrived the previous weekend for the commemoration and were planning to stay a couple of weeks.
“Three miles from where the FBI agents were shot 30 years earlier” – the words seemed to hang in the air. Years ago, I read Peter Matthiessen’s book, “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,” and followed Peltier’s story in newspaper and television accounts.
Suddenly, it struck me. We had arrived on historical and hallowed grounds. Until now, Wounded Knee, the Black Hills, and the Badlands all were part of a historical landscape I had only visited in books and movies.
One can see the past and future from the Red Cloud ranch
THIRD IN A SERIES
By JUAN ESPINOSA
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
PINE RIDGE, S.D. – Henry Red Cloud seemed anxious to show us the 320-acre ranch where he is building a herd of buffalo. Less than an hour after arriving at his home in Oglala, S.D., we were part of a small convoy on its way to Tatanka Isnala, or Lone Buffalo Ranch.
Henry led the way in a beat-up pickup; my wife Deb and I were next in our trusty minitruck, followed by a rented SUV carrying the French women and a couple of young Lakota men brought up the rear in a sedan.
We were traveling about 40 mph when Henry swerved to the right to drive around what looked like a cardboard box. I didn’t react fast enough and drove over it, just as Deb shouted, “It’s a turtle!”
COURTESY PHOTO/DAVID BARTECCHI
Spools of barbed wire and fence posts sit on pallets in this file photo. Before the land can receive buffalo, it must be fenced off with sturdy five-strand barbed wire.
Thunk. It was a turtle, I thought as it hit the undercarriage of my pickup. We all pulled over to survey the damage. I was sure the turtle was dead.
Henry stood over the large snapping turtle. It looked stunned, but showed no sign that it had been injured.
“They make good turtle soup; maybe later,” Henry said as he picked the turtle up while being careful to stay out of range of its snapping beak and claws and set it down in the tall grass off the roadway.
When we arrived at Lone Buffalo Ranch, there were no buffalo in sight. We parked on a ridge overlooking a reservoir Henry said he had built to trap rain running off the nearby hills. About 50 yards atits widest point, the lake provided water for the buffalo and one day would be part of a domestic water system for some houses he intends to build on the property.
Across the lake, we could see the top of a small house behind a bluff. Behind the house was a windmill twirling in the wind. Henry explained that the windmill charged a bank of batteries that in turn provided electricity to the house.
COURTESY PHOTOS/DAVID BARTECCHI
A young buffalo explores his spacious new home on the Tatanka Isnala – Lone Buffalo Ranch – after being released from the tight confines of a livestock trailer.
As we visited, Henry explained that he needed to dig some “snake root” while we were there and pointed to a plant with a pink and lavender flower.
“It’s called echinacea,” Henry said. “It’s major medicine here and it grows wild. It boosts your immune system. We call it snake root.”
Henry used a pickax to dig under the plant and expose its root. He stripped the root down to what looked like a dark brown stick. He broke it into little pieces and passed them around for us to sample. Sometimes the root is chewed into a paste and then applied to a wound to kill pain and to help healing, Henry explained. The chewed paste made one’s mouth numb.
“We always want to replant the seed, every time,” Henry said and then placed the flowers of the snake root in the hole he’d made and patted it down much like replacing a divot on a golf course.
Henry and his wife, Nadine, repeated the sequence several times until they had the quantity of snake root they needed.
It was time to hunt for the buffalo. We all crowded into the open bed of Henry’s pickup and took off across the grassy rolling hills divided by arroyos and valleys.
A group of Lakota lift a wind generator into place on the Red Cloud’s land in this file photo. The generator provides electrical power to a small house and a water pumping system.
After searching several valleys, we found the 13 head of buffalo on the opposite side of a large arroyo about a quarter-mile away. Initially, there had been 15 buffalo, but one ran off and another was killed by lightning.
Henry walked to the bottom of one side of the arroyo and began throwing feed pellets to the buffalo, but they fell short. He continued across the ravine until he was able to throw the pellets where the buffalo could get to them.
After a while, he returned to the top of the ridge. The buffalo had gotten a taste of the pellets and wanted more. We watched from the ridge as they tried several paths to reach us until one finally succeeded. Soon, the pickup was surrounded by 2- and 3-year-old buffalo and they were practically eating out of our hands.
The young buffalo bumped one another with their heads and horns as they fought for the pellets. Occasionally, the whole pickup shook from their tussling.
From the ridge where we encountered the buffalo, Henry pointed out the Black Hills to the west and the Badlands to the northeast. The sun was getting low in the western sky filled with puffy white clouds. It was a timeless moment; a little like the past and perhaps a glimpse of the future.
EDITORS NOTE: “In Search of the Buffalo Nation,” is a series of reports by Chieftain writer Juan Espinosa, who traveled to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in June to learn more about the Adopt-a-Buffalo Program and the shared vision of a handful of families to become self-sufficient.
With the help of Pueblo native David Bartecchi, director of program development at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
for Village Earth, a Fort Collins-based nonprofit, the Lakota families’ quest to become self reliant has taken many forms: buffalo ranches, biodiesel production, wind generators and a move by more families to regain control of their own land.
ADOPT A BUFFALO
Individuals, families, churches, classrooms, can purchase one buffalo for $500 – all at once or in installments. To acknowledge your gift, you will receive a picture and certificate with the Lakota name of your buffalo. n To Adopt-A-Buffalo Call:
We accept: Visa and MasterCard Or Send a check to: Village Earth PO Box 797 Fort Collins, CO 80521 Be sure to write: “Adopt-A-Buffalo Program” in the
Bryan Deans dreams of making Pine Ridge independent of OPEC
FOURTH IN A SERIES
By JUAN ESPINOSA
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
Like a well-kept secret, Bryan Deans’ homemade biodiesel plant is tucked away in a remote corner of Pine Ridge Reservation near Slim Buttes.
But rather than keep his fuel-producing capabilities secret, Deans is trying to show his fellow Oglala Lakota the road to energy independence. He says he could produce as much as 900 gallons of biodiesel fuel every 24 hours with the prototype plant he built, if he had a reliable supply of used cooking oils or rendered fat.
“Look at Brazil Ñ they buy no export oil,” Deans said. “Forty percent of the fuel is made in-country. They don’t buy oil from OPEC.”
That, in a nutshell, is Deans’ personal goal Ñ to make the reservation as energy independent as possible.
“It could be a model for the entire country,” Deans said.
Deans, 36, returned to Pine Ridge eight years ago to run the tribe’s cattle operation. Before that, he had worked for Burlington Northern Railroad as a machinist and a welder. He says the tribal council took back the cattle operation after he made it profitable. He now manages his own cattle operation and is producing biodiesel fuel.
A couple of years ago, Mel Lonchill, a former tribal leader, asked Deans to build a prototype biodiesel plant on wheels so it would be mobile. Deans agreed to build it for $3,000 and he was given blueprints for the prototype. His clients estimated the plant would produce 50 gallons of biodiesel a day.
“I told him I could do a lot better than 50 gallons a day for $3,000,” Deans said.
Deans, who is a few credits shy of a degree in mechanical engineering, says he modified the plans to increase production to 300 gallons in eight hours.
As planned, the mobile biodiesel plant has been built, and plans are to haul it to public events to demonstrate the technology.
On the day we visited Deans, he had the plant operating on one side of his rural driveway. In theory, the plant could produce 900 gallons of biodiesel every 24 hours. If the plant ran 24/7, it could produce 328,000 gallons a year. With diesel costing more than $2 a gallon, the potential net earnings could easily exceed $500,000 a year. Deans says his production costs for a gallon of fuel is about half the price charged at the pumps. But the plant doesn’t run all the time. Cash flow is slow and finding a reliable supply of raw materials is a daily challenge. Deans says he buys truckloads of used cooking oils, fats and other sources of fatty acids from a vendor who makes a circuit of fast-food outlets and rendering plants in the Rapid City vicinity.
Deans buys ethanol and lye which is cooked in a reactor with the fatty acids to produce biodiesel, glycerine, distilled water and a number of other useful byproducts. The glycerine is the base for soaps and Deans is experimenting with making bars of soap.
The biodiesel produced, according to Deans, is a superior product to the diesel fuel sold on the market. He is selling it to a small trucking firm and they say their engines run cooler and have cleaner exhaust than they had with commercial diesel.
Deans stresses that his tiny plant is a prototype of a much larger operation. He has plans for a plant that would produce 10 million gallons of ethanol (gasoline made from corn) and 2.5 million gallons of biodiesel per year.
“I would like to see our tribe and our own people have our own plant so we don’t go begging for something,” Deans said.
He says there is an abundant supply of corn in the area, but a better supply of cooking oil and some investment capital to build the plants is needed.
Earlier this month, David Bartecchi said he had a Fort Collins, Colo., investor willing to put up to $12,000 to underwrite the cost of a tanker load of vegetable oil, ethanol and lye.
Bartecchi is director of program development at Pine Ridge for Village Earth and sees Deans’ biodiesel project as an essential element of his efforts to help the Lakota achieve self-sufficiency.
Henry Red Cloud also sees the biodiesel operation as part of a network of sustainable technologies he is developing. Diesel fuel to run generators, tractors and heavy equipment, cars and trucks is needed. If the buffalo industry flourished, some of the waste products from the buffalo could go into the production of biodiesel. And some of the corn mash and other bi-products from the production of ethanol and biodiesel could be used as supplemental feed for the buffalo.
The mission of Village Earth, based in Fort Collins, Colo., is to achieve sustainable community-based development by connecting communities with global resources through training, consulting and networking with organizations worldwide.
- The president and co-founder of Village Earth, Dr. Maurice Albertson, was instrumental in the development of the U.S. Peace Corps in the 1960s.
- Village Earth was born in 1993 at an International Conference on Sustainable Village-Based Development in Fort Collins. Since its inception, Village Earth has trained and consulted with hundreds of individuals and organizations in countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Bosnia, Nigeria, Namibia, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia and elsewhere.
- Village Earth has been supporting community-based development projects on Pine Ridge since 2000 after being invited by the Oglala Sioux Housing Authority’s Drug Elimination Program to help build the capacity of resident tenant organizations in housing projects in each of the nine districts of the reservation. The scope of Village Earth’s work has expanded to include families out in the “districts,” beyond the numerous villages and cluster housing projects on the reservation.
Beauty, poverty, alcoholism, spiritualism all part of reservation life
FIFTH IN A SERIES
Stories by JUAN ESPINOSA
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
PINE RIDGE, S.D. – The reservation had received daily rainstorms for almost three weeks and was exceptionally lush. Foot-tall green grass blanketed the rolling hills and dark blue skies overhead contrasted sharply with billowing white mountains of clouds.
Pine Ridge obviously gets its name from the groves of pines that line the crest of many of the more jagged and higher hills. To the west are the Black Hills and to the northeast, the Badlands – both areas considered sacred by the Lakota.
Cattle are the dominant livestock seen from the road. Buffalo are rare, but can be found in the most remote areas. The vast majority of reservation land is open range with few dwellings except for the tiny towns that dot the landscape.
In the more rural areas, many people, mostly children, are seen walking along the sides of the roads and a few are riding bareback on ponies.
COURTESY PHOTOS/DAVID BARTECCHI
The rural areas of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are dotted with vacant homes and abandoned cars where families once lived on their land.
Main streets in the town of Pine Ridge are paved, but most of the town’s roadways are gravel. It looks a little like rural Colorado or northern New Mexico in the 1950s. The lack of building codes and covenants is evident by what appears to be mostly substandard housing scattered inpatchy neighborhoods, divided by open fields, often containing a collection of abandoned cars buried in the tall grass.
In contrast to the haphazard communities are clusters of identical dilapidated houses or trailers in uniform rows all painted the same drab green or gray color. The disheveled shacks are a sharp contrast to the million-dollar homes we saw dotting the Black Hills. Widespread poverty is apparent.
In Pine Ridge, all roads lead to the busy main intersection where the Sioux Nation Shopping Center, the department of social services, the busiest gas station and convenience store and the tribal council headquarters are located.
At these crossroads, panhandlers beg tourists for spare change. They look pretty rough, like they don’t get enough sleep and drink too much. Since the reservation is dry, I wondered where those who appeared to have been drinking were getting their liquor. The puzzle was solved the day we left Pine Ridge to return to Colorado. As we drove south out of Pine Ridge, we found that Whiteclay, Neb., was a mere 2 miles from the Sioux Nation Shopping Center.
As we drove the 2 miles, the source of the booze became evident. It was mid-afternoon and we were passing a steady stream of pedestrians reminiscent of a scene from the “Night of the Living Dead.” When we reached Whiteclay, it got worse. On both sides of the street, a few Indian men and fewer women leaned against buildings drinking from paper sacks. Many were passed out under the hot sun.
Alcoholism is a recognized problem on the reservation and in the June 24 edition of the Black Hills People’s News, several stories and poems on the topic were printed. One headline read: “Whiteclay Marcher Asks – ‘Where Are The Men?’ ” It is a report of a June 11 march from Pine Ridge to Whiteclay to pray for those who have lost their lives to alcohol.
COURTESY PHOTOS/DAVID BARTECCHI
An old church on the reservation symbolizes years of outside religious influence. Christian groups frequently donate time and labor to help with projects on the reservation.
“Whiteclay, Neb., a purportedly notorious border town,” the report says of the border town. “Notorious for the thousands of cans of beer sold to the people of the dry reservation on a weekly basis.”
Other prominent stories in the same issue are indicative of what is on the minds of reservation residents. They include:
Oglala Sioux Tribe takes out $38 million loan; money to improve a casino, pay bills, provide new jobs. On the opposite page is an op-ed piece warning tribe members that Pine Ridge is unincorporated and they all share the burden of the loan collectively.
Enos Poor Bear Jr. and the Lakotas’ greatest victory: An interview with the official Oglala representative on the Little Big Horn Monument committee.
Task force arrests target reservation drug trade: Report of a yearlong undercover operation that resulted in 16 arrests for trafficking marijuana and methamphetamines in and around Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations.
Pine Ridge has its problems, but the quality and pace of life still are alluring. People we visited didn’t have many of the modern conveniences we have grown accustomed to, but they had the necessities of life and were thankful for that.
Despite the obvious poverty, it seemed that nearly everyone has a cell phone. Our host, Henry Red Cloud, offered an explanation that could be a model for how government works in mysterious ways. According to Red Cloud, President Clinton visited Pine Ridge a few days after several tornadoes had set down, resulting in some damage and flooding. When Clinton found out the lack of telephones hampered efforts to give advance warning and to contact people in affected areas immediately after the tornadoes had passed, he made cell phones available to reservation residents for a dollar a month. They jokingly refer to them as “commodi-phones”- a takeoff on the government’s food commodities they also receive.
COURTESY PHOTOS/DAVID BARTECCHI
Pants and a colorful blanket line a clothesline outside one of the typical 50-year-old trailers that are home to many reservation residents.
While driving around the reservation, it became evident that religion plays a significant role. There are numerous Christian churches, church schools and camps. At Basil and Charlotte Brave Heart’s home, we encountered a Christian group from Parker, Colo., who were donating a week of labor to help construct the Brave Hearts’ ceremonial building.
Native religion involving the sweat lodge also is evident. Many families have willow frames of sweat lodges in their yards. In the newspaper was an ad for an upcoming Ghost Dance in neighboring Rosebud Indian Reservation, and powwows are common.
In our travels to see a buffalo herd near the town of Porcupine, we came across an encampment of more than a dozen tepees, five sweat lodges and a circular ceremonial arena. About 50 men and boys were busy putting up more tepees, gathering firewood and making preparations for the arrival of an estimated 500 Lakota. The people there were a little leery, but friendly. It was clear we were not welcome to stay and taking photos was out of the question.
As fascinating as it was to see what looked like a village springing up in the open meadow, we reluctantly moved on in search of the buffalo herd.
Pueblo native building network of technologies
SIXTH IN A SERIES
By Juan Espinosa
PINE RIDGE, S.D. – At 30, David Bartecchi still looks more like a college student than the catalyst for change he has become on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
For the past five years, Bartecchi has spent much of his time at the South Dakota reservation looking for permanent solutions to some of the Lakota’s most persistent social woes – poverty, substandard housing, lack of jobs, alcoholism and drug abuse.
In that time, the Pueblo native has met with and listened to hundreds of Lakota families. Along the way, he has encountered a loose network of individuals who have a different vision for their lives on the reservation.
Bartecchi, director of program development at Pine Ridge for Village Earth, believes that the future for the Oglala Lakota depends on land recovery, sovereignty and environmental justice. In short, he wants to help as many Lakota regain and move back on to their land as possible. He also envisions a self-sufficient economy on the reservation more independent of the U.S. government than today’s welfare state. He believes land recovery and self-sufficiency can be accomplish
ed without compromising or depleting the land’s natural resources.
Lofty goals for a lone social worker who first came to the reservation to attempt to address the myriad of problems experienced by residents of the reservation’s cluster housing projects.
“We met and talked about the need for sidewalks, lighting and how to handle the gangs,” Bartecchi said in an interview in late June.
He found that the cluster housing lacked the traditional Lakota sense of community. “They were just people forced to live together. Eighty percent didn’t like living where they lived and 70 percent wanted to return to their own land.”
It was that notion that caused Bartecchi to explore the potential for some of the residents to move back to their land. He found that they owned an average of 200 acres, but it was being leased out by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“So in 2003, we said, ‘OK, let’s see what it takes to get back on the land,’Ê’’ Bartecchi said. “That’s when we met the Red Clouds. They were already working on that.”
Bartecchi videotaped an interview with Bernard Red Cloud Sr., a fourth-generation descendant of Chief Red Cloud and father of Alfred and Henry Red Cloud, a few weeks before his death. In the interview, Bernard Red Cloud told his family that bringing the buffalo back to Pine Ridge was a critical step towards long-term self-sufficiency. Bartecchi held a workshop for family members who wanted to act on Bernard Red Cloud’s vision.
“We had no money so we made a list of the things they wanted,” Bartecchi said. The list included a wind turbine, buffalo fencing, a well and a lake.
The list developed into a pilot project for the Adopt-a-Buffalo Project. Village Earth began raising awareness on the Internet. Henry Red Cloud and others formed a speakers bureau and Bartecchi and Ralf Kraoke-Berndorff produced videos and eventually DVDs about the project.
Ed Iron Cloud, manager of the Oglala Lakota College’s herd, received a grant to bring the buffalo back. Initially, 25 head were brought to the families whose land was ready to receive them. As the cash flowed into the project, the buffalo began to return to Pine Ridge.
COURTESY PHOTO/RALF KRACKE-BERNDORFF
Pueblo native David Bartecchi is Village Earth’s lead organizer on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
On the day 15 head of buffalo were released on the Red Cloud ranch, Henry and Alfred embraced. “This is for our children,” Albert said. “For our future.”
Today, Henry Red Cloud’s 320-acre Tatanka Isnala – Lone Buffalo Ranch – has a herd of 13 buffalo (one ran away and another was killed by a bolt of lightning), a manmade lake, a well and a small, wind-driven electrical generator. There are roughly another 180 buffalo distributed among a dozen Lakota families.
Another goal is to form a buffalo cooperative to take over the Adopt-a-Buffalo Project. Eventually, the cooperative could operate a meat-processing plant, own a portable set of corrals and loading chutes and purchase other equipment too costly for individual families to buy.
This summer, Bartecchi is working on helping families identify their land through a mapping project. He downloaded satellite maps into his laptop computer. The maps show property lines and Bartecchi tries to help people identify their lands from family records or recollection.
“There’s a broader awareness issue – people knowing where their land is and how it’s being used,” Bartecchi says of the mapping project.
A second agenda is trying to identify the tiyospayes, or areas occupied by bands or extended families. Traditionally, politically allied groups, or bands chose to live near one another, but the political system of the reservation does not recognize the tiyospayes as units of the political structure.
There are couple of dozen tiyospayes on Pine Ridge with some overlap. Bartecchi is helping Calvin White Butterfly, a community organizer with the Wounded Knee Tiyospayes Project, to identify the tiyospayes in that area.
“The goal is for the Lakota communities ‘tiyospayes’ to recover, restore, utilize and manage their remaining land base,” Bartecchi said. “Power (now) is in the hands of the elite.”
There is a lot of interest in Bartecchi’s mapping project because people have seen the results of the Adopt-a-Buffalo Project.
“Getting control of the land back is the hardest part,” Bartecchi said. “We’re starting a little fire. People see us pulling land out and they ask, ‘Why can’t we pull our land out?’Ê”
One of the problems is the way land is passed on from generation to generation.
“If you have 11 children, the land is divided 11 ways,” Bartecchi said. As a result, the parcels of land become too fragmented for families to use and the BIA takes over management of them.
Oglala Lakota exploring alternative home construction methods
By JUAN ESPINOSA
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
PINE RIDGE, S.D. – David Bartecchi met us at Henry Red Cloud’s the day we arrived. Bartecchi is the director of programs at Pine Ridge Reservation for Village Earth, a nonprofit based in Fort Collins, Colo.
It was at Bartecchi’s invitation that we had ventured to South Dakota to see the Adopt-a-Buffalo project in person.
With David’s help, my wife, Deb, and I pitched our tepee in the grass behind Henry’s mobile home under a tall shade tree. We have had a tepee for several years, but it seemed a great honor to be putting it up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on land belonging to descendants of the great Chief Red Cloud.
We became reacquainted over a dinner of potato and ham soup and a bread known as aguyapi prepared by Nadine Red Cloud. Bartecchi is the son of Pueblo physician Carl Bartecchi and is a major link in the Lakota quest for self-sufficiency.
With Bartecchi, we made plans to visit Basil Brave Heart’s buffalo project about 10 a.m. the next day. I had come to understand that time was flexible on the reservation. Nothing seemed to follow an exact schedule.
As we prepared to turn in for the night, we learned a couple of new realities. There was no indoor bathroom and the outhouse is “over there.” The shower was a black 55-gallon barrel perched atop a wooden platform over a child’s wading pool. A large wrench was used to turn the shower on and off.
Early the next morning, I met with Henry at a site across the road from his garden. He had taken me up on my offer to do some sample soil tests and show him how to make an adobe brick. We had brought a 5-
gallon bucket of earth from Tatanka Isnala – Lone Buffalo Ranch – the previous afternoon for that purpose. He also filled another bucket with sand from the children’s sandbox. The water came from a stream running through the 20-acre property.
We made a form suitable for making two adobes out of scrap lumber that Henry scrounged from the piles of lumber in his yard.
Henry’s soil turned out to be roughly 50 percent clay, although it had some shale in it that I didn’tlike. I suggested a mixture of 1:1, or one part soil to one part sand.
After we mixed a batch of mud that felt like the right consistency, we poured a couple of bricks.
As we admired our work, Henry talked about his plans for adobe. He is considering building the houses and buildings he needs at the family’s Tatanka Isnala out of the soil that is there. He wants to build passive solar adobe houses that are warm in winter and cool in summer.
He already had experimented with a tire-and-earth construction method known as the Earthship. On the 20-acre property in Oglala, he has built three walls of a house-sized structure he intends to use as a meeting room.
He also is considering straw-bale construction. At a sustainable technologies workshop held Aug. 8-10 on the reservation, Henry, Bartecchi, and other participants built a sample straw-bale structure.
Henry’s dream is to build houses for himself and his extended family on the Lone Buffalo Ranch which would become part of a closed environmental loop with water provided by rain or wells, electric power from the wind and heat from the sun.
I told Henry about the giant wind generators we had seen in Northern Colorado and guessed they would cost tens of thousands of dollars each and wondered to myself how he could afford such a machine.
He seemed to read my mind and asked me to follow him to the entrance of his home where he pointed to what looked like an old brake drum mounted on a post. He gave the drum a spin with one hand and for a brief moment, two lights attached to the brake drum lit brightly.
The design for the electrical generator had come from the Internet, he said. He said something about using a dozen or so magnets and winding some coils for generating the little bit of current.
“That’s what’s charging the batteries in the house that’s already up there,” Henry said.