Village Earth News

Sustainable Community Development Certificate Summer Courses Open

colorado_state_university_logo-1135358447Colorado State University has just opened registration for its online summer courses for the Sustainable Community Development Certificate Program.  Sessions are now open for June and July 2014.

Courses now open for registration:

What Sustainable Community Development Looks Like a Decade Later

Over ten years ago, Village Earth supported the creation of a microfinance initiative in the Marathi village of Belgaon Dhaga just outside of Nashik, India.  Village Earth’s support wound down as the community paid back the microfinance loans and created their own long-enduring institutions for the continued development of their community.  From the outset, five businesses were created using microfinance loans and now ten years later these businesses are flourishing and the microfinance initiative has continued of the community’s own accord by way of various intra-community savings and lending groups.

village leaders

Community leaders with a Village Earth representative.

Back in February, Village Earth was invited back to Belgaon Dhaga to see the community’s progress in the decade since and the results were remarkable.  The community hosted an award ceremony to honor local community talent, which included young artists, teachers, exceptional students, entrepreneurs, and women’s savings groups.  Children spoke about how after learning to read how they went home and taught their own mothers to read, young entrepreneurs gave encouragement to others to go out and start their own ventures, and all this was interspersed with local songs and dances by the school children.  Belgaon Dhaga is even more impressive in its focus on gender equity electing women to the top village leadership positions.The community leaders work with local government and business leaders to create long-enduring support for community initiatives.

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Young entrepreneur Dattu Dhage receiving the Role Model Innovative Farmer award from the Chief Minister of the state of Maharashtra.

And the list goes on and on…Belgaon Dhaga has been nominated for the national award for the most comprehensive, sustainable development including the most successful microfinance project model. Recently when a high level government delegation from Delhi came to ‘inspect’ the village, they were stunned to hear the young village leaders present their community development and training model and were shown different achievements in Belgaon Dhaga. One of the organic farmers from the community was recently chosen as the most innovative young farmer by the state of Maharashtra in February.

This is what sustainable community development should look like, and we at Village Earth are very proud of the achievements of Belgaon Dhaga.  This community has become a role model for other villages around the world.  Village Earth hopes to offer training and study tour opportunities in this area in the future so other development practitioners can learn from the community themselves and their decade of experience with truly bottom-up, participatory community development.  If you are interested in potential study tour opportunities, e-mail [email protected].  Kamala Parekh, a Village Earth online instructor, lives in the community and has been seminal in the success of the microfinance program and she teaches our microfinance course online through both Colorado State University and Duke University.

Free Download: “Take Back the Land! The Social Function of Land and Housing, Resistances & Alternatives”.

Take Back the Land! The Social Function  of Land and Housing,  Resistances & Alternatives.Village Earth recently published a chapter in the new book, Take Back the Land!: The Social Function of Land and Housing, Resistances & Alternatives published by Ritmo which opens public information centers on global issues, organizes civil society campaigns and develops awareness-raising and training sessions. Ritimo is actively involved in disseminating documents and information online, by means of its website: and co-edited by AITEC (Association Internationale des Techniciens, Experts et Chercheurs – International Organisation of Engineers, Experts and Researchers). This publication is part of the The Passerelle Collection which presents experiences, analyses and proposals by actors of social change. Each issue is an attempt to weave together various contributions on a specific issue by civil society organisations, media, trade unions, social movements, citizens, academics, etc.

Village Earth’s article appears on page 90 and is titled: “The Role of Low-Income Housing in Devaluing the Social Capital of the Oglala Lakota.” You can download this publication in English for free.

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The Article from Village Earth Director, David Bartecchi

“If land, whether rural or urban, were viewed as playing an essential role in all human beings’ life, just like air or water, and its value in use outweighed its exchange value, wouldn’t our cities and countryside look completely different ? Many social movements, researchers, social organisations, local and national authorities as well as international organisations are concerned by the issue of the social function of land and of housing, worldwide.A reflection on different ways to relate to land – other than ownership – must therefore be carried out, i.e. ways that do not entail abusing, speculating or excluding others. Thanks to contributions by different actors, this issue sheds a light on the progress of the social function of land and housing in the different areas of the world. This issue’s singularity is linked to its insight into a potential alliance between inhabitants and peasants, between rural and urban issues. Much food for thought is set forth here on points of mutual interest, alternatives and resistance practices around the world.

You can download this publication in English for free.

Charlotte Mathivet is a political scientist and a right to housing and right to the city activist. She edited number 7 of the Passerelle Collection,Housing in Europe : Time to Evict the Crisis. She is the coordinator-editor of this issue This publication is also available in French. It also will be available in Spanish in March and launched at the World Urban Forum in Medellín in Aprill 2014.”

Village Earth Welcomes Affiliates From The Cheyenne River Reservation & Zambia

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We are excited to announce the addition of two new Global Affiliates: “Mni” (which means “water” in the Lakota language) based on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota and Titukuke Rural Community Development Association based in Petuake Zambia. (Both of which are eligible for 30% match on all donations made on Wednesday, February 12th – Show Your Support Here!)

Mni - Cheyenne River Reservation

The Mni Restoration Project is focused reversing global climate change by advocating for global watershed restoration. At the local level, their plan is to take action by constructing thousands of small water catchments at all elevations along Reservation streams and watercourses. This will slow rainwater run-off, increase ground water infiltration and capture eroded soils, creating ideal conditions for reforestation and natural plant resurgence. Trees and vegetation will hold the water on the land, direct it into the ground and, through evapo-transpiration, release it back into the atmosphere. Reestablishing the small water cycle allows the moisture to return to these same lands as gentle rainfall and the process repeats. The sacred water cycle upon which all life depends is mended. A balance is attained.


Titukuke Rural Community Development Association (TRCDA) was established in 2001 and registered in 2005 by Gertrude Soko and a few other rural community-based citizens who wanted to identify the options that could help alleviate the numerous social and economic hardships that the rual citizens were facing. The organization started mobilizing communities for health and social change in all areas of human development which saw the establishment of clubs for women, youth and widows as well as the establishment of community schools for children and women. The organization is run using bottom-up approach where by the AGM elects area representatives and board members from among themselves.



Village Earth t-shirts, maps, posters, and more now available on our store at

Check out Village Earth’s store at


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Photo Prints & Posters

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Other Gifts

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Support Village Earth whenever you buy or sell something on

Looking to get rid of those horrible slippers that you got as a Christmas gift from your aunt in Boca Raton? Or maybe you recently upgraded your phone or gaming system and need to clear some space – here’s a great way to get to get rid of that old stuff and benefit Village Earth at the same time. Now with eBay Giving Works, you can list your items and choose a percentage that will go to Village Earth once it’s sold. Not only are you support a good cause, but your item will stand out to buyers with a blue and yellow ribbon logo displayed right next to the item’s title. Charity listings on eBay have up to 30% higher sell through rates then non-Charity items and they sell for between 2-6% higher prices.


Here are some ideas on how you can use eBay Giving Works to support Village Earth. 

  • Host your own charity auction for Village Earth or one of our Global Affiliates
  • Get a tax-deduction for that old clunker vehicle, boat or RV in the driveway.
  • Liquidate the estate of a loved-one who has recently passed away.
  • Clean out that garage or attic.

To start listing items go to:

Be sure to add Village Earth as one of your causes on eBay.

Follow us on eBay



You can also donation directly to Village Earth on the eBay Giving Works site and get this, 100% of your donation will go directly to Village Earth. Another way to put this is that eBay/Paypal will cover all the transaction fees.

Support Village Earth Whenever You Shop (3 Easy Steps)

Set Village Earth as your Amazon Smile charity by going to

Set Village Earth as your Amazon Smile charity by going to

Here’s a great opportunity for anyone making end of year purchases. The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to Village Earth. The purchase price is the amount paid for the item minus any rebates and excluding shipping & handling, gift-wrapping fees, taxes, or service charges. Use it for purchasing textbooks, electronics, gifts and more.

How to Set Village Earth as your Amazon Smile charity. 

  1. Go to com
  2. Login using your existing account info (or create a new account if you don’t already have one).
  3. Search for Village Earth under “Or pick your own charitable organization and select it from the list.
  4. That’s it! Now, When you shop at, you’ll find the same shopping experience as, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to Village Earth!

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Empower Grassroots Organizations With A Year-End Gift to Village Earth

Time is running-out to make your tax-deductible donation count in 2013!

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Village Earth provides strategic, autonomy respecting support to 14 different grassroots organizations like the Forum for Community Change and Development (pictured above).

Village Earth provides strategic, autonomy respecting support to 14 different grassroots organizations like the Forum for Community Change and Development (pictured above)

Make a donation now and not only will you be supporting grassroots organizations around the globe realize their OWN strategies and solutions but as an added bonus, you’ll also get a deduction on your 2013 taxes!

Why donate to Village Earth?
We believe the answer to global/local problems lies in the commitment, passion and creativity local, grassroots organizations. Your donation has a bigger impact when it’s being used by local organizations to carry-out local solutions using local expertise, labor, and materials (rather than being used to support the salaries, travel, and lodging for an expatriate staff). Rather than carrying-out projects ourselves, Village Earth’s Global Affiliate Program empowers grassroots organizations around the globe directly with strategic, autonomy respecting assistance – creating a support structure for them to work with their own communities to realize their own strategies and solutions. Your donation today makes all this possible, providing support without all the “strings” and pre-determined outcomes that come with come grants from foundations and governments.


Use the button above to choose one of our 14 Global Affiliates or select “area of most need” and Village Earth will decide how to allocate your donation to have the greatest impact.


Village Earth Proud to Announce New Partnership with Duke University Continuing Studies

logo_vert_#001A57_lrVillage Earth will now be offering our Sustainable Community Development Certificate Program through Duke University’s Department of Continuing Studies.  We expect that this will be a very fruitful partnership in that Village Earth will bring its world-renowned online sustainable community development training program to the academic excellence of Duke University.  We hope that through this partnership we will be able to reach even more community leaders, development practitioners, and others around the world with an interest in increasing their knowledge and skills in sustainable community development.  Courses through Duke University begin January 17, 2014.

We will be offering the same great five-week courses and numerous specializations to tailor the program to meet participant’s needs and interests.  Our instructors will continue to be the same seasoned professionals who are practitioners in their fields.  An application for admission is not required to enroll in a course or to pursue the Certificate in Sustainable Community Development from Duke University.

Duke University is ranked the #7 university in the United States.  “The university has a strong commitment to applying knowledge in service to society… around the world.”

Village Earth will also continue to offer the Sustainable Community Development Certificate Program through Colorado State University as well.  Visit Village Earth’s Sustainable Community Development online training page for more information about this program including how to enroll.  If you have questions, please contact Village Earth’s Training Director at [email protected].


Choose Village Earth on Colorado Gives Day – Donate on December 10th, 2013

24 Hours to Give Where You Live

CGD 2013_Master (1)

Support Village Earth on Colorado Gives Day!

During this time:On Tuesday, December 10, 2013, Coloradans will come together again to raise millions of dollars for nonprofits like ours. Last year, a remarkable $15.7 million was distributed to Colorado nonprofits. Help us reach our goal to raise $5000 during this 24-hour period.

  •  100 percent of your donation will come to us.
  • When you give online any time on December 10, the value of your donation will be increased by the FirstBank Incentive Fund.
  • Donate online at any time during the 24 hour period of December 10 to “give where you live!”
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Pre-schedule Your Donation Today!
(Your credit card won’t be charged until Dec. 10th)

Greenhouse Gas Levels Break Another Record: Community Adaptive Capacity Critical

According to the UN’s World Meteorological Organization, greenhouse gases are at an all time high for the ninth year in a row.  From effects on food security, human health, and local economies; climate change is causing wide spread implications for many sectors of community development.  One of the most severe needs is to strengthen grassroots adaptation capacity.  As community development practitioners, it essential that we learn the techniques and strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change on communities.

A community’s adaptive capacity is their means of coping with these changes and uncertainties.  The poorest communities tend to be the most vulnerable to these changes.  Communities need to have the knowledge about and understand carbon offsetting and global mitigation schemes such as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) in order to decide whether these are useful mechanisms for their community.

To learn about climate change and community development, check out Village Earth’s newest course Local Communities and Climate Change Mitigation Strategies.  Register online by November 10 by clicking the link.

Meadowlark Jivin Concert to Benefit Village Earth – Friday, Nov. 8th


Meadowlark Jivin will be bringing the soul, funk and that certain je ne sais quoi that they’re known for on Friday November 8 at the Bas Bleu in Fort Collins! The concert will be sponsored by Village Earth and a portion of the proceeds from the event will go towards their efforts to support indigenous organizations worldwide. Also Freedonia Brewery one of N. Colorado’s up and coming breweries will be serving up their award winning German style lagers for the event. With impeccable acoustics, and an intimate setting that puts the music first, the evening will be an auspicious chance to see Meadowlark Jivin in their element.

Reserve Your Ticket Now Online


Price: $12.50

Celebrating a Decade of Online Training

Village Earth (originally through an entity called the International Institute for Sustainable Development), in collaboration with Colorado State University, was one of the first non-governmental organizations to really pioneer online training in the development and humanitarian sectors back in 2003.  Now ten years later, Village Earth’s online Sustainable Community Development Certificate program is one of the premier training programs for development and relief professionals.   Many organizations have sent groups of their staff (“training of trainers”) or program participants through the certificate program such as World Learning, IREX, Academy for Educational Development, Habitat for Humanity, and many more.

“For 26 years, I had worked with an international NGO assigned in several countries but I must admit that despite these years of doing development work, it is only now that I have a deeper understanding of what community-based development should be..”  — Course Participant

Over the ten years our program has evolved and adapted to the changing development landscape to incorporate not only best practices in online training, but also to stay on top of best practices in the field of sustainable community development.  Our courses have always been taught by practitioners in the field who bring with them not only immense academic knowledge but also the wealth of real world, on-the-ground knowledge that only someone with experience in the field could bring.   Our program has grown to now offer twenty-three courses as a part of the online certificate.  Recently, we have also begun to offer specializations for those looking to focus in on a particular subject area such as Economic Development, Natural Resources Management, Political Empowerment, Disaster Relief, Food Security / Agriculture, Participatory Facilitation, and Community Planning and Development.

Although more and more development training programs are coming online, Village Earth’s Sustainable Community Development Certificate stands out above the competition.   Unlike other online course programs that just post information online for student’s to read, our courses are facilitated, interactive, and encourage dialogue amongst our diverse participant body giving the opportunity for development professionals to learn from, discuss and network with other professionals from all over the globe.  To date, we have had participants come through our program from IGOs such as the United Nations to  grassroots community leaders in the most remote corners of the world.  You can see our list of 83 countries from which we have had participants:

1.     Afghanistan

2.     Albania

3.     Armenia

4.     Australia

5.     Austria

6.     Bangladesh

7.     Belgium

8.     Benin

9.     Bosnia-Herzegovina

10.   Brazil

11.   Bulgaria

12.   Burma (Myanmar)

13.   Burundi

14.   Cambodia

15.   Cameroon

16.   Canada

17.   Chad

18.   Colombia

19.   Congo

20.  Denmark

21.   East Timor

22.  Ecuador

23.  Egypt

24.  Ethiopia

25.  Finland

26.  France

27.  Germany

28.  Haiti

29.  Honduras

30.  India

31.   Indonesia

32.  Ireland

33.   Israel

34.  Italy

35.   Jamaica

36.  Japan

37.   Jordan

38.   Kenya

39.  Kiribati

40.  Korea

41.   Kosovo

42.  Kyrgyzstan

43.  Laos

44.  Lebanon

45.  Lesotho

46.  Liberia

47.  Luxembourg

48.  Madagascar

49.  Malta

50.  Mauritania

51.   Mexico

52.  Mongolia

53.   Mozambique

54.  Namibia

55.   Nepal

56.  Netherlands

57.   New Zealand

58.   Nigeria

59.  Norway

60.  Papua New Guinea

61.  Pakistan

62.   Philippines

63.  Qatar

64.  Russia

65.  Serbia

66.  Sierra Leone

67.  Singapore

68.  Slovakia

69.  South Africa

70.  Spain

71.  Sudan

72.   Sweden

73.  Switzerland

74.   Syria

75.  Tanzania

76.   Thailand

77.  Trinidad and Tobago

78.   United Arab Emirates

79.   United Kingdom

80.  United States

81.  Vanuatu

82.   Vietnam

83.  Zambia

Upgrading the Online Certificate Program: New Name & New Specializations!

First, some good news for those enrolled in the Online Certificate Program and those interested in enrolling, the program name is changing to Sustainable Community Development.  Participants who complete four courses will receive a Colorado State University certificate in Sustainable Community Development. Adding the word sustainable will reflect the program’s focus on sustainability as well as empowering, participatory community development. Plus it is a keyword that looks great on your CV or resume.

Second, we are now offering specialized tracks for those who would like their certificate program to focus in on a particular subject area within the field of sustainable community development.  If you choose a specialization it will be noted on your certificate, which again looks great on a CV or resume if you would like to portray specialization in a particular area.  New specialized tracks include:  Participatory Facilitation, Food Security / Agriculture, Disaster Relief, Political Empowerment, Natural Resources Management, Economic Development, and Community Planning and Development.  So the certificate you would receive would be a Certificate in Sustainable Community Development with a specialization in Disaster Relief, for example.  We hope that this will help tailor our program to the meet the needs of the many development professionals who come through our program.  And keep in mind, our general certificate (or create your own track) option is still available allowing you to complete the one required Approaches to Community Development course and three elective courses of your choosing to receive the Certificate in Sustainable Community Development.

Unfortunately, Colorado State University will not reissue new certificates to those who have completed the certificate program in the past before these new changes.   However, past certificate recipients are welcome to take more courses in the program to complete a specialized track and receive the new certificate.

Check out our online certificate program page for more information.

Conflict Resolution an Essential Community Development Skill

Conflict resolution skills will be beneficial at some point in any community development project.  Whether it be resolving disputes between community groups or between the community and outside forces, facilitating a dispute resolution process that is culturally-sensitive will lead to a more sustainable and successful community development process.  However, not many field workers and development practitioners have the necessary skills in community mediation, facilitation, collaborative problem solving, conflict resolution, conflict transformation and even conflict transcendence.  Our online course Community-Driven Dispute Resolution will equip participants with the skills and resources they need to resolve community disputes.  The course instructor, Lee Scharf, has decades of experience working in marginalized communities and culturally-sensitive contexts.  This course has received great reviews from past students and is a highly recommended addition to the Community Development Online Certificate program.

Now registering for Community-Driven Dispute Resolution through March 10.  Course runs March 15 – April 19, 2013.

The Revolution of Proliferating Participatory Methodologies

‘Every moment of business as usual is a lost moment for making change’ (Time to Listen).  I recently read a great article written by Robert Chambers on the Participation, Power, and Social Change blog talking about the great innovations in and proliferation of participatory methodologies.  Many development professionals are coming to realize that we cannot continue with business (top-down development) as usual.  The importance of competent facilitation, self-reflexivity, and listening to and respecting those at the grassroots with whom we work are cornerstones of our Community-Based Development Certificate program and our work.  Through continuous mutual learning in the field our instructors then take what they learn and facilitate our courses in a way that everyone can share and learn from each others’ experiences while keeping up with best practices in bottom-up community development.

The Community-Based Development Certificate course calendar has been scheduled through the end of 2013.  Registration for the Spring Session I of online courses closes end of day Sunday, January 20 so register now to become a part of “the quiet revolution of proliferating Participatory Methodologies”.  Register online:

New Course on Climate Change & Community Development


We have a problem: our planet is heating up due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This is
manifesting in different ways and all around the Earth: weather patterns are changing, desertification is
expanding, sea level is rising, oceans are becoming more acid, and many species are on the brink of
extinction. The levels of human-produced greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increased significantly
since the offset of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s. The global atmospheric concentration of
CO2 increased from a pre-industrial value of about 280ppm to 379ppm in 2005 (IPCC Fourth Assessment
Report, 2007). The average global temperature rose about 0.8 °C higher than its pre-industrial level. In an
effort to mitigate climate change, economists, governments, corporations and environmentalists have
proposed, since early 1990s, the use of ‘offsetting’ mechanisms to help polluting industries to compensate
for their CO2 emissions by either expanding or protecting forests somewhere else. The idea of offsetting
industrial carbon emissions through biological carbon sequestration and storage has been fiercely debated
since it was first proposed. Many NGOs, developing country governments, and local communities oppose
the concept for a variety of reasons. Based on this idea of carbon offsetting, REDD schemes were created.
The idea of REDD was first put on the international agenda at COP 13 in Bali (2007). Some see REDD as
one of the best mechanism to help combat climate change, whereas others remain skeptical to their
efficiency and even see them as dangerous.

This is why Village Earth has begun offering a new course Climate Change and Community Development: the Impact of Carbon Offsetting Schemes.  This course will first run January 25 – March 1, 2013 with registration ending January 20.  Click the link for more information or to register.


Globally, tourism initiatives receive considerable public funding and private investment as a means of economically developing low-income communities. NGOs are taking on a growing role in local tourism initiatives, as well as voluntourism, in hopes of injecting capital into the communities where they work. Amongst proponents, tourism is seen as a mechanism for local communities to capitalize on assets such as the natural environment and cultural heritage. Yet critiques often note that tourism can be destructive, elite and at times oppressive. In light of this critical lens, this course will explore both successful and problematic tourism initiatives. The course will critically examine the nature of tourism, its impacts on communities and considerations that must be taken into account in order for a tourism project to have the desired impact of development without destroying.  The course is now registering through October 14.  Click the link for more information or to register:

Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Hosts Children’s Camps on Pine Ridge

The most natural place for a young Lakota boy to be – on the back of the Sunka Wakan (horse)!

By Ethleen Iron Cloud

The summer has been extremely busy with two cultural spiritual camps that were held in June and July and a children’s cultural camp that was held in July also. Two young men went through the Wicasa Ihuni (Becoming a Man) ceremony at the first part of June. The purpose of the ceremony is for the young men to receive traditional teachings on becoming a man and more specifically, becoming a Lakota man. The young men go through four consecutive nights of Inipi (purification lodge ceremony) with other men who provide teachings, guidance and assist with the preparation for the buffalo hunt they do on the fifth day. During the preparation period, they are asked to make relatives with the spirit of the buffalo they are going to kill so that there will be a spiritual bond between them. The buffalo provides nourishment; sustenance and spiritual teachings for the young man to emulate and these teachings are intended to provide a path for the young man. For example, the Pte Oyate (buffalo nation0 protect their young by placing them in the middle of the herd when danger is imminent. Likewise, the young man is taught that when he has children, he must protect them at all costs. This is a very important teaching given contemporary times and situations where the father is absent is too common.

Covering the Arbor with pine boughs, a neighbor donated the pine boughs from his arbor, so we didn’t have to cut or kill any more trees! The arbor is where some activities took place and where the naming ceremony for the children took place.

The children’s camp was a great success! There were 22 children and their parent/guardians for a total of 45 people participating in the camp on July 17-20, 2012. The children’s camp focused on the ages of 7-10 and those who experienced grief, trauma and major loss. 19 of the children experienced the “wopakinte” (spiritual purification) by Elders, the intent of the ceremony is to provide an opportunity for the children‘s spirit to be wiped with sage which represents medicine for the spiritual wound they carry from the trauma, grief and loss they experienced. The Lakota belief is that only sage and eagle feathers can wipe away the spiritual residue left from the trauma; in this case sage was used. 9 children received a Lakota spirit name which is an important milestone in their lives as the Lakota people believe that the Lakota spiritual name anchors one more solidly to the earth and strengthens the cultural and personal identity. Another healing activity for them was the horseback riding provided by Bamm Brewer who did an excellent presentation and was very patient and kind while teaching the children who did not know how to ride. It was extremely hot during the camp, the temperature exceeded 100 degrees every day. Thankfully, there was a swimming pool for the children and one day Dr. Mark Butterbrodt treated them to the water slides in Rapid City. This camp would not have been possible without the prayers and hard work by all the volunteers as well as the people who donated to this camp. Lila Wopila Tanka (thank you very much)!! The children and their parent/guardian wrote such beautiful words about the camp and that they hope there will be another; one little girl said she had prayed for a camp where “ we sleep in tipis, where everyone loved each other, where we had good food , ride horses and where we went swimming and my prayers were answered”. She seemed amazed that her prayers were answered; her mother commented that the camp was a blessing for her family. It is hoped that we can offer another opportunity like this; we received a request from a neighboring Tribe to have a similar camp for their community. Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to offer such a camp on a regular basis. The ideal situation would be to offer a camp like this on a quarterly basis so that the children can stay connected to an important resource. With the suicide attempts and completions among our young people (there were 2 completed suicides of young men, both age 22 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the first two weeks of August!); a regular and ongoing camp would be an important suicide prevention resource.

Setting up the tipis. Each tipi pole represents a Lakota value or virtue and the cover represents the womb of our mother.

One of the Tipis that the campers stayed in. Ti Ikciye is the proper Lakota term for tipi

The adults participating in the camp also benefited, they participated in Talking Circles, participated in the Inipi (purification lodge) ceremony with their children and had Dr. Larry Burke share his Emotional Freedom Tapping (EFT) approach with them as a response to depression, diabetes management and obesity prevention/intervention. Hmuya Mani (Richard Two Dogs), Lakota Traditional Healer, provided immeasurable help not only in conducting the spiritual ceremonies for the children but he and Tony Bush, a local Porcupine community member and Vietnam Veteran made sure the arbor was covered with pine boughs. Gene Kolaczkowski, Psychotherapist from Gunderson Lutheran in Wisconsin provided great therapeutic activities for the children and Dr. Elizabeth Warson from George Washington University brought some Art students and did art therapy with the children. The volunteers were exceptional – Gina Good Crow, Susan Hawk, Savannah Jensen, Tamara Red Owl, Johnnie Big Crow, Dawn Frank, Jolene Martin, Wilma Kills In Water, Bev Tuttle, Mary Iron Cloud, Santee Baird, Chris Valandra, Brice Valandra, Elder Isaac Last Horse, Stella Iron Cloud, Laura Wilcox, Cindy Giago, Forrest Calhoun, Eugene Giago Jr., Bamm Brewer, Mark Butterbrodt, Yamni Frank, Ed Iron Cloud, Eileen Iron Cloud, Ramona White Plume, Tilda Long Soldier , Elizabeth, the Art Students, Uma, Peter, Gene, Larry and the ladies and gentleman from Gunderson Lutheran who helped with the sewing of the Inipi dresses for the little girls – all truly amazing in their caring and hard work!. I hope I did not forget anyone! All in all, it was a great experience for many; this quote from one of the volunteers says it all:

I will never forget this experience. All of the children were/are so special and unique in their own little way. I saw them experience unconditional love from family, Grandparents, Aunties, Uncles and Community Members. I also saw that for the children whom did not have a sense of identity, they left with a stronger sense of self and who and where they come from.”  

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 Future Events

We hope to start the fencing of the additional pasture so that the buffalo will have more land to graze and roam; and so that the current pasture does not get overgrazed. We hope to be working with Wild Idea Buffalo and their affiliates on this project. 7-8 miles need to be fenced and it will take about a mile a week to complete so the entire project should take about 7-8 weeks. We are also planning an Ista mni Wicakici Pakinta Pi (Wiping of Tears) ceremony for the Porcupine community on Saturday, September 1, 2012. There have been many deaths in the community over the past year and this ceremony is a way to acknowledge the loss, provide comfort through prayer, song, words of encouragement and food. The Lakota belief is that this signifies a way to strengthen fellow community members as they adjust to the absence of their loved one but does not mean it is the end of the mourning period or grieving. Traditionally, Lakota people have a dinner and giveaway upon the one year anniversary of their loved one’s passing. The Wiping of Tears ceremony is the Lakota way of saying “we know you are hurting, here are some encouraging words, food and prayers to help you on your journey without your loved one here on earth”.


Wopila (thank you) to all the people who have contributed to Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Organization, your generosity is most appreciated and have made it possible to continue with our work!

Learning About Our Lands: A Lesson Plan for Youth on The Pine Ridge Reservation

The Pine Ridge Land Information System is a free web-based land information resource for the Pine Ridge Reservation.

This lesson plan, designed for middle and high-school students living on the Pine Ridge Reservation, provides teachers with ideas and procedures for engaging students in learning about their lands using the free web-based Pine Ridge Land Information System (PRLIS). The PRLIS, developed by Village Earth and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Land office with support from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, is an easy to use tool for Lakota land owners to access information about their lands and resources.

The PRLIS makes it possible for anyone with an internet connection to:

  • Search for individually allotted and Tribal owned trust lands using the Tract ID.
  • See a map of the individual 1887 Allotments
  • View, print and share a web link for the boundaries of specific land tracts.
  • View Pine Ridge lands with various base layers including Google and Bing aerial photography, Google and Bing roads, Google and Bing Hybrid, and terrain.
  • View a Landsat TM Image which can be used to assess the management and of lands on Pine Ridge.
  • View a map of the Range Units that are leased across Pine Ridge.
  • View the  Boundaries of the Reservation as defined in the 1851 and 1868 Treaties.

While this lesson plan can be taught on its own, it is recommended that it be used to complement the free “Lessons of Our Land” curriculum developed by the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, which focuses more on the history, culture and current issues pertaining to Indian land. Note: This lesson plan encourages students to research their family’s lands on Pine Ridge. However, for privacy reasons, students should not be required to make information about their family’s land available to the teacher or other students. If students or parents are uncomfortable with this then teachers can assign allotment names and tract ID numbers from the PRLIS for students to use for these assignments so they can still learn how to use the PRLIS.  Later, if they choose, they can use this procedure to research their family’s lands.  


  • Enhanced appreciation for the knowledge held by their elders.
  • Greater sense of hope for one-day being able utilize their lands.
  • Enhanced confidence when talking about their rights and resources.


  • Greater knowledge about lands allotted to their ancestors, the history of those lands, the interests that may or may not remain today and how they are currently being used.
  • Collect oral histories from elders in their family to identify the original allottees and the histories of their lands.
  • Locate and print a map of the original allotments using the Pine Ridge Land Information System (PRLIS)
  • Learn how to request and read a Trust Interest Report
  • Learn how to search for their lands on the PRLIS using the Tract ID numbers located on their Interest Report.
  • Print-out maps of their family’s original allotment and current land holdings.
  • Use the PRLIS to identify how their lands are being used.
  • Go and see their lands in-person to confirm land-use.
  • Understand their rights for accessing and utilizing the lands.
  • Request a chain of title report from the BIA.


Begin with a brief introductory discussion about reservation lands. Below is a sample discussion but feel free to create your own questions? The purpose is to focus attention and engage the students in the topic and issues.

Opening: “Today, we are going to start some exercises that will help us gain a better understanding of our lands here on the Pine Ridge Reservation and introduce us to some tools that will enable us to locate and print out maps of those lands.” However, I would like to learn a more about what you already know when it comes to our lands.

Question 1: “Please raise your hand if your family has an interest in some land here on the reservation?” “How many students don’t know if your family has lands or not?”

Question 2: “Those of you who know you have land, does anyone know where your family’s land is located and what it is being used for?”

Question 3: “Does anyone know what law back in 1887 divided our lands into allotments?” Answer: The General Allotment Act (GAA) also known as the Dawes Severalty Act.

Closing: Over the next couple of weeks, we will learn more about the Dawes Act and the history of the lands that were allotted to our families.

Lesson 1: Researching Our Original Allotments

For this exercise students will research the names of their ancestors who were originally allotted lands on the Pine Ridge Reservation. They will then use the PRLIS to locate and print-out a map of their original allotments.

  1. Instruct students to talk to family members to create a family tree to identify who in their family were originally allotted land under the GAA. Students should do this even if their family doesn’t have any remaining interests of land on the Reservation.  Students should also ask their relatives where the original allotments were located. An approximate  location (“out near Slim Buttes” or “by Wanblee”) is sufficient. Depending on the grade level, they could either return this information as a simple list or formatted written report.
  2. In the computer lab, show students how to use the PRLIS to locate their family’s original allotments.
  3. Go to
  4. Turn on the Original Allotments layer under the “Historical Maps” folder. Note: The layer is only visible when zoomed in at 1:217K or higher.
  5. Have students search the map until they find their family’s allotments. Once found, have them print-out a map using the print button on the PRLIS.

 Discussion Questions

Question 1: Ask students to raise their hands if they were able to locate their family’s original allotments (or one assigned to them).

Question 2: How many of you already knew where these lands were located?

Question 3: How does if feel to see a map of these lands, maybe for the first time?

Question 4: What questions does this raise for you about these lands? (The teacher doesn’t have to know the answer but write these down as possible class research projects).

Future Research Projects

Lesson 2: Researching Our Existing Lands

In this exercise we will learn how to read a Individual Trust Interest ITI Report, locate the Tract ID #’s for our lands, the interest we own in a particular tract of land and then locate them using the PRLIS.

  1. Teachers should download a sample ITI Report from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation’s website at If teachers have access to a LCD projector they can display the report as well as the dynamic pop-up descriptions for each section of the report.
  2. Teachers should walk students through each section of the ITI report. (It’s recommended that teachers familiarize themselves with this document prior presenting it in class).
  3. Pass out copies of the ITI Report in class and have students circle where the Tract ID # is located, where to find the size in acres of that tract, and how to calculate the total number of acres they are allotted using the “FRACTION OF TRACT AS ACQUIRED” (Example: 1/90 x 160 acres = 1.7 acres).
  4. Invite students to request a copy of their ITI Report from their relatives. If their relatives don’t have a copy of their report, they can request one for free from the Office of Special Trustee Toll free (888) 678-6836. Note: The report usually takes 1 to 2 weeks to be delivered.
  5. If students are unable or unwilling to provide a report, teachers should assign tract ID number to them.
  6. In the computer lab, have students search for their Tract ID’s in the PRLIS. Be sure that the “Parcels” layers is turned on. Note: Parcels layer is only visible when zoomed-in at 1:54k or higher. Once found, have them print-out a map using the print button on the PRLIS.
  7. Ask students to report on how the lands are currently being used. The PRLIS provides other layers for researching this. For more information go to

Question 1: Ask students to raise their hands if they were able to locate their family’s current interests (or one assigned to them).

Question 2: How many of you already knew where these lands were located?

Question 3: How many of you are currently living on or utilizing one or more of these lands?

Question 3: How does if feel to see a map of these lands, maybe for the first time?

Question 4: What questions does this raise for you about these lands? (The teacher doesn’t have to know the answer but write these down as possible class research projects).

Future Research Projects

Students can learn about the various options for their lands in the Pine Ridge Strategic Land Planning Map Book at