Earth Tipi – Pine Ridge Reservation, USA
Creating accessible, sustainable housing and food sovereignty on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
Earth Tipi evolved between 2010 and 2011 as the result of a family project initiated by Shannon Freed to build a house made from natural and locally sourced materials for her Tankashi (Father In Law) Gerald Weasel. The project involved a collaboration with Conrad Rogmans of House Alive!, a company based in Jacksonville, Oregon. The initial project was simply to construct a cobb house using labor from a summer apprenticeship, invite any enrolled members interested in participating to join free of charge and then share the project with the community through a radio interview and a house unveiling, tour and dinner.
The project expanded from a simple house building project for the family into a community project when Shannon, at the suggestion of a friend, entered a contest to win a community fruit tree orchard. At that time the project was called Sustainable Homestead Designs (SHD). As a condition of entry into the contest, SHD was required to provide proof that the land where the orchard would be hosted was community based. At the time, there was no specific land designated for the community, only the residential lease acquired by Gerald Weasel for the home site.
Goals and Objectives
Earth Tipi’s primary goal is to develop a multitude of concrete, productive initiatives that will provide the resources for training to develop skills needed for: employable work in community business enterprises (gardens/greenhouses, orchards, housing construction, etc.) as well as training in family food gardening/farming and family micro-business enterprises.
Food sovereignty is seen as the vehicle to achieving the long-range desired goal of economic sustainability for the reservation community. The result will be to ultimately create for-profit community business enterprises (possibly structured as part of a co-op business model) as well as individual family micro-business enterprises that will generate self-sustaining revenues and employment. A certain portion of profits from the community enterprises could then be directed to help fund the non-revenue generating housing construction and youth leadership initiatives.
Oglala Lakota people, living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, are living in over crowded conditions with poor nutrition and low access to healthy food. Pine Ridge has been declared a food desert by the United States Department of Agriculture. A food desert is defined as “…parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.” (http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts)