September 3, 2019

A Path to Opportunity for Rosebud Sioux Reservation

Rosebud Sioux Reservation

Last month I joined the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) and the Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative (SNCC) team for their Conceptual Housing Design Workshop. The two-day workshop focused on the design of manufactured housing units for the Keya Wakpala Green Development on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. While driving to the southwestern side of South Dakota, where the workshop was held, I gazed in awe at South Dakota’s countryside from its badlands, black hills and acres of glowing rolling hills and plains.

Along the way, I also got to pass through a piece of our American history, a Native American reservation. Not aware of the extent of Indian Country’s challenges and the tribe’s invisible suffering, I came to this site visit with other assumptions. While sitting in on conversations during the workshop, I learned that the men, women and children living in these remote rural areas experience a high rate of homelessness and poverty.
Like so many other reservations across the country, Rosebud faces social, economic and educational hardship. According to 2014 census data, nearly 40 percent of the population was under the poverty line, with more than half the population at or below 30 percent of area median income (AMI). A quarter more were between 30-80 percent of AMI, and there was a documented housing shortage of more than 500 homes. Despite these hardships, reservation members have a rich history and vibrant culture and are working together to build a resilient, sustainable community.

Preserving Traditions

REDCO recently welcomed their first Rose Fellow, Alicia Ginsberg (pictured), who will support the Keya Wakpala Green Development, a 590-acre resilient and sustainable development that will provide mixed-income housing, retail frontage, office space and cultural spaces on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. SNCC will help REDCO and community members create a prototype housing design preserves their culture, traditions and values, while also making homes sustainable, safe, healthy and affordable.

Factors taking into account in designing these homes include climate resilience, food sovereignty, education, cross community interaction, and inside and outside connections.

By being a part of the conversations between tribal members of the community and members of this cohort, I’ve learned that tribal members want the value of their homes to be in place for the next seven generations. As they craft the design of these prototype homes, they seek connections to their culture and values and a place for healing and kinship.

Steady Support For Sustainable Communities

Enterprise has supported REDCO’s predevelopment work since 2013. Section 4 funds have enabled REDCO to hire staff experienced in community development to get the Keya Wakpala Development moving forward. The hiring of their first Rose Fellow has been an immediate asset to the Keya Wakpala team.

Alicia Ginsburg will enable REDCO to continue their incremental progress toward launching the Sicangu Community Development Corporation to build strong and sustainable infrastructure to provide programs and services that will have the greatest community impact.

In 2018, REDCO attended Enterprise's 9th Annual Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute, where they joined other developers and designers to learn how they can tackle some of the nations most challenging development scenarios, while expanding positive outcomes for residents and surrounding communities.

Collaborations like the Conceptual Housing Design Workshop and the design leadership institute are a reminder that Enterprises on the ground work and technical assistance will harness the power that our stakeholders and partners have to rebuild their communities, that will have an impact on the lives of hundreds of residents and thousands of community members.

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