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A row of homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
On June 22, the Oglala Lakota Community on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new sustainable and energy-self-sufficient community conceived and championed by the people who live there. At the ceremony, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) joined other federal, state, and tribal leaders to announce that USDA Rural Development is awarding $1.97 million to Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation (CDC) for a community center for the project, which in later phases will incorporate single- and multi-family housing, a small farm, an aquaponics greenhouse, a grocery store, powwow grounds, a youth center, a workforce development center, and more.
"The lack of affordable housing and non-existent or crumbling infrastructure has locked too many tribal communities in a cycle that makes economic opportunity nearly impossible." said Leslie Wheelock, Director of the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Office of Tribal Relations. "With creative public-private partnerships and smart investments like the Regenerative Community and critical housing and supporting infrastructure, we can break that cycle. This will be another example of how targeted, place-based, community economic development can work and another demonstration of the Obama Administration's commitment to the future of Indian Country."
In addition to USDA Rural Development, other investment partners include the Sustainable Home Ownership Project, Enterprise Community Partners, the Northwest Area Foundation, and the Bush Foundation. Thunder Valley CDC will manage the Regenerative Community in cooperation with other community partners and key local, tribal, and regional organizations, and will take a holistic approach to addressing the community's most challenging issues. The USDA's investment in Pine Ridge is part of the Obama Administration's Commitment to Indian Country and the Promise Zone Initiative.
In April 2015, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation was one of eight newly designated Promise Zones by the Obama Administration. Promise Zones are high-poverty communities where the federal government partners with local leaders to increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities, leverage private investment, reduce violent crime, enhance public health, and address other community-identified priorities. All Promise Zones receive priority access to federal investments that further their strategic plans, federal staff on the ground to help them implement their goals, and five full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members to recruit and manage volunteers and strengthen the capacity of the Promise Zone initiatives.
Third Round of Promise Zones Competition Coming Soon
A competition to select a third round of Promise Zones will commence later this year. This summer, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will publish a notice in the Federal Register requesting public comment on the proposed selection process, criteria, and submissions for the final round of the Promise Zones initiative. This notice will provide urban, rural, and tribal communities the opportunity to help shape the third round application guide and efforts to support other communities more effectively in future years.
Learn more about the USDA award for the Regenerative Community on the Pine Ridge Reservation.