Friday, August 19, 2011
The Lakota Warrior Spirit in the 21st Century
As you all know we were working for Re-Member while we were on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and it was absolutely great! We made a lot of friends and fell in love with the Rez and the Lakota people and their cause. Plus we had a great visit by my parents from Maryland and we were able to show them the Rez plus take them to the Oglala Lakota Nation Wacipi (Pow Wow).
While we were there we made friends with Henry Red Cloud (and pretty much the whole Red Cloud family). Henry is a 5th generation Red Cloud, you may have heard of Red Cloud, he was a warrior and statesman for the Lakota as the U.S. government was closing in on their lands. Henry is a 21st century Lakota warrior fighting on the front lines for Lakota and all of Indian country to be self-sufficient on the earth through renewable energy. Henry owns and operates Lakota Solar Enterprises, which helps produced solar hot air heaters, which help keep homes warm during the cold winters on the open plains all through the power of the sun. Henry goes throughout Indian country to teach other reservations how to build these. There are now 700 on the Pine Ridge Reservation and Re-Member has one for their office.
Henry convinced us to stay on the Rez for an extra week and help out with the building of a straw bail house, which he hopes to help with the housing shortage on the rez and throughout Indian country. Man am I glad he convinced us!
So what is a straw bail house? It's a very inexpensive house that is made of straw, covered with mud, a roof and it is circular, like a tipi. Plenty of straw bail houses have been standing around the world for hundreds of years. Inside it stays cool during the summer and warm during the winter. Similar to how the tipis worked when the Lakota lived as hunters, gathers and roamed on the open plains. This is not only an effort to bring housing to the Lakota but to help maintain and bring back the strong culture they have and a connection to Mother Earth. It would only cost $2,500 to buy one.
So our goal was to build this prototype straw bail house in a week. People came from near and far to help out with this. Their were volunteers from the organization, Trees, Water & People, based out of Fort Collins, CO, Re-Member volunteers came everyday to help out. Last but definitely not least, their was a group of people from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. Henry knew this group from when he went up their to train them how to build the solar hot air heaters. When I met the Cheyenne, I couldn't help but think the Lakota and Cheyenne are working together again like at the Battle of Little Bighorn, where they killed Custer and his 7th Calvary. They hope to bring everything they learned back to their reservation, who are facing much of the same issues as Pine Ridge.
It was an amazing community experience where everyone was helping out and coming up with ideas. Yes this was Henry's idea, well it was actually his Dad's, but it didn't seem like anyone was in charge. Everyone pitched in and this is how it could be in Indian country bringing back the communal spirit with the idea of self-determination and self sufficiency.
This was truly inspiring because this was a dream of Henry's Dad and he is making it real and it will help the Lakota and the idea is coming from the Lakota. This works hand in hand with the idea of nationhood and self-determination that Indian reservations deserve. The renewable energy revolution is and should be lead by our Indigenous bothers and sisters as they are the most affected by climate change and we can learn a lot from a community that prays to mother earth. We need to listen, learn and work with them for a sustainable future on this planet.
Our experience on the Rez for 5 weeks was truly life changing and cannot be captured in a blog post, so if you want to learn more, talk to us. We will be back this coming winter and hopefully the spring and summer too!!!
After that week we biked through the beautiful Black Hills and we are currently in Gillette, WY resting before we head towards Yellowstone.
Onward and Upward (literally up the mountain!)