The Red Cloud Indian School is located about five miles north of Pine Ridge, South Dakota. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Shannon County are often listed as being among the poorest areas in this Nation. Within this Third World environment the school provides a safe learning environment for Native American students. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that President Obama signed into law in February will help provide a much-needed economic boost to this rural area. Recently, I joined Area Director Tim Potts to present the School with federal funds totaling $941,000. The money will be used to provide teacher housing, a new heating and cooling system and a sewer lift station at the school. The money is a combination of Recovery Act funds and dollars from USDA Rural Development’s standard allocation to South Dakota.
The new teacher housing will help Red Cloud Indian School recruit and retain qualified teachers. Five units of Governor’s Housing from the South Dakota Housing Development Authority will be acquired with three of the 1,200 square feet homes to be placed on permanent foundations at the Red Cloud Indian School campus near Pine Ridge and two units to be placed at the Our Lady of Lourdes elementary campus near Porcupine, South Dakota. These homes will replace the 1970’s era trailer homes that are not handicapped accessible and in some cases leak very badly and do not provide a safe living environment.
In addition, the upgrades made to the sewer lift station will assist in the creation of a cleaner, healthier environment for the Lakota students and, through a combination of USDA Rural Development loan and grant funds, along with matching funds from the applicant and private funds, the heating and cooling system at the school will be upgraded with an energy-efficient system. The present heating system at the school is an old coal boiler that was altered to burn oil. With the installation of the new system the school expects to save 50-65 percent of the annual heating costs in the high school building. In addition, this new system will allow the school to have air conditioning.
Bob Brave Heart, Sr., Superintendant of Schools told me that with the new housing, heating and sewer improvements the school will be able to continue to recruit teachers from across the region to share their knowledge and expertise with the students that fill the classrooms. And, these students will have a healthy, safe place to learn and grow because of these funds.
By South Dakota USDA Rural Development State Director Elsie M. Meeks