USDA Rural Development has a long history of collaboration with the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. I’ve seen the power of these collaborations first-hand, both in my current role as Under Secretary for Rural Development, as well back in the 1990s when I had the opportunity to serve as Rural Development’s State Director in South Dakota.
I recently returned to the tribe’s Pine Ridge Reservation, accompanied by twelve Midwestern USDA Rural Development state directors. We traveled across the reservation, seeing both cultural landmarks and projects that have been impacted by USDA.
For example, we saw the SuAnne Big Crow Boys & Girls Club, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary. The 30,000 square foot, $6 million community-based facility includes the largest nearby library on the reservation and was funded, in part, by a Rural Development Community Facilities Grant.
We also toured the Red Cloud Indian School, where USDA’s impact is visible in nearly all parts of the campus: the high school that’s now home to state-of-the-art science laboratories, Lakota language classrooms and a renovated library. Formerly known as “trailer row,” dilapidated trailers have been replaced by efficient housing units that provide homes to faculty who move to the reservation from across the country to teach at Red Cloud.
Since 1999, Red Cloud School has had 57 students receive the prestigious ”Gates Millennium Scholarship,” including four in 2012. That scholarship pays all future college and graduate school tuition costs. No other school has had that level of success.
And finally, we toured the construction site that will soon become the new administrative headquarters of the Oglala Sioux (Lakota) Housing Authority. $3.625 million in funding for the project comes from USDA Rural Development through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The new 13,500 square-feet “green” building with an attached paved parking area will offer expanded services the existing facility cannot accommodate. It will also be energy efficient. The Authority manages more than 1,600 low income rental units and 500 homeownership units. It serves the more than 28,000 people who live on the reservation.
“After years of needing an adequate building that will allow us to put our operation under one roof we are delighted to have the opportunity to build our new building,” said Paul Iron Cloud.