South Dakota USDA Rural Development State Director Elsie Meeks joined the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation (CDC), and other consortium members recently on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of southwestern South Dakota to discuss next steps for the Oyate Omniciye | Oglala Lakota Plan. The regional planning process and the collaboration of a broad cross-section of regional stakeholders have created a regional plan for sustainable development and acts as a tool to begin implementation. One of the 12 initiatives identified in the Plan includes the creation of a Regional Planning Office. State Director Meeks attended the recent consortium meeting regarding the Regional Planning Office, stating “The planning team assembled by Thunder Valley CDC and diverse membership of the consortium have created a framework for sustainability; a regional plan that will allow for a coordination of resources and support.”
Guided by a vision to ‘courageously build healthy, prosperous communities with wisdom, kindness, generosity, and respect for all life, land, water and air’, the Oglala-led non-profit Thunder Valley CDC based out of the Porcupine District of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, and consortium members are wrapping up on a two year journey which started with funding by a Sustainable Communities Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Sustainable Housing & Communities.
This regional sustainability planning project began with many conversations and meetings as well as countless data collection and interviews. There was unprecedented collaboration between consortium members, local non-profits, businesses, state, and federal partners. Roughly translated, Oyate Omniciye means “The Circle Meetings of the People”. “Oyate” includes all living beings and “Omniciye” signifies a call to meet on very important things to be considered. Nick Tilsen, Thunder Valley CDC Executive Director, stated “Through this planning process, we have together identified opportunities to overcome many obstacles. We have laid out steps that have the potential to lead to a stronger nation, by honoring our culture and history with the revitalization of our Lakota language. We have shown we are strongest when thinking and acting together.”
Mr. Tilsen was recently mentioned in President Obama’s address at the White House Tribal Nations Summit held in Washington D.C. President Obama said, “Day by day, family by family, community by community, Nick and his non-profit have helped inspire a new beginning for Pine Ridge.”
Shelley Poticha, Director of the HUD Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, has been a federal partner for Thunder Valley CDC and remarks on the journey, “In just a short time they have taken hold of what could be seen as insurmountable challenges and turned them into opportunities and symbols of hope for the future. They have listened very carefully to the words of the people around them and directed tremendous energy to carefully craft a vision that serves as both a rallying point and as a roadmap.”
The HUD Sustainable Communities Planning grant has offered a wonderful opportunity for collaboration and partnership between tribal agencies, federal agencies, non-profits, planning experts, and the Oglala people. Federal partners also known as the “League of Federal Friends” include HUD, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, The Department of Interior/Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Indian Health Service and USDA.
For more information regarding the Oyate Omniciye’ Oglala Lakota Plan click here: http://www.oglalalakotaplan.org/2012/05/23/final-draft-of-oyate-omniciye-oglala-lakota-plan/.