Riley Lunderman planted the first tomato plant in the garden. She is picture here with Rachel Lindvall. Courtesy photo
Sicangu Community Garden: Healthy Food, Healthy Choice
By Vi Waln
Lakota Country Times correspondent TURTLE CREEK CROSSING – Community members took the first step toward food sovereignty on the Rosebud Reservation and planted a variety of vegetables in a one acre garden. The Sicangu Community Garden is part of the Food Sovereignty Initiative which is under the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO). The garden is also part of the overall Keya Wakpala Green Development Project, an endeavor which is also overseen by REDCO. The Food Sovereignty Initiative will also provide space for local gardeners to sell their produce later this summer. “We hope to eventually provide an area for a community market, which will also allow local artists to set up booths to see their crafts,” stated Wizipan Little Elk, REDCO’s Executive Director. The goal is to have a “shaded, semi-permanent structure for local residents to use.” The market will be located just east of the current Turtle Crossing Super Foods store. The garden is located just northeast of the store. Local residents may have noticed the large fence being constructed for the garden area last week. The Food Sovereignty Initiative provided day labor for local residents to help build the fence. Vegetable and flower plants were graciously donated by the Sinte Gleska University Greenhouse. A variety of seeds were donated by an organization in Colorado.
A view of the Sicangu Community Garden on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Photo from Facebook
“A long term goal is to create our own heirloom seed bank,” stated Little Elk. “This will help us develop seed strains which are GMO [genetically modified organism] free, organic and suited to the soil in this area.” Local residents planted tomatoes, onions, peppers, squash, melons, carrots and radishes. A variety of flower plants, such as marigolds and petunias, were also planted. A meal was served to all who attended. The garden will be maintained by the Food Sovereignty Initiative, local master gardeners and volunteers. The Keya Wakpala Community Garden is one critical facet of the larger Keya Wakpala Food Sovereignty Project on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Its purpose is to improve the overall health and well-being of tribal members by creating opportunities for community members of all ages to get actively involved in growing, harvesting, preserving, and preparing healthy food. Keya Wakpala is the Lakota name for Turtle Creek, the creek that runs through the larger 600-acre, tribally owned property where this community garden is situated. It is located a few miles west of Mission, SD, next to the tribally owned and operated Turtle Creek Crossing Super Foods Market.
The Turtle Creek Crossing Super Foods Market in Mission, South Dakota. Photo from Facebook
This 600-acre site has been designated for a new, resilient community development, the Keya Wakpala Green Development, a project of REDCO, a non-profit, tribally chartered entity of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate (Rosebud Sioux Tribe) working to improve the lives of the tribe’s 32,000 members by promoting economic development and self-sufficiency. The community’s desire for a community garden at the Keya Wakpala Green Development site has been well established. In September of 2013, REDCO conducted a series of community meetings on the reservation to determine the future direction of the Keya Wakpala Green Development. Community members, spiritual leaders, program managers and other tribal leaders were asked to prioritize features and services to be included in the larger development project. In written surveys collected at these meetings, the top four priorities in a long list of options in the “Business” category were food or agriculture related: community garden, grocery store/food co-op, farmers market, and greenhouse, in that order. Community gardens also ranked at the top of the “Site Features” list, second only to solar energy. Eventually, this 600-acre site will incorporate energy-efficient housing, athletic facilities, sports fields, a network of walking, biking and hiking trails, small business incubators, retail, restaurants, and many other businesses and amenities. For more information on the Food Sovereignty Initiative, please call the REDCO office at (605) 856-5090. You can also visit the Sicangu Community Garden on Facebook. Find the award-winning Lakota Country Times on the Internet, Facebook and Twitter.
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