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Native Sun News: Project brings economic hope to Pine Ridge

The following story was written and reported by Kirk A. Dickerson, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

Nick Tilson, Executive Director of Thunder Valley CDC and Lenny Lone Hill, Construction Trainer at Thunder Valley, assist the youth as they break ground.

The beginning of the end of poverty in Pine Ridge
Thunder Valley Groundbreaking Ceremony
By Kirk A. Dickerson
Native Sun News Staff

SHARPES CORNER –– “Poverty ends today on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation” was the proclamation made by Thunder Valley’s program Director Nick Tilson. As hundreds gathered to celebrate a new beginning of prosperity, Gyassi Ross led the charge as the Master of Ceremonies.

“In these lands that have been forgotten and pushed aside the Non-Native world can learn a very important lesson from Native sustainable living,” stated Ross. “At one time there was only 250,000 Native Americans left, they thought they could wipe us out by killing of the Buffalo but we survived.”

“All of our solutions are right here with women and men to change things” commented Ross. “Go up and speak to an elder and elders speak to the young people, Thunder Valley has reached across and said, ‘we need you and you need us.’”

The documentary film showing President Barack Obama and his feelings and goals towards helping Native Americans backed what Tilson and Gyassi were saying. In the documentary Obama received cheers from the crowd watching the documentary when he stated, “We must address the disparities of the Native nations, we are transforming the Bureau of Indian Affairs to better represent Natives. The Lakota people had a strong sustainable nomadic society. In the end the Indians were conquered and forced on reservations. Policies were created and as a result 48 percent live below the poverty line with over 80 percent unemployment. It is now our time and change in direction.”

“Thunder Valley is being led by the people not the government and is powered spiritually,” stated Tilson. “It’s not about building homes it’s about building people and empowering families to take responsibility for their future. We want to give our people a hand up and not a hand out.”

Designed for a thirty-four acre development, Thunder Valley will also contain retail spaces for local businesses.

The event featured several guest speakers including Dusty LeBeau who had led the Pine Ridge Thorpes to multiple championship victories in his tenure as a coach. “It's been a struggle for all our people but they want this, because it's good for our people.”

Several government dignitaries were invited including Sandy Marlette a representative from Senator John Thune's office.

“We acknowledge and support the leadership of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and without them it would not be possible,” Marlette said. “Best wishes on the continued development of Thunder Valley.”

Senior White House Policy Advisor Katherine Ferguson who represented President Obama informed the audience, “that it takes all of us working together.” The Promise Zone as a key component for the President's initiatives was the theme of her address to the crowd.

Joyce Allen, Deputy Administrator of Agriculture, said she was excited to be at the event.

“I couldn't wait to get up here and tell how much the United States Department of Agriculture wants to be a part of this program," Allen said. "This month we are celebrating self-help projects all over the country. Home ownerships with one percent interest rates are available with the same rate applied to repair home programs.”

Leslie Wheelock from the Oneida Nation Tribal Relations Wolfclaw spoke about $1.9 million dollar grant from the USDA that will help with rural development with streets and utilities and the construction of twelve new homes.

Ben Nicoles presented a $100,000 grant for the financial development and the designing of green standards. “Now you can see good federal dollars go and this is one of them,” stated Nicoles.

Young people were represented at the event as well with a senior student named Janay Jumping Eagle who wrote about suicide prevention on a basketball that went viral. Jumping Eagle was declared Youth Ambassador and was invited to the White House to help address the needs to suicide prevention on the reservation.

“People keep saying I did all this,” stated Tilson, “but that's not true. Young people working here with everyone sacrificing to make this happen. We were not architects and planners and if we didn't know how to do something, we would find someone who knew. Common men and women came together and I'm going to try my hardest to be the best father I can be. I want to thank my kids for sacrificing their time with me. Today is the beginning of the end of poverty in Pine Ridge.”

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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