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Lakota Country Times: Initiative targets housing at Pine Ridge

The Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation is based on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo from Twitter

Thunder Valley CDC continues efforts on Pine Ridge
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

THUNDER VALLEY— The complexities of building a sustainable and culturally appropriate community from the ground up are enormous. Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, however, has adapted to the challenge facing them as they have diversified their approach to community building.

Like many other parts of the country, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is currently in the midst of a long-term housing crisis. With affordable housing often unavailable to residents of the reservation, many are being forced to cram multiple families in to single family dwellings or leave the reservation entirely to find a home.

One organization operating on Pine Ridge has aggressively pushed forward with an agenda intended to innovate the way communities are built in Indian Country.

As part of a partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. (Enterprise), Thunder Valley CDC will host Kaziah Haviland, an emerging young architect, to help the CDC move forward with the creation of the Thunder Valley Regenerative Community. Haviland is one of six emerging young architects who were selected for this year’s class of Enterprise Rose Architectural fellows.

“The Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship helps transform the entire affordable housing and community development industry by cultivating the next generation of architects committed to social good,” said Katie Swenson, vice president, Design Initiatives, Enterprise. “The fellowship pairs the best young designers with local organizations to create communities that are not just affordable, but also sustainable and well-designed, providing access to jobs, good schools, transit and health care.”

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Haviland comes to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with an abundance of accolades and experience as she is a SEED-certified architect, who holds degrees from Connecticut College and the University of Texas. Additionally, she has received a Design Excellence Award in 2012 from the University of Texas and is the co-founder of Texas Impact Design, a student group focused on public interest design work. She became a LEED Green Associate in 2015. Major supporters of Enterprise’s National Design Initiatives include The Barr Foundation; Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; The Fetzer Institute; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; The George Gund Foundation; The Kendeda Fund; The Kresge Foundation; The McKnight Foundation; The Autodesk Foundation; Wells Fargo; University of Minnesota Foundation Real Estate Advisors; Frederick P. & Sandra P. Rose Foundation; Jonathan Rose; and Surdna Foundation.

According to Thunder Valley CEO Nick Tilsen, when completed, Thunder Valley hopes to have a fully functioning municipality that will integrate housing, social services, commercial space and light industrial buildings into a holistic model for tribal community development and the future of Lakota architecture.

The three-year fellowship has partnered many emerging designers with community developers to support project similar to Thunder Valley across the United States. According to data provided by Enterprise Community there have been a total of 62 fellows who have used the program to help produce or rehabilitate 10,567 affordable, green homes and design more than 80 community spaces that meet specific local needs.

Enterprise works with partners nationwide to build opportunity and over the last 30 years has created nearly 340,000 homes, invested $18.6 billion in to communities across the nation.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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