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Permablitz for Pine Ridge Reservation 2013's video poster

Planting healthy, useful trees, fruit trees and vegetables and creating clean water supply for Lakota at Pine Ridge reservation. Read more

Pine Ridge, SD Food
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This project was successfully funded on May 14, 2013.

Planting healthy, useful trees, fruit trees and vegetables and creating clean water supply for Lakota at Pine Ridge reservation.

Pine Ridge, SD Food
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About this project

We have an offer to match whatever we raise on this project! We have so many needs, and this could enable us to get so much done here. So please, consider donating any amount to drive things beyond our target! - we want to buy a tin roof for a straw bale building that needs this roof in order to create a large shelter that can be used as classroom, intern housing,, machine shop, factory to build rocket stoves to save lives, and much more. There is so much we can do with funding, that will affect the next seven generations!  We designed a green house last night that will cost $500 and can be easily replicated, using mostly repurposed materials, on the reservation. We could build it  now, and test it this year so we could expand out next year. We are creating water catchment for canyons, also using repurposed material, to create abundant wild food and clean water for future generations; we want to fix up a bus we got donated as a library - there is none on the reservation. We have how-to books on alternative energy, gardening, food forestry, natural building, etc, donated and many other books donated and we want to get them out to the people in every corner of the reservation. Please spread the news and help us drive the funding up!  

We have been given more than 500 trees to plant at the Pine Ridge Lakota reservation this May by the National Wildlife Federation.  We need irrigation equipment and other resources to make this happen!  We want to ensure every one of these trees survives. What makes these trees even more special is that many of them produce food - fruit, nuts and even the leaves of some trees are edible and delicious.  

We are permaculture designers. Permaculture is short for "permanent agriculture" or "permanent culture" and we work with nature to create abundance for all living things. One thing we do is "barn raising" called "permablitzing" where a bunch of us will get together and do something for our neighbors. So we're going to Pine Ridge to plant 500 trees, create some sustainable water systems, fix up some shelter and other things. We have 9 volunteers carpooling from Florida, bringing plants, equipment and lots of experience (most are permaculture designers, some of specialty skill sets that will be very useful). We have other volunteers coming from the midwest. We are ready to get a lot done.

The weather is very harsh on the prairie plateau - getting to 115F in summertime and -50 below wind chill in the winter. It sometimes freezes in June or August, and pretty often in May or September. The winds are very drying and storms can be violent. Trees can bring a lot of protection and relief to the people of PIne Ridge reservation - whose housing is often substandard. Anyone who has sat under a cottonwood or ponderosa pine in summer or during cold winds of winter knows how good a tree can feel. These trees also protect food supply for the Lakota. Some have started gardens, others would like to plant fruit trees. The protection of windbreak trees makes a huge difference to yield and survival of gardens and food forests.

The need for fresh food is severe. More than 1/2 of adults suffer from diabetes. The average Lakota male dies before he is 50 years old. Infant mortality is 3 times what it is in most of the United States. The nearest organic food is more than 100 miles away in Rapid City for many Lakota on the reservation. Unemployment hits 80% or more so organic food is out of price range for many. They need to grow their own. 

This project is a project for seven generations of Lakota. We are planting trees that will be fruiting and abundant 200 years from now - some of them for much longer. And we will be sharing knowledge of how to do that successfully with the Lakota so they can create what they want. 

We will plant cottonwoods, which are the sacred tree of the Lakota, used in sacred ceremony;  the cedar, which is also sacred and medicinal; ponderosa pine, which brings warmth and protection from winter wind, and coolness in the summer, and linden, which has deliciously edible leaves that taste like lettuce. The linden is not only a beautiful shade tree, but it offers a significant long term food supply once established - a fresh green that is in very short supply at Pine Ridge. These trees will protect the more delicate fruit trees that we will plant and provide a microclimate that will help keep them safe even in the harshest weather. These trees also have medicinal qualities that can be an income source or healer for the people. For instance, linden flowers are respected for many healing qualities and many herbalists will purchase them. We disseminate this information along with the trees and help make those connections if that is needed. 

We will create demonstrations of a number of drylands watering techniques that conserve water and encourage tree health and strength.  We will share these developments with donors, as we go. One of our locations is an experimental location and we will push the envelope there with a handful of trees; seeing how we can help them to survive in even the most harsh condtions - giving them every weapon and chance that they have to survive on their own, because when we find what works best, this will make it much easier to plant more of these life giving trees faster on the rez. 

This year, we will also plant more fruit and nut trees and will fortify, feed and care for our existing tree systems and food forests that we have planted there. 

We will install beehives, we will complete the pond that we started last year, and if we get enough funding, will install rain catchment and gutter systems.

We could use more tools - there are some there but we could distribute whatever number we get - there is much need and demand! People want to grow things and have that access to fresh food. And a tool like a wheelbarrow makes the work so much easier and confrontable!  We want enough broadforks to give to all the projects we work at - opening up the soil is key in getting things to take root and take off. 

We would very much like to do some repairs on some buildings at one site, where the volunteers mostly stay. Because the weather can be so harsh, housing really helps. If volunteers had decent housing, more would come, and they would stay longer. They would come earlier and later in the season, when key actions can be taken to prepare soils and systems sustainably and naturally (with fodder radishes, etc) for trees and food systems. This can make a huge difference to the speed at which this project moves forward.  We can fix up a double wide trailer for $3000 to make it livable. We can make it a place to shelter from wind and rain for less than that. 

We have budgeted to complete the tree planting project with bare minimum resources for $2000. That will mean some of the trees irrigated, some using drylands techniques. If we go over target, we can do the following:

1. Bring much more organic material onto the sites. This will enable us to establish systems suitable and supportive of fruit trees much faster, so that we can install many more trees next year and they will establish and grow faster. We need 180 tons on three sites which will cost $2000 to move in a 16 ton truck (what we have available - we pay a Lakota to do this). This material gives us a jump start to set up permanent systems that will continue to produce their own material. 

2. Pay a Lakota to prepare beds for planting cover crop and set up irrigation to get it going. The season is very late this year because of late snows and we need irrigation to ensure survival of a cover crop. This same irrigation will then be used to establish fruit trees. $1000 per site (sites already have some irrigation which we would expand).

2. Get more tools, such as wheelbarrows, broadforks and scythes which are essential for what we do (establishing great organic material mix on site). $500

3. Finish repairing the shelter so that volunteers can stay here. $3000

We will use any amount over the basic amount toward one or more of the above projects. We are carefully considering how to spend every penny and looking for ways to create income for Lakota as well as future income and self-sufficiency. All of us are volunteers, and some of the volunteers are Native American as well (some from Pine Ridge reservation, some from outside the rez). 

Every step of the way, we have asked people what they need and want, the most. We have spent quite a bit of time observing the land, the native plants, and the people - both habits and what people enjoy doing. 

The organizations we're working with are:

Oglala-Lakota Cultural and Economic Revitalization Initiative or OLCERI, since 2006.  We have delivered two Permaculture Design Courses there, and the ranch is being being transformed into an experimental and demonstration permaculture  site. There is broad scale water catchment, a garden area with good soils that we created, contour, beginnings of a food forest, a wild horse ranch that incorporates cultural healing, wind towers, a sustainable saw mill, and many other projects planned. 

Pine Ridge jail - Last year, we planted fruit trees and fruit bushes and assisted in establishing a vegetable garden as an educational/vocational program for inmates, who helped  us to plant. This year, we want to plant more trees there and we will eventually have a full food forest there from which inmates can learn to produce their own food.

Thunder Valley - This group's purpose is also to create sustainability on the reservation. They work on the other side of the reservation and have created a plan for a fully off grid intentional community of Lakota. Last year, we planted the first phase of a food forest there, and will be planting more fruit trees and windbreaks. They recently started to build a straw bale greenhouse and have plans for much more. 

Earth Tipi - This permaculture demonstration site includes a hand built cob house, two gardens, a developing food forest and other features. We will provide wind breaks to protect the shelters, gardens and food forests. 

There are several other organizations and individuals that have approached us, desirous of trees for their project. We would like to meet the needs of all who ask!  We are here for the long term.

Why are we doing this project? 

We feel that giving back to people who have given us so much wisdom is very appropriate. We can think of no people more worthy to be sovereign and self-reliant, and food, water, shelter and energy are core aspects of achieving that end. We are addressing all of these aspects, but focused on getting tree systems in as an important element upon which other elements will build. Trees are the life blood of many things - they protect, they feed, they provide shelter and energy.  We are carefully selecting trees that are tough and can survive in that climate, but also provide multiple functions; that can survive a harvesting of wood, for instance, and come back even stronger the next year (like honey locust). 

We respect the Lakota culture and are choosing trees that have meaning to the people, and food that they like, or want to find out more about. 

We need your help!  We need to plant 500 trees in the month of May. We need equipment, fuel, truck rental to haul organic material, and irrigation. 

We are permaculture ("permanent culture") designers, so we are always thinking about how we can create multiple opportunities from each action that we take, thereby creating the biggest positive effect possible for the funds we are given. We also recycle and repurpose from the waste stream, getting many things free (like our soil, which we are making from manure and other organic material we get on the reservation - we're sourcing materials for the shelter that way, etc). 

If we go beyond target, your generosity will allow us to do even more than plant 500 trees. There is so much that is needed!  Tools, shelter, greenhouses, there are many things we can do to create infrastructure that will in turn create opportunities. We can set up infrastructure that will allow us to do even more next year. There is so much need. But there is also so much beauty there - Lakota pride, strength, and wisdom. We are there because our own liberation is bound up with the Lakota, and all other people.  Mitakuye Oyasin. Thank you for your generous donation. 

Risks and challenges

Risks and challenges abound on the reservation. Severe weather is a major factor. We choose trees that have proven themselves in this climate and then give them further protection, creating whole systems around their root zones and ensuring they receive deep watering that creates healthy, robust root systems.

We have a volunteer network that can go and check up on the trees during the year. And perhaps most importance, we have resilience. We have committed to this project for the long haul. We will go back until we get it right and some real independence has been achieved.

We need your help to pull this off and hope you will consider any size donation! Just press the donation button now and follow instructions!

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  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    27 backers

    At this support level, you will receive our e-mail newsletter with updates on the project. The newsletter will include pictures, information about our progress and details about the design. This is a great way to show your support and stay involved as the project develops.

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    Pledge $25 or more

    30 backers

    You will receive our email newsletter and a certificate to indicate that you have planted a tree at Pine Ridge reservation.

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    Pledge $100 or more

    6 backers

    You will receive earlier awards and a sage bundle from sage gathered at Pine Ridge reservation, in season.

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    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $300 or more

    3 backers

    You will receive the above rewards and a handcrafted piece of art from a Lakota on Pine Ridge (you will be given a selection)

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  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    0 backers

    You will receive the above awards, plus a lesson with an expert Lakota horseman and a Lakota horse, plus a dinner and visit with one of our hosts at Pine Ridge reservation, or a handmade quilt made by a Lakota (you will need to pay for your own travel if you choose an in person reward)

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    Pledge $5,000 or more

    0 backers

    You are enabling us to make significant strides forward toward resiliency for Pine Ridge. You will receive all of the above, plus an entire food forest dedicated in your name.

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Funding period

- (12 days)