||Oglala Lakota Nation:|
Oyate Omniciyé | Oglala Lakota Plan
In August 2010, a Consortium
of dedicated Oglala Lakota programs and organizations was convened by the Thunder Valley Community Development
Corporation (www.thundervalley.org) of the Pine Ridge
Indian Reservation of southwestern South Dakota to pursue a unique funding opportunity from the newly formed HUD
Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities. By October 2010, this group was awarded nearly a million dollars
in the form of a HUD Sustainable Communities Planning Grant to pursue a path towards creating a Regional Plan for
Sustainable Development for the Oglala Lakota Nation. This was an impressive outcome considering that from across
the United States, over 1000 letters of interest were submitted, over 360 actual proposals were turned in, only
45 grants were awarded and only three had any elements of tribal nations involved. Only one, the region proposed
as the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, is taking on the challenge of defining what "sustainable" means
for an entire Native Nation.
Once the grant was awarded, the project team sought to quickly give the process and the plan a culturally relevant
and meaningful name. After engaging a small group of local Lakota elders about the process and concepts behind
sustainable communities planning, many words were offered from the Lakota language itself. The term and philosophy
Oyate Omniciyé (www.oglalalakotaplan.org) was chosen
for many reasons. In English, this term is supplemented by the phrase "Oglala Lakota Plan" to support
the idea of the task at hand. Oyate Omniciyé was used in the original treaties as a term for important gatherings
of the people. Roughly translated to English, it means "Circle Meetings of the People" with the end
purpose of achieving consensus on important decisions. Thus, the project was bestowed a name reflective of the
intentions for the project to serve the people and strive for agreement in a more appropriate manner.
The project also involves a bold new approach by the federal agencies involved. The HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for
Sustainable Communities (www.sustainablecommunities.gov)
is seeking to promote more streamlined collaboration and support amongst its partner programs. Developing more
sustainable communities is important to strengthening economy, creating good jobs now while providing a foundation
for lasting prosperity, using energy more efficiently to secure energy independence, and protecting our natural
environment and human health. These three federal agencies came together to create the Partnership for
Sustainable Communities to help places around the country develop in more environmentally and economically
sustainable ways. To guide its work, the Partnership developed six livability principles to guide the work
undertaken by the Oyate Omniciyé planning team in collaboration with the Consortium and Steering Committee:
- Provide more transportation choices.
- Promote equitable, affordable housing.
- Enhance economic competitiveness.
- Support existing communities.
- Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment.
- Value communities and neighborhoods.
This funding allowed the participants in the Oyate Omniciyé planning project a unique opportunity to develop
a regional plan for sustainable development, which not only addresses these livability principles, but also
includes climate change adaptation and mitigation planning. There is a very intentional effort to approach
this in a holistic and systems based way. Thus, the overall plan looks at various ways to integrate and empower
the entire community by addressing climate change issues and protecting cultural resources from the impacts
of climate change on the plains of the upper Midwest.
planning effort is being led by the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, a Native American
501(c)3 non-profit public charitable organization based out of the Thunder Valley community of the Porcupine
District on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Their mission is: "Empowering Lakota youth and families
to improve the health, culture and environment of our communities through the healing and strengthening of
For the purposes of the Oyate Omniciyé | Oglala Lakota planning project, Thunder Valley entered into
partnership with one of the U.S. leading green architecture and planning firms, BNIM (www.bnim.com).
This brought together one of the Oglala’s most effective grassroots organizations with one of the most
cutting-edge groups of architects and planners looking at "what's next" in the areas of green design
and transformative sustainable community development. Together this team has been facilitating the right kinds
of dialogue and information exchange so critical to positive forward momentum.
The government and the people of the Region defined by the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation have also been involved
in new ways. The Oyate Omniciyé project brought together various stakeholders from the region in the form of
a Consortium Agreement and the convening of a Steering Committee.
The primary goal of the Consortium Agreement is to outline the roles and responsibilities of members of the
Consortium tasked with supporting the development of a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development (RPSD) to
help guide decisions and create comprehensive, coordinated opportunities for the Region serving the Pine
Ridge Indian Reservation and portions of the counties (Shannon, Jackson and Bennett) primarily inhabited
by Oglala Lakota People. Additionally, this Agreement is intended to help signees better understand the
process being followed to develop and centralize information about the population, needs, concerns, and
ultimately maximize potential for funding opportunities to provide help to any of Region's participants in
furthering their own missions and aspirations. This Agreement also allows signees a forum to outline adequate
safeguards to ensure sensitive information that should remain restricted is protected in a respectful and
Members of the Consortium
are committed to seeking new ways to utilize existing information and inherent strengths in a more interconnected
manner. They seek to set metrics, bring in new opportunities and define measurable and attainable goals as a
means to combat the rampant effects of persistent poverty, disease, violence, drug and alcohol addiction,
suicide, drop-outs, historical trauma, loss of language, housing shortages, economic distress and the other
devastating effects of oppression that have plagued the Lakota People of this Region for far too long.
With a focus on strengthening the Nation's sovereignty, the Consortium reserves the right to consider the
appropriateness of collaboration with state government or an entity established by a state government, a
Council of Governments, rural planning organizations, regional transportation agencies, special districts
(e.g. utility districts), unified school districts, other Indian Tribes, or a multi-tribal organization that
has been delegated authority by member Indian Tribes, additional nonprofit organizations, foundations, and
educational institutions, or any other public authorities, districts, business leadership groups, or regional
governmental organizations. Private and for-profit entities may also become participants in the Consortium.
Additionally, a Steering Committee was brought together to help guide the planning process. The respected
members of this committee represent interests of Oglala Lakota people including elders, youth, teachers,
health care professionals, business owners, and people of varying educational backgrounds. The Steering
Committee is intended to provide a community balance as the majority of Consortium members are comprised of
tribal programs and governmental entities. This group assists in facilitating discussions in public meetings,
gives its input to planning recommendations and acts as extensions of the grassroots public outreach effort.
Support of the Government:
In order to effect change, it is important to receive support from the government of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
Thus, the planning team has worked diligently to engage and involve the various branches and programs of the
Oglala Sioux Tribe (www.oglalalakotanation.org).
On March 21, 2011, OST President John Yellow Bird Steele signed a heartfelt Letter of Support for the Oyate
Omniciyé | Oglala Lakota planning project. He stated, "We have faced many challenges as a people, and
some new ones are yet to come – we face an increase in population, housing shortfalls, rising fuel costs and
witness the increasingly unpredictable and often times costly impacts of climate change. More and more, if
we are to survive and thrive, we must look at what sustainability means to us and plan accordingly. I know
we can do this together, because the Oyate have always been naturals at adapting, striving to plan ahead and
preparing for whatever is next in a good way."
On March 31, 2011, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council passed a resolution placing the health and culture of their
people first and foremost by supporting the Oyate Omniciyé | Oglala Lakota planning project. This signaled
the desire to move forward full force to put together a comprehensive regional plan for sustainable development
that helps the Oglala Lakota identify and streamline solutions to identify and develop mitigation and adaptation
strategies for the climate change issues facing the communities of the Region now and in the future.
In April 2011, the planning team spearheaded the effort to work with OST Tribal Council and OST program
directors to outline the steps needed to roll out a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory Initiative to identify
and streamline what is needed to have a robust climate change program for the Tribe.
Climate changes and impacts
that are already being observed anecdotally and in other research on the Great Plains affecting the Oglala Lakota
Nation are increasing drought and resulting water scarcity; stresses to agriculture, ranching, and natural lands;
and changes in wildlife habitats. Other concerns being reviewed are observed changing precipitation and
temperature patterns, with increases by as much as 20 percent in some parts of the state where Tribal members
reside. In Pine Ridge and other parts of Indian County in South Dakota, the region has become wetter in the
winter with greater changes in the area of the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Some climate change issues the Oglala Lakota Plan may eventually address include impacts on the Nations day-to-day
life, ecosystems, and economy, such as:
- Less snow cover in winter, resulting in less surface water from runoff during the remainder of the
year. This is of concern west of the Missouri River, where most of the reservation population lives and
most people use surface water.
- Ecosystems and wildlife used for subsistence living may become more stressed, and wildlife ranges
may move north.
- Some plants, including plants used for ceremonial purposes, may be so vulnerable changes in the climate
that disappear in certain areas.
- Traditional food crops, such as berries and timpsila, may no longer be available in adequate quantities
on native-held lands.
- Temperature and water impacts will change which crops can be grown in an area.
- Increasing heat in the summer might increase the number of severe storms. In addition to general
destruction, these storms will throw off the timing of crop and forage production. Communities with fewer
resources such as Oglala Lakota communities may be less able to recover from the impacts of the severe
storms. In the winter, more precipitation will fall as rain and less as snow.
- There may be more heat-related deaths. Older members of the tribal population are more susceptible to
heat and will be disproportionately affected. Inadequately insulated buildings, which make up most housing
on reservations, will provide little protection from the heat. Important ceremonial practices such as the
Sundance may be adversely affected by temperature extremes.
Oyate Omniciyé | Oglala Lakota Plan:
The path towards creating a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development began with leaders of the Oglala Sioux
Tribe in March 2011 passing Resolution 11-26XB, to promote and protect the health, welfare and culture of the
Tribe. They affirmed all participants in the Oyate Omniciyé | Oglala Lakota planning process will be working
toward cultural preservation, sustainable development, enhancement of environmental programs, etc., including
climate change adaptation to maintain Tribal lifeways. This journey continues as the planning team hosts
community meetings and interviews with program directors and other stakeholders. Out of this process, a vision
has been developed:
|"It is the vision of the Oglala Lakota to heal from historical injustices
and courageously build healthy, prosperous communities with wisdom, kindness, generosity and respect
for all life, land, water and air. The Oyate (People), especially our Youth, are empowered to lead
the way to this sustainable future while honoring our culture and history through the regeneration
of our Lakota language."
Leaders from the Tribal government, non-profits and communities make clear that this vision represents the
true intentions of the Oglala Lakota and not of the U.S. federal government. The creation of the Oglala Lakota
Plan will be developed to work for the 9 districts and associated 52 communities of the Pine Ridge Indian
Reservation as well as the ecosystems and wildlife in this pristine region. In the implementation phases of
the project, needs and concerns will critically inform policy reform and new projects prioritized in a
manner most appropriate to support the overall vision. Oyate Omniciyé represents in essence a Tribal
partnership program with federal agencies promoting synergy not just between agencies but also between
traditions, tribal ecological knowledge and modern awareness of being Lakota.
The leaders and stakeholders involved with Oyate Omniciyé believe the level of crisis on the reservation
is staggering with daily issues unimaginable to individuals living off the reservation. In the communities
there is often minimal access to safe water and fresh food, which is made even more difficult with climate
change affecting subsistence and traditional foods. The goal of the Oyate Omniciyé | Oglala Lakota planning
project is to embody the voice of the people and to define the Oyate's vision for a future of the Oglala
Lakota Nation that is regenerative, sustainable and more prosperous.
Oglala Plan Implementation and Strategies:
In 2010, the Oglala Sioux Tribe became the first official Tribal member of ICLEI USA–Local Governments for
Sustainability. ICLEI is an association of over 1220 local government members from over 70 countries who
are committed to sustainable development and addressing climate change impacts worldwide. ICLEI represents
more than 569,885,000 people throughout the world, and it provides tools such as assistance with greenhouse
gas emission inventories and a climate change toolkit.
By joining, the Oglala Sioux Tribe made a voluntary pledge to mitigate climate change, seek adaptation
measures, and promote sustainability. The Thunder Valley CDC and Oglala Sioux Tribe then furthered their
collaboration for the Lakota Oyate with the help of ICLEI when the Oyate Omniciyé planning project came
Another joint effort started in the spring of 2011 between several Tribal offices and the Thunder Valley
CDC is the Oglala Sioux Tribal GHG Inventory Initiative. This initiative has a 10-step process, and begins
with a preliminary inventory of energy consumption data that is entered into the ICLEI GHG tool. Next,
a preliminary report will be produced to share with Tribal Council and Tribal agency partners. Finally,
the information will be analyzed and used in outreach to the appropriate agencies such as DOE, NREL, EPA,
NOAA and others to establish funding and technological assistance in implementing the project. Ultimately,
a Climate Action Plan for the Tribe will be developed and included in the overall Oyate Omniciyé | Oglala
As a further
extension of the implementation process, the Oyate Omniciyé planning team organized and co-hosted with
NOAA the first ever Oglala Lakota Nation Climate Change Summit at the National Weather Service Center
in Kansas City, MO. Representatives from NOAA, UCAR, the High Plains Climate Research Center, and the
National Drought Mitigation Center, as well as the South Dakota State Climatologist, attended along with
Tribal leadership, program directors, and key experts from other Tribes. This event provided the basis
and dialogue needed to identify climate change impacts on the Oglala Lakota Nation that need to be addressed.
A larger event will be held on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in early 2012 to involve more stakeholders
and Tribal leadership and to identify the human, governmental, and physical infrastructure needed to
support the Tribe’s efforts to face climate change in an informed and responsive manner.
Lastly, the Oglala Sioux Tribe will look to the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS)
to strengthen its climate change response in the future. NOAA convened a workshop in June 2001 to initiate
a long-term commitment to providing tribes with the drought information and resources needed to better
monitor and respond to inter-annual drought conditions and long-term climate changes. These efforts by
NIDIS are grounded in the commitment to help facilitate and establish long-term partnerships between
tribal constituents and federal agencies, universities, and other entities in order to meet the federal
trust responsibility. In the expanded Oglala Lakota Nation Climate Change Summit planned for early 2012,
the Tribe will take the steps needed to begin developing a Drought Management Plan.
Successes and Challenges:
Since the Oyate Omniciyé planning project formally kicked off in January of 2011, it has been an amazing
journey for the Tribe and its members. Obtaining the funding to begin work on the project and having the
Tribal leaders pass resolutions and write letters of support are successes, as is the development of the
diverse public-private collaborative in the form of the Consortium with the voices of the Steering
Committee committed to providing the people access to the project. Becoming the first Tribal nation to
join ICLEI and to partner with several federal agencies under the mantle of the Sustainable Communities
Planning Program to develop their climate change and sustainability program is clearly another early
However, in a region often forced to operate in "crisis mode", it has been a challenge for the planning
team to access information and get feedback from the tribal programs and the citizens themselves. There
has been some early success with public engagement methods that promote openness and more dialogue rather
than "talking at" people. Regarding climate change, there are challenges in clearly identifying
specific issues. These challenges are being addressed by the planning team and the Tribe during the meetings
with NOAA, UCAR, HPRCC and others, as they develop the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development and
associated Oglala Lakota Climate Action Plan.
Currently, the Oyate Omniciyé | Oglala Lakota Consortium and the Oglala Lakota Nation are partnering with
numerous stakeholders on this project. Tribal programs, organizations and groups involved in the project include:
- Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation and BNIM
- Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) Office of the President
- Pine Ridge Bureau of Indian Affairs
- OST Land Office
- OST Rural Water Supply System
- OST Health Administration
- OST Office of Economic Development
- OST Environmental Protection Program
- OST Natural Resources Regulatory Agency
- Oglala Nation Education Consortium
- Oglala Sioux Parks & Recreation Authority
- Oglala (Sioux) Lakota Housing Authority
- OST Partnership for Housing
- Mazaska Owecaso Otipi Financial
- Lakota Funds
- Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce
- Tusweca Tiospaye
- Native American Natural Foods
- Oglala Cultural and Environmental Revitalization Initiative (OLCERI)
- The Village of Pine Ridge
Additionally, there are a wide variety of public and private partners from outside the boundaries of the
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Some of the key players to date have been HUD, DOT, EPA, USDA and NOAA,
along with the High Plains Regional Climate Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, Enterprise Community Partners,
Supportive Housing Coalition and ICLEI-USA. These organizations are providing guidance, technical assistance,
resources and tools to continue development of the regional plan. As the Oyate Omniciyé | Oglala Lakota
planning project continues, more beneficial partnerships and collaborations are being made.
These partners have encouraged open communications to continue development of this ongoing project for
the sustainability, regeneration and climate change preparedness for the current and future generations
of the Oglala Lakota Nation.
About the Oglala Lakota
The Oglala Lakota are one of the seven bands of the Tetowan (Teton) Lakota and one of the Federally Recognized Tribes that make up the Great Sioux Nation. Many Oglala Sioux Tribal Members live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation located in South Dakota with trust lands off reservation in Nebraska. Most Tribal land is located in Shannon County and Jackson County, South Dakota and an estimated 40,000 people live on roughly 2,700,000 acres. A smaller segment of tribally enrolled membership lives off the reservation in surrounding cities such as Chadron, Rapid City, and others.
The Oglala entered into a treaty of peace with the United States on July 5, 1825, and another treaty on October 28, 1865, prescribing relations with the United State and with other tribes. An important treaty with the Oglala and other tribes made on April 29, 1868, defined the limits of their tribal lands. An agreement, confirming the treaty of 1868, was concluded at Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, September 26, 1876, and was signed on behalf of the Oglala by Red Cloud and other principal men of the tribe, although many still contend this treaty was illegal. In 1906 the Oglala were officially reported to number 6,727, all at Pine Ridge Agency, South Dakota. The current form of government was handed down to the Oglala during the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934. This includes a Tribal Constitution that outlines 2-year term limits for elected officials.
References and Resources:
Oyate Omniciyé | Oglala Lakota Plan: www.oglalalakotaplan.org
Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation: www.thundervalley.org
Oglala Sioux Tribe: www.oglalalakotanation.org
Berkebile Nelson Immenschuh McDowell, Inc. (BNIM) green architects & planners: www.bnim.com
ICLEI-USA Local Governments for Sustainability USA: www.icleiusa.org
Smith, Shelton & Ragona LCC (Legal Counsel to the Project): www.ssr-lawyers.com/
InNative (Performance Measurement & GHG Consulting): www.innative.net/
High Plains Climate Research Center, Lincoln, Nebraska: www.hprcc.unl.edu/index.php
Collins, M., M. Hiza Redsteer, M. Hayes, M. Svoboda, D. Ferguson, R. Pulwarty, D. Kluck, and C, Alvord. 2010. Climate
Change, Drought and Early Warning on Western Native Lands Workshop Report. Report from June 2009 workshop held at Jackson
Lodge, Grand Teton National Park, WY. www.drought.gov/imageserver/NIDIS/workshops/tribal/NIDIS_Jackson_Hole_Report.pdf
High Plains Climate Research Center. 2011. Climate Change on the Prairie: A Basic Guide to Climate Change in the High
Plains Region www.hprcc.unl.edu/publications/files/HighPlainsClimateChangeGuide.pdf
Jarding, L. 2009. Anticipated Impacts from Climate Change in South Dakota.
McNutt, Debra, ed. 2007. Native Peoples: The "Miner’s Canary" of Climate Change Report. Evergreen State College,
Olympia, WA. http://nwindian.evergreen.edu/pdf/climatechangereport.pdf
National Wildlife Federation. 2011. Facing the Storm: Indian Tribes, Climate-Induced Weather Extremes, and the Future
for Indian Country. www.nwf.org/~/media/PDFs/Global%20Warming/Reports/NWF_TribalLandsExtremeWeather_FINAL.ashx
Scott Moore, AIA NCARBProject CoordinatorThunder Valley CDC / BNIM
Regional Climate Service Director
NOAA, Central Region Climate Services
Region 2, Member Support and Training
ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability USA
Photos in this profile are courtesy of Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation.
Jennifer Youngblood, National Tribal Environmental Council, and Scott Moore, BNIM, developed this profile for
the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, Northern Arizona University.
The profile is available on the Tribes & Climate Change website:
tribal climate change profiles featured on the website are intended to be a pathway to increasing knowledge
among tribal and non-tribal organizations interested in learning about climate change mitigation and
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