Notes from the Field: The Lakota Adventure Continues

by Teague Walsh-Felz


It’s September which means two things: First, I’ve now been living in Pine Ridge for two months and am reaching the halfway point of my Lakota Adventure. Second, it means that we are now less than two months away from the opening of the Sacred Earth Lodge (SEL). I’ve been splitting my time between working on the construction and finishing of the Sacred Earth Lodge and working at Solar Warrior Farm. We have been having back to back volunteer weekends, which pretty much eliminates my own weekends while I help manage crews of volunteers. The internet at the compound has been down for almost a month now so my communication has been limited to a weekly trip to the coffee shop.

Life on the Rez picked right back up after returning from a relaxing weekend spent in Sturgis for the bike festival. Immediately, I was thrust back into the swing of things and was working both the garden and working on the Sacred Earth Lodge. Rez life is not for everyone. If you aren’t okay with scabbed and bitten ankles, regular brushes with poison ivy, stinging nettle, spiders, ticks, and plenty of paint fumes then it’s gonna be a rough time here.

septicTwo weeks ago we had our first ever Native American Green Business Development training here at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. It coincided perfectly with a septic problem that required the entire sewage line to be dug up. I spent the first two days of that week digging and searching for breaks in the line with Paul, one of Henry’s regular workers.  We ended up finding two separate breaks in the sewage line, repairing them and then burying them back up. As soon as we finished up that job I got hit by an unfriendly stomach bug that made it impossible to hold down anything I ate. I wont go into much detail about that but while that was going on I facilitated a canning class – another first for us. As part of our Food Security Program, we hosted this course, offered by the amazing Teresa Holbrook. Earlier in the week I met with two women from Colorado Aquaponics and visited a woman’s home garden to give advice. The two women from Colorado Aquaponics gave me advice on getting the greenhouse running. I think I’ll wait to tackle that after the 11th of October.

Keeping the volunteers busy!
Keeping the volunteers busy!

After the business class finished and I got my health back I was at it again. This time networking with a woman in Porcupine who has been running a small greenhouse and garden as a side project from the college to show the financial gains/losses of growing food. I helped her lay 14 foot fence poles in order to create an outdoor chicken coop and gave some advice on planning for next year. When I got back to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center I found one of my bosses, Richard, showing a group of volunteers around. A few more volunteers trickled throughout the weekend (including an old CSU classmate of mine) and we got a lot done at the Sacred Earth Lodge. We are finishing up the electric and getting ready to hook up the toilets, sinks, washer, dryer, and water heaters. We have a little bit of drywall to finish up and a wall to extend before this weekend when another volunteer group shows up.

Solar Warrior FarmTonight I’ll be passing out close to 100 lbs of fresh veggies with Henry. Most of the recipients are local Lakota artists who gather every Wednesday to sell their wares. Last week I did the same with close to 60 lbs of cucumbers and squash. It’s great to sit and talk with different community members about their stories and about their life. The garden has been exploding with cucumbers and squash. The tomatoes are just starting to give red fruits, and the corn is tall and strong. Some stalks are over 10 feet tall. The lettuce is about to be harvested and the onions will be ready soon. The drip irrigation is working wonderfully and there has been plenty of rain for extra growth, which is both a blessing and a curse for me as more rain = more weeds, and there are already plenty of weeds.

All in all there is only more work to be done now, with the deadline approaching for the Sacred Earth Lodge, and bigger harvests just around the corner, I’m surprised I have time to sleep. Officially, I am not expected to work more than 40 hours a week, but how can I expect myself to stick to a standard work week when I can see how much needs to be done and how much I can help?

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Trees, Water & People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to developing sustainable community-based conservation solutions.

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