aboriginal group will transform a former alcohol hostel into a healing center | South Dakota News

By RICHARD TWO BULLS, South Dakota Public Broadcasting

VERMILLION, SD (AP) — Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation wants to change the narrative of the small, unincorporated border town of Whiteclay, Nebraska.

The small town’s four liquor stores have left a decades-long scar on the residents of the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the lands that once belonged to them.

Liquor stores were selling 4 million cans of beer a year, mostly profiting tribal citizens just two miles to the north. In 2017, the Nebraska Liquor Commission refused to renew the stores’ liquor licenses.

It took years of work by a variety of people to get there. Whiteclay’s booming liquor industry, which took advantage of existing social problems faced by residents of Pine Ridge, was effectively shut down. Thunder Valley hopes the healing can now begin, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reported.

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Thunder Valley CDC began on the Pine Ridge Reservation as a way to connect youth to the Lakota way of life. It continues its efforts to improve the Oglala Lakota Oyate by providing a variety of initiatives such as food sovereignty, Lakota language education, housing and home ownership, regenerative community development and more. The society recently acquired 48 acres of land in Whiteclay with the aim of building a holistic healing community.

Former Oglala Sioux Tribe Attorney General and current Thunder Valley Executive Director Tatewin Means wants to write a new chapter focused on healing and changing the narrative around Whiteclay and the connection he had with his people.

“It’s great because we can be really intentional about building a healing community that really focuses on our loved ones who are on the periphery, those who are forgotten or invisible or who have a harder time accessing resources,” said said Means, who is the daughter of the late Russell Means, a prominent member of the American Indian Movement.

The idea of ​​the community is transitional housing or permanent supportive housing with access to resources in a centralized location.

“Right now we are focusing on designing this community, what will it look like? What will be included? says Pleas. “And that’s going to take a lot of engagement with members of our community, with stakeholders in the justice system.”

This project is one of many initiatives Thunder Valley is implementing to help tribal citizens reclaim their identity.

“Reclaiming our identity as the Lakota people is part of liberation, isn’t it? It’s part of freedom,” Means said. “And thus removing these messages of colonialism that have bound us for so many generations, and so how do you do that? How do you initiate this process of decolonization?

Healing is a first step in this release process, according to Means.

“We can no longer hope and dream and think and act like Lakota if we still cling to trauma, if we still cling to colonial mentalities,” Means said. “We find our way through it like everyone else, but by being open to it and making ourselves vulnerable to it, because it’s scary to really think about healing on our own. It takes a lot of courage. »

Means hopes that one day there can be a holistic healing community in each of Pine Ridge’s nine districts that is intentional and specific to provide pathways for members of each district.

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