Fort Peck Diary Day Three: Planning for the Future, Preserving the Past
We’ve just returned from an incredible journey to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation where we met with community members to talk about their vision for the new homes we will design and build on their land.
An essential part of any Make It Right project is community design meetings. We believe that before our architects can begin their work creating a home, they need to hear from the people who will live there. Their needs, their dreams, their vision for their community is essential to our design process.
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Previous Entries: Day One / Day Two
We began our third day in Fort Peck by visiting the factory and warehouse of Integrated Solutions, a company owned by tribal members. The giant facility has produced many things in its history, including all the camouflage nets used in the Gulf War of the 1990s. On the day of our visit, they were making long metal hooks used for hoses on fire trucks.
Several years ago a solar panel manufacturer agreed to partner with the company to produce PV panels here. But after the tribe added space for the solar operation, the company pulled out – leaving them with a massive facility, but no new jobs. We took a look at the empty space. Two modular home builders on our design team – Brian Abramson of Method Homes and Steve Glenn of Living Homes – agreed that the space could possibly be used for manufacturing homes. As we stood there, we dreamed of a day when the people here could manufacture and build their own healthy houses, providing green jobs and homes so desperately needed for hundreds of tribal members waiting for a place to live.
Next stop: American Bison! In March 2012, 61 American bison (also known as buffalo) from Yellowstone National Park were transferred to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation prairie, to be released to a 2,100-acre game preserve 25 miles north of Poplar. There are many other bison herds outside Yellowstone, but this is one of the very few genetically pure ones, not cross-bred with cattle. Native Americans celebrated the move, which came over a century after bison were nearly wiped out by hunters and the U.S. government. In March of this year, the first genetically pure bison calf was born on the Fort Peck reservation – a symbol of the renewal for the tribes who live here.
“The buffalo gave us everything we needed. Without it we were nothing. The name of the greatest of all Sioux was Tatanka Iyotake–Sitting Bull. When you killed off the buffalo you also killed the Indian–the real, natural, “wild” Indian.” – John Fire Lame Deer, writer and Lakota holy man.
“The Great Spirit told the people, ‘These animals are your brothers. Share the land with them. They will give you food and clothing. Live with them and protect them.’
‘Protect especially the buffalo, for the buffalo will give you food and shelter. The hide of the buffalo will keep you from the cold, from the heat, and from the rain. As long as you have the buffalo, you will never need to suffer.'” – Native American legend, recorded by Professor Hap Gilliland of Eastern Montana College.
In the evening, we held another community design meeting. More families came to talk, eat and share ideas about the future of housing on the Fort Peck Reservation.
Next Entry: Fort Peck Diary: Day Four.