Fort Peck Diary – Day Two

Day Two – A Vision for New Homes

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.

To support our work on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, click here.

Previous Entries: Day One

Day Two Diary

Yesterday we saw the need for better, healthier housing and heard stories of multiple families living in one and two bedroom houses. Our second day was spent talking to tribal leaders and families about their vision for the future.

First stop: Architects and staff survey the land where Make It Right’s homes will be built.

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At lunch, we sat down with leaders in charge of preserving the culture of the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes. They spoke to the group about their people’s history, particularly in regards to housing.

Dr. Ryan, Fort Peck Tribes cultural expert and historian

Dr. Ryan, Fort Peck Tribes cultural expert and historian

Historian Dr. Ken Ryan spoke about the transition away from traditional tipis where families made their homes for generations before Europeans landed in America.

At left: Sioux family tipi. At right: Assiniboine tipis. Photo credit: Fort Peck Tribal Archives.

At left: Sioux family tipi. At right: Assiniboine tipis. Photo credit: Fort Peck Tribal Archives.

As Indian lands were colonized, tribes were forced to move to reservations. According to Dr. Ryan, in the early 1900s, the U.S. government mandated that the Fort Peck tribes must build and live in log cabins, instead of tipis.

Fort Peck Indian Reservation, circa 1920.  Log cabins built alongside traditional tipis.

Fort Peck Indian Reservation, circa 1920. Log cabins built alongside traditional tipis.

Since then, a series of public housing failures have plagued the Fort Peck tribes. The tract homes on the reservation today are rife with black mold and structural problems and homeowners must shoulder high utility bills caused by inefficient design.

In addition, the design of the existing homes makes no concession for the cultural principles of the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes, like doorways that face the east or north and colors that hold significant meanings in tribal life.

“This is the first time in 130 years that anyone has asked us, ‘What do you want your home to look like?'” said Dr. Ryan. We left our meeting with cultural leaders inspired and humbled by the opportunity to design homes that will reflect their history and enrich family life.

In the evening, we got to ask Dr. Ryan’s question to the larger community. Almost 100 community members joined us to share their needs and ideas for new homes. We begin with traditional prayers by tribal elders.

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Next, the architects introduce themselves and show some of their previous work.

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David Johnson of William McDonough + Partners introduces his work.

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Then we eat! We believe community meetings are always better with food. The delicious meals at our community meetings in Fort Peck – black rice with vegetables, sausage and fry bread  – were prepared by local cooks.

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After dinner is served, we break into small groups, pairing up families or groups of friends with architects to hear their ideas and what they most want in a new home.

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Steve Glenn of Living Homes speaks with a Fort Peck couple.

Christoph Korner of Graft Architects talks with women from the Fort Peck Tribes.

Christoph Korner of Graft Architects talks with women from the Fort Peck Tribes.

Make It Right's design manager Jordan Pollard and Make It Right Solar Director Pierre Moses take notes.

Make It Right’s design manager Jordan Pollard and Make It Right Solar director Pierre Moses take notes.

Some homeowners brought their own drawings and designs to share with Brian Abramson of Method Homes and Joseph Kunkel of Sustainable Native Communities.

Some community members brought their own drawings and designs to share with Brian Abramson of Method Homes and Joseph Kunkel of Sustainable Native Communities.

When small group talks wrap-up, each group presents the highlights of their discussion to the entire audience. We do this for accountability – to make sure we’ve correctly understood the community members’ thoughts – and so that everyone can share the ideas generated in small groups.

Nathaniel Corum of Architecture for Humanity presents his notes.

Nathaniel Corum of Architecture for Humanity presents his notes.

Sustainable Native Communities' Jamie Blosser's notes.

Sustainable Native Communities’ Jamie Blosser’s notes.

At this point, some of our younger guests get restless and dance on the tables. We can’t blame them – there was a lot of talking!

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Next Entries: Day Three / Day Four.

If you would like to contribute to our work with the Fort Peck Tribes, click here.

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Comments

  1. Dr. Ken Ryan, Are you the same Ken Ryan who was stationed at Ft. Eustis, Virginia while serving in the Army back in 1966-67. I think we may have worked together in the old barracks building processing orders for troops going to Vietnam. If so it is wonderful to know that you have had successful career and continue to help others.

    Krista

  2. Greetings from the west Coast Salish territory.
    I am intrigued by your Build It Right efforts and would like to participate by offering an alternative 100% recycled tire roofing product which has stood the test of time and is competitively priced , can be manufactured locally and exceeds all other roofing products in terms of longevity and durability .
    It is called MooRooF and obtained a patent , awards and World acclaim !
    Unfortunately two of the innovators , my sons, died in separate incidents which totally brought our efforts to a halt , but now their sons are of age and anxious to continue their efforts !
    I once visited Fort Peck after touring the rust belt of the Great Lakes in 2004 and the idle run-down lifeless towns and cities along my route , which truly made me morose ,but was certainly an eye opener .
    My spirits were lifted when I reached Fort Peck and was immediately greeted by a community member , who commented that I looked really tired he worked for MUD which I believe is the local utilities co. . I also noticed that there was a lot of hustle and activity going on which in itself was refreshing and he suggested I attend the meeting being held in the Community Hall and if I hurried I would be able to get some lunch , to which I heartily thanked him and sat in on the meeting and met a number of tribal members .
    I have never forgot these simple kindnesses that were extended and have longed to return in kind !
    My very best wishes to the peoples of Fort Peck and their efforts to house the homeless !
    All my relations

  3. Pingback: Brad Pitt’s Nonprofit Delivers LEED Platinum Homes to Fort Peck Reservation | Enjeux énergies et environnement