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.
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.
Historian Dr. Ken Ryan spoke about the transition away from traditional tipis where families made their homes for generations before Europeans landed in America.
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.
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.
Next, the architects introduce themselves and show some of their previous work.
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.
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.
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.
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!
If you would like to contribute to our work with the Fort Peck Tribes, click here.