Sustainability workshop to create Pine Ridge housing plan

Joe and Lena Fast Horse, residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation in Wounded Knee, S.D., are eagerly anticipating a new home for themselves and the nine children for whom they are guardians. Groundbreaking won’t occur until 2015, but with the help of several environmentally sensitive organizations in Colorado, plans are well underway.

The Fast Horse family volunteers for a local crisis center and it is in that capacity that they have become guardians for nine children. Located far away from the government housing they are used to, but still on the reservation, the new homestead and safe house will serve as an example of how it is possible to design, install and maintain efficient low-cost housing, electric and water systems for families who need these amenities most.

Tiyospaye Winyan Maka (translated as Extended Family of Women of the Earth), based on the reservation, is facilitating the project. “We are a strong and beautiful people here with a proud history who now live in third world conditions inside one of the richest nations on Earth,” TWM executive director Christinia Eala said. “Our goal is to demonstrate to others in our community that with shared knowledge, experience and resources we can break out of this tragic legacy of two centuries of colonization together and forge our own destinies on our ancestral lands.”

Buckeye Energy, the Colorado State University chapter of Engineers Without Borders and Tiyospaye Winyan Maka are bringing together integrated off-grid solutions to make this sustainable homestead possible.

As part of the process, and in order to share the joint expertise of these organizations, the Sustainable Living Association of Fort Collins is hosting an eight-hour seminar between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 8 at their headquarters at 201 Linden St., Ste. 204.

The seminar is open to anyone interested in building and living sustainably off the grid and will include site assessment, green buildings, power and water system design, battery storage, solar and wind equipment and economics. For a fee of $75, $50 for students, the workshop is a bargain. Participants can earn 8 continuing education credits for three different organizations.

Organizations contributing their expertise to the workshop are Buckville Energy, based in Northern Colorado, whose executive director Dan Fink is an Interstate Renewable Energy Council-certified instructor in solar and small wind and conducts workshops across the United States. Buckville Energy is also accredited by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.

The Sustainable Living Association has provided education and outreach for building strong, safe and sustainable communities in Northern Colorado for 15 years.

Engineers Without Borders is a non-profit humanitarian organization that supports community-driven development programs worldwide through partnerships that design and implement sustainable engineering projects. The CSU chapter has been advising TWM and the Fast Horse family on the design of their homestead and has facilitated planning of the water and power systems.

To learn more about the workshop and to sign up go to or contact Kellie Falbo at 970-224-3247 or kellie@sustainableliving

Dan Fink is especially excited about the upcoming workshop. “By the end of the class we will have designed a system which will allow TWM to pursue donations of equipment and for installation of the systems. In the past, our classes have been theoretical. This one is for real.”

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