Natives Who Live In Straw Houses
Similar to Habitat For Humanity, the Group educates and empowers American Indian Nations to create sustainable solutions to the severe housing crisis within reservation communities. Red Feather teaches affordable approaches to home construction through the basic use of materials found on reservations, like straw in bales.
Yeah, the stuff tossed out of pickups to feed the horses. It was discovered that when stacked straw bales are netted and stuccoed they create a sturdy wall and become an excellent
source of home insulation.
This all began seven years ago when Robert Young of Seattle, Washington – a former resort clothing manufacturer – was shocked to read an article about Native American elders found frozen to death every year in their own reservation homes because of a lack of heat, electricity and running water.
Of the 2.5 million tribal members living on American Indian reservations, more than 300,000 are homeless or living in life-threatening situations. Thousands more live in substandard, over-crowded conditions.
Young decided to “adopt a native elder” through a national charity and flew to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota to met his adopted grandmother, Katherine Red Feather, a Lakota–Sioux.
After seeing Red Feather’s living conditions, an abandoned trailer, Young spent two years recruiting friends and raising money, then partnered with the University of Washington to learn how to build homes using local materials.
Young’s dream of just building one house for Katherine Red Feather has grown into an organization named in her honor. Volunteers have completed 35 building projects on reservations in Washington, Montana, and South Dakota, all highly endorsed by the likes of Oprah and Robert Redford.
The latest project is in Hotevilla, AZ where a straw model for 60 year old Mary Tenakhongva home has just been completed to solve a housing crisis in this remote community on the Hopi Reservation in the northeastern part of the state.
Tenakhongva and her daughter and granddaughter had been living in a stone house with no water or electricity. About four years ago, when she was serving on the village Council, she began to look for a way to build affordable housing in the village.
She looked at molded concrete, tires, cans and bottle but was most intrigued with the straw bale concept of construction. A random phone call got Tenakhongva in touch with Red Feather Development. Her approach attracted their attention. “I have a problem that is similar to many other tribal members. We need housing on this reservation and we need to be involved in the construction.”
Tenakhongva’s home is the first of Red Feather’s Elder Housing Initiative in Hotevilla. Although it will take years to meet the current housing demand as a result of overcrowding on the reservation, Red Feather offers one solution – one straw bale home at a time.
The organization brought in volunteers from 15 states to work alongside Hopi tribal members for weeklong stints during the month of April.
Young maintains his organization is teaching people how to build their own communities. “We’ve gone to straw bale because it’s more volunteer and community friendly. People can see us stacking straw. We tell them the big blocks of straw are like adult legos and the stucco process is like a mud fight. It’s done by hand and it’s quick. You can stucco an entire building in one coat in two and a half hours.”
Tenakhongva’s finished home is 1,000 square feet, has two bedrooms, one bath and costs about $55,000 to build. (How times have changed. Our family's two bedroom, one bath home cost $6,800 in 1950.)
Hey guys and gals, thinking “summer vacation”? Why not volunteer your services to building straw bale homes for Red Feather Development and reservation Indians. For volunteer information, go to http://www.redfeather.org/.
This column has been edited for length and content with information gathered from the Red Feather Development Group website; Oprah’s Angel Network and The Arizona Republic in an article bylined Judy Nickols.
TAKE BACK AMERICA CONFERENCE
We strongly encourage you to fill out an application to become an "Emerging Progressive Leader" and attend Campaign for America's Future's 2005 Take Back America Conference held from June 1st to June 3rd.
Campaign for America's Future is offering one hundred free registrations for the conference and as a recognized emerging leader you will have the opportunity to network, socialize and meet the progressive leaders of today.
Campaign for America's Future is a center for issue advocacy, communications, and coalition building to forge a new American majority for progressive reform. It is shaping forward-looking alliances around strategic policy initiatives to produce expanded economic opportunity, social justice, a healthy environment, and a more democratic society.
The Take Back America Conference is the biggest progressive gathering of the year. It brings thousands of progressive activists, thinkers and leaders together to discuss our community's vision, unite our groups and train our campaign organizers.
The conference is a catalyst for building the infrastructure we need to ensure
that the voice of the progressive majority is heard. From Howard Dean to John Edwards to Jesse Jackson to Hillary Clinton, Take Back America is always an envious and high profile occasion.
Campaign for America's Future's website, www.ourfuture.org, to find out more information about the organization and conference. Be sure to write (the name of your organization) in the section that asks you to list "Honors, Awards, Fellowships and Leadership Positions."
Notice that Campaign for America's future is offering free registration
but not free travel (we will leave it up to you to decide how you want to handle that). Your application will be looked at thoroughly and we are confident that you will be seen as a strong candidate.
NATIVE UNITY - A place for Native American Peoples to solidify their tribes to make a positive impact on the cultural, social, economic and political fabric of American society and a place for non-Natives to better understand the ways of the American Indian.
For news and information on Native American and First Nations actors, go to Annie's site at www.NativeCelebs.com and follow the threads.
The Conservative View by Ken Hughes: