Oglala Sioux (Lakota) Housing

Report date
November 2017

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

Stakeholder meetings were instrumental to us achieving our goals during all 3 years including: Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) Water and Sewer Program, Oglala Sioux Rural Water Supply System, OST Department of Water Maintenance and Conservation, Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing, OST Utilities Commission, OST Environmental Program, OST Roads Department, Promise Zone Planning Task Force and Infrastructure Task Force which included local, state and federal agencies. Key government agencies involved include: US Dept. of Agriculture;
Department of Housing and Development; Indian Health Service; FEMA; Bureau of Reclamation; Bureau of Indian Affairs; and Environmental Protection Agency.
Although some meetings were more effective than others. We learned that for meetings to be effective there needed to be an agenda sent before the meeting, an effective facilitator, agreements on assignments and responsibilities developed during the meeting and clear and concise minutes distributed after the meeting.
Research was instrumental. We gathered tribal laws and ordinances applicable to the prospective entity. We looked at water and wastewater rate schedules for other Tribes and towns.
Rates have not been raised on the Reservation for 35 years and collection rates are low. The Mni Wiconi Act said no individual will be charged for water due to treaty rights. We realized that we could not finalize rate schedules so we made recommendations on how to proceed. OSTDWM&C, OSRWSS and Housing began working on the 7 Years for 7 Generations Community Water Upgrades to transfer water systems to the Bureau of Reclamation under the Mni Wiconi Act. BOR would then subsidize operations and maintenance of the community water systems. BOR appropriations and will not cover all costs so we need tribal rate structures and collection systems that will support the shortfalls.
We obtained a Comprehensive Planning grant for Solid Waste including a rate study and development of a rate schedule. We did a lot of research on funding sources and government regulations. There is no centralized records system for the three systems. The Tribe set an objective to set this up but it is a monumental undertaking.
The Bush Grant was instrumental in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation getting the Promise Zone designation in 2015 due to collaboration of Thunder Valley CDC, Oglala Sioux ( Lakota) Housing, Oglala Sioux Tribe and Oglala Lakota College. Once the Promise Zone was established the Infrastructure Group which dealt with water, wastewater and solid waste was set up. The PZ generated the development of a Tribal Planning Office and the Integrated Infrastructure Planning Group which brought federal and tribal agencies together to work on unified strategies for water, sewer, solid waste, roads, etc. The PZ gave a major boost to the 7 Years for 7 Generations $33 million dollar community water upgrade plan by removing 5 federal barriers and making funds available for planning and development needed to submit grant applications for water, wastewater and solid waste. These efforts went side by side with the development of the Commission or management entity which the proposal was designed to create. The PZ also created a lot of other necessary work which took some resources from the development of the entity itself. PZ impetus slowed down with the change of Federal administrations.

Key lessons learned

We learned that political influence is invaluable. The Promise Zone designation taught us how pressure from top levels of the federal government are needed to get things done. Native people are very dependent on the federal government for basic services such as water, wastewater and solid waste. These are treaty rights but have been mixed with federal laws and regulations with grant and loan programs tied to poverty, etc. These add a myriad of requirements which do not often contribute to effective local operations.
The Tribe needs to develop systems and integrated methods of financing both federal and tribal. If we can develop this Commission/entity it can be a model for proper development, operations, financing, etc. for many tribal systems not just infrastructure.
We learned that political influence on the tribal level is important. The opposition of President Steele to the Promise Zone decreased some of the effects it could have had. We learned that dealing with the change of tribal administrations every 2 years is devastating and we are planning for this. This is one reason that a Commission either chartered or just established within the Tribal entity is so important.
The second lesson was the need for planning and development including personnel and funding. We identified Leslie Mesteth as Coordinator of the grant. We learned that our plan to give each of the 3 programs $20,000 for their time would not work so we hired a Leslie. She then left to become Director of the OST Solid Waste program and cleaned up the program in 6 months. On the one hand she met a desperate Tribal need. On the other, although she continued to help the grant proceed from the inside of the tribal program structure, it slowed the development of the entity. The lesson is the need for smart, hard-working local people to get the work done. There are many of them, but they are busy meeting current work obligations and survival needs.
Most grants require a lot of up front work to gather data, get support and write the proposal. USDA Water and Environmental Grants require a Preengineering Report (from $10,000 to $90,000) done by an engineer and an Environmental Review. Finding funds to do these was a challenge. OS(L)H allowed their Grants Facilitator to write proposals and a couple of government agencies provided the funds for PERs and Environmental Reviews.

Reflections on the community innovation process

Inclusive and collaborative were important since there are so many entities involved and infrastructure affects everyone from individuals to the Tribe to the Federal government. Tribes must deal with Federal agencies more than any other group in the country and so the Promise Zone and all the meetings etc. proved very important. The PZ provided political impetus to remove 5 roadblocks to the 7 Years for 7 Generations project as well as other infrastructure projects. Resourceful was important since tribal workers are busy doing their daily jobs. Taking time to plan and develop is hard. OS(L)H provided the key planning and organizing point through the Bush grant and its own resources. Finding people and funds for planning and development as well as
competent people is a key issue. We cannot choose which of the elements was most important. In fact, the process showed us that all three are very important. It is important to let stakeholders know about needs, involve them in a truly collaborative process and be resourceful to get things done. The needs for tribal development include planning, knowledge, data, and funds and it takes the involvement of many groups to get this done.

Progress toward an innovation

Progress made includes: Secured a Bush Foundation Innovation Grant to develop an entity to oversee OST Water, Wastewater and Solid Waste planning, development, operation, maintenance, etc. Obtained designation as a Promise Zone 2015 which opened the door to Federal assistance from many agencies. Obtained a USDA WEP grant for repair and expansion
of Wounded Knee lagoon. Obtained a USDA SEARCH grant to do preengineering report for Red Shirt lagoon renovation. Began the 7 Years for 7 Generations effort to upgrade all community water systems: used Mni Wiconi funds of $1,499,300 for 3 communities, obtained USDA grants of $8,234,000 for 7 communities and submitted USDA proposals to obtain $23,332,339 for 8 communities. Obtained an EDA grant for to do Preengineering Reports for wastewater system upgrade for 6 communities. Obtained grants to upgrade the OST Solid Waste program including a Comprehensive Plan, equipment, expansion and construction of an operations building at Red Shirt landfill. Studied other Tribes and towns infrastructure management systems. Researched water, wastewater and solid waste rates. Developed draft recommendations to the Tribal Council for 4 possible entities.

What it will take to reach an innovation?

We achieved a great deal toward the overall water, wastewater and solid waste entity but we found there is much that needs to be done to truly implement an entity for Water, Wastewater and Solid Waste including reorganization, gathering of basic records, knowing and challenging government interpretation of regulations, having skilled people in engineering, writing proposals, etc. The ultimate need is a functioning and adequately financed entity but the work to get there is daunting since so much has been neglected in the past.
The first step is to find a competent person or persons to take all that we have done so far and meet with Council members and program directors etc. to review the 4 options for an entity and pick one or develop a new one. One major next step is to develop fair and sustainable rate schedules for all three programs. We need to find a Grants Facilitator to find funding for the entity and continuing work on infrastructure development. One key step is to make sure the entity has a competent Owner’s Representative responsible to key stakeholders and the people to watch out for the Tribe’s interests when interacting with contractors and government agencies.

What's next?

Continue 7 Years for 7 Generations community water system upgrade: implement 11 projects already funded; assure funding of 8 projects submitted, and find 25% ($3,870,000) leverage funding for Pine Ridge Village ($15 million) to get into WEP 1780 program. Complete renovation and expansion of Wounded Knee Wastewater system. Complete Preengineering Report for Red Shirt Wastewater system. Pick A/E firm to do Preengineering Reports for 6 community wastewater systems in the EDA grant. Complete Wastewater Comprehensive Plan including rate recommendations. Complete design and construction for Red Shirt Solid Waste site and operations building.
Refine and present 4 current options for an entity to the Program Directors and Tribal Council. Key steps to do this include developing funding options, rate schedules, personnel options, collection procedures, etc. for the entity. Funding must be secured for a Coordinator to continue the work begun under the Bush Innovation grant. The Coordinator would do planning, obtain further development and planning funding, assist the directors involved to implement current projects, keep the Council informed and develop a business plan for the entity.

If you could do it all over again...

We would have hired a Coordinator right from the start. Committees can generate ideas and set priorities and plans but it takes 1 competent person to organize and make sure things get done. It is important to make sure there is a competent person with the time to oversee the overall effort. Another name for this person would be a Facilitator. We would have been able to move much faster on the grant if we had someone working on it full time from the beginning.
There are many competent and dedicated people working for the Tribe but they are busy meeting the survival needs of the people and reporting needs of federal programs. We would have realized the need for more person hours dedicated just to the grant. On the other hand it might have been good that we did not know all the obstacles or we would not have even tried.

One last thought

Thank you very much. Often the Tribe is bogged down in survival mode. You allowed us, under the inspiration of Mr. Frank Means and Mr. Paul Iron Cloud, to truly plan for 7 generations. The grant brought Housing and tribal and federal programs together to attack a major, though not glamorous, need on the Reservation: operations, upgrade, maintenance and planning for water, wastewater and solid waste. Pilamaya.
The grant poised the Tribe to receive $33 million dollars for community water upgrades under the 7 Years for 7 Generations plan. We obtained $1,463,000 to upgrade and expand the condemned Wounded Knee Lagoon. We obtained $270,000 to do Preengineering reports needed to obtain grants to upgrade the wastewater infrastructure. It led to the overhaul of the Solid Waste program which has been a shamble for years and obtaining funds for a comprehensive plan and facilities and equipment upgrade.
Though the entity has not been set up we provided a basis for the Tribe to decide on an Oglala Sioux Tribe Water, Wastewater and Solid Waste Entity that can finance, operate, maintain, replace, and expand these systems to foster increased housing, economic development and environment.