OLCERI (Oglala Lakota Cultural and Economic Revitalization Initiative) in Slim Buttes, South Dakota, is in the development phase of becoming a fully off-grid eco-ranch that represents a “Garden of Eden” model. This concept is designed to provide access to affordable, simple, and often fun solutions to the five basic needs for the community on the Pine Ridge Reservation: food, fire, water, shelter, and earth.
The Lakota Native American people teach that the five basic needs of life are: food, fire, water, shelter, and earth. These basic needs are what must be met for an individual to actualize by finding self, and spirit, the final two which make up our seven core tenants at OLCERI. Without these basic needs met, individuals are stuck in perpetual states of insecurity, poverty, and scarcity – making it harder for them to do good by themselves and others, and often leads to various types of psychiatric, physical, and spiritual problems. Today on Pine Ridge Reservation, these needs are not being met: The average life expectancy on Pine Ridge is 66.81 years, the lowest in the United States. Per capita income for American Indians living on Pine Ridge is $7,773. The average for all reservations is $10,543. Mean income in the United States is $25,332. The officially reported poverty rate for American Indians living on Pine Ridge is 53.75%. The United States average is 13.4%. OLCERI believes that if they can provide the first 5 basic needs for families and households across the reservation through ecosystem restoration and restoration of livelihoods, then the indigenous communities will be able to actualize their own self and spirit to heal generational trauma, enrich the community, and bring about a new wave of cultural revitalization for the Oglala Lakota Nation.
OLCERI has started hosting annual gatherings with the community. They are also experimenting with off-grid technologies like biodiesel, rocket stoves, natural building, earthship-style buildings, vegetable gardens, swale systems, and earthen greenhouses called “walipinis.” Lakota culture is central to their work, and they include artwork and graffiti to reflect this tradition. An equine facility and small farm animals including pigs, goats, chickens and sheep also make up part of their restoration work on site.