'A new beginning for Pine Ridge' raises the attention of President Obama

January 05, 2021

'A new beginning for Pine Ridge' raises the attention of President Obama
Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation is non-governmental, non-profit organization on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation -- the home reservation of our headquarters.

The organization's mission is to empower Lakota youth and families to improve the health, culture and environment of our community, through the healing and strengthening of cultural identity. With the help of the Oglala Lakota community, Thunder Valley is working to create sustainable, affordable housing on the reservation and promote entrepreneurship of the people.

Head up by our friend Nick Tilsen, Thunder Valley received recognition this week by President Obama 2012 White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C.

Below are photos from Tilsen's time in D.C. and an excerpt of the president's speech praising him and the Oglala Lakota's continued progress. You can also read a story from Rapid City Journal here: Obama honors Native progress on Pine Ridge.


I'm hopeful because of young folks like Nick Tilsen. I just had a chance to talk to Nick, a Lakota Indian who lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, which is one of the poorest parts of America. And unemployment there is rampant; high rates of disease and violence are often forcing folks to downsize their dreams. But there's a more promising statistic in Pine Ridge. More than half of Pine Ridge's population is under 30 years old. And many of those young people, like Nick, are giving all they have to help turn things around.

So Nick heads up a non-profit in Pine Ridge. A few years ago, with the support of some grants and other members of his tribe, Nick built a community center that uses spiritual and cultural teachings to help young people stay off drugs and their parents live healthier lifestyles. And it's making a difference. So today, he's building something bigger -- a clean-energy community that will provide affordable housing for folks who need it and help more Lakota small businesses get off the ground.

Day by day, family by family, community by community, Nick and his non-profit have helped inspire a new beginning for Pine Ridge. In fact, just a few months ago, young and old came together to adopt a long-term plan that commits to bringing back jobs and development; bringing back native languages and customs; bringing back the spiritual strength that for so long has defined the Lakota people. And Nick says, "We've decided as a community to take ownership of our own future."

See, that makes me hopeful, talking to young people like that, because throughout Indian Country, you've got a generation ready to build on what generations before them have built. They're out there right now, stirring with hope, and restless for change, and ready to take ownership of their future.

So let's make sure our work here is worthy of their efforts. Let's do everything we can to get things in the best shape possible for when they're in charge.

And over the next four years, as long as I have the privilege of serving as your President, we're going to keep working together to make sure that the promise of America is fully realized for every Native American.

Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

Nick Tilsen with Sen. Dan Inouye.

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