Tom Kanatakeniate Cook gives his reasons for initiating community gardening on Pine Ridge: “to demonstrate cooperative effort, to develop effective land use, and to attain economic independence. A central objective is the revitalization of ancient Lakota precepts regarding the inter-relatedness of life and the sacred circle that it forms. The Lakota view of the universe is not lost, but remains a common basis for families. Its need is for relevancy, and nowhere can this be developed more appropriately than in horticulture. The earth as everybody’s mother in Lakota belief was so because she provides nourishment for all life. In these days, that function has been taken over by supermarkets, and the direct relationship — the basis for belief and ritual — has been broken. Thus, the cooperative holds a central and correct position in terms of Lakota society.”
From a humble start of six gardens in 1985, the Slim Buttes Agricultural Development Project has enabled Oglala Lakota Sioux families across Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to prepare and maintain gardens to augment their diets with fresh organic produce. These families are burdened by persistent poverty, food insecurity, and widespread health problems leading to a life expectancy twenty years shorter than the U.S. national average. Access to affordable fresh vegetables is literally life-saving.
The project has provided tractor services for garden tilling, seedlings, seeds, advice and tools in response to applications from local residents. Many became interested by listening to the project’s weekly radio show “Talking of Things Growing” on KILI FM hosted by Milo Yellow Hair. Plenty has supported the project with funds (thanks to Plenty donors), donor-directed grants, skilled volunteers and our deep respect and partnership over many years.