Basic Information

Our Solution

Keya Wakpala Woicageyapi

Our tagline:

23rd Century Lakota Sustainable Community

Our pitch:

The Keya Wakpala Woicageyapi (Turtle Creek Sustainable Development) is a net-zero sustainable community encompassing 590 acres and rooted in Lakota culture and values. Development is led by the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO), the economic development arm of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.  Keya Wakpala embodies a “7gen” principle in its conception, design, and implementation, consistent with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Constitutional requirement to consider all impacts of the future seven generations.

Among the identified Lakota virtues guiding Keya Wakpala is Wowicake (“that which is real, the way the world is”), meaning that while the community is committed to creating a better future world, current reservation realities are soberly addressed: the documented housing need is 3,000 homes; energy costs are rising faster than wages; lack of infrastructure, including roads, telecommunications, energy, and agricultural food systems;  only 3 in 100 high school freshmen will graduate high school, enroll in college, and complete college within 6 years; male and female life expectancy is 48 years and 58 years, respectively; high rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and other life threatening health conditions; unemployment rate of 80%, and; $8 of every $10 entering the reservation leaves without being turned over, leading to economic stagnation and Rosebud Sioux Tribal Nation trade deficit.

In our Lakota philosophy that everything is related, Keya Wakpala is envisioned to self-actualize economic prosperity and tribal nationhood through linking integrated systems and asset-based strategies. Through a series of community meetings tribal citizens put forth a vision where Keya Wakpala “…is a safe place for all Lakota people and their neighbors who seek a unique community encouraging resilience, health, education and helpfulness while renewing a culturally meaningful way of life.”  The community identified and ranked 126 educational, cultural, business, recreational, residential, and site element priorities.  Consistent themes included culturally appropriate housing, renewable energy, Lakota language immersion schooling, on-site food production, and healthy living through connections to holistic living.

At the heart of the Keya Wakpala community is the Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative and community garden that has created a local farmers market, traditional foods programming, a community garden, and a geothermal greenhouse. A 27,000 square foot grocery store has been built to increase access to fresh fruit and vegetables and serves as an anchor for future business development. Currently, a feasibility study is underway to guide planned commercial/retail development, and a preliminary engineering report is being completed for the first 20 homes. When complete, Keya Wakpala will feature mixed use spaces providing 600 living units, including individual homes (some tiny homes) and apartments. Specific zoning has been set aside for onsite energy production (wind and solar), and onsite food production.

Keya Wakpala will create systemic, intergenerational change, serving as a model for the next 7 generations of the Oceti Sakowin. Our mission for Keya Wakpala is to promote holistic economic development for the Lakota Oyate, thus our development solutions will be related and seamlessly integrated as represented in a common end to our Lakota prayers “we are all related.”      

Where our project is located:

Mission, SD, USA

The topic our project addresses:

  • Solar
  • Housing
  • Food
About Your Solution

What makes our project innovative:

Keya Wakpala is rooted in Lakota thought and philosophy over 2,000 years old.  Lakota are expected to embody "Nake Nula Waun," which means to be prepared for anything at all times.  Thus, new applications of existing technologies or utilization of new technologies to solve various challenges are second nature to the project.  As the Oceti Sakowin embraced the horse and the new technologies associated with horse culture to become a thriving nation upon the Great Plains during the 1800s, so shall Keya Wakpala utilize housing, energy, and food technologies to build a thriving community in the 2000s.  

How we use technology in our project:

Construction, energy, and food technology are integral to the success of Keya Wakpala.  Cost effective, affordable, sustainable, energy efficient, culturally appropriate housing systems must be utilized and developed, including utilization of existing resources such as the Tribe’s housing plant and forest products.  Renewable energy systems will power homes and business technologies.  Ancient food systems combined with new technology will be utilized to provide for all onsite food production.  

Our project goals over the next 12 months:

Over the next 12 months Keya Wakpala will be adding physical infrastructure and internal management capacity.  A preliminary engineering report will be complete, allowing the project to access infrastructure funding. The project master plan will be updated, along with completed real home designs. A commercial feasibility study will be complete allowing for access to financing.  Further grant funding will be applied for to add additional management and subject matter expertise for design and development.  The project will readying for the 2019 Spring construction season for both housing and commercial aspects of the development.  

Our vision over the next three to five years to grow and scale our project to affect the lives of more people:

Keya Wakpala will continue to exponentially impact peoples lives.  The Food Sovereignty Initiative serves as the largest employer of youth interns on the reservation and will continue to grow, not only in the number of individuals served but also depth of impact through stronger programming.  More than 20 homes will be built over the next five years, impacting entire families and extended families.  New businesses will be built, creating new career and employment opportunities.  Perhaps most important, Keya Wakpala will serve as a model project for not only Rosebud, but other Native communities as well.  

Highlights from our project:

Keya Wakpala was recognized as as Clinton Global Initiative Project and won an award for excellence in public interest design from the Design Corps, the Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED) Network, and Lawrence Technological University.  Keya Wakpala has been featured in numerous blogs and media write ups.  

The cities where we operate or plan to operate in the next 12 months. First city:

Mission, SD, USA

How our project will be accessible and affordable to our community:

Accessibility and affordability are core features of Keya Wakpala.  In addition to master planning, which featured a number of surveys, a housing needs assessment was completed to ascertain the number of families who will be looking to live at Keya Wakpala and what each family will be able to afford. Utilizing business development/incubator resources infrastructure will be reduced allowing various businesses to affordably lease space.  Accessibility is primarily based on the ability to pay, thus affordability is the primary driving factor.     

How many people we are currently serving with our project:

Keya Wakpala serves all 34,000 enrolled Rosebud Sioux Tribe members in addition to surrounding non-Indian communities.  The grocery store employs 30+ people and generates hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenues.  Tax revenues fund essential Tribal governmental functions like health and education programing. The Food Sovereignty Initiative employs 3 full time individuals, over 10 summer youth workers, and serves hundreds of customers.  Healthy foods impact personal health and the opportunity to sell various products provides income for producers.  The direct impact on families will increase with greater employment and as families move in to homes.       

How many people we will be serving with our project in the 12 months and the next 3 years:

Conservatively, the housing and business side will be directly serving 125 people (20 families x 5 family members; 5 businesses x 5 employees) over the next 12 months as Keya Wakpala readies for construction season 2019.  Within three years, these numbers will dramatically increase as construction generates hundreds of jobs and additional homes and businesses are developed.  Direct impacts will include wages from new jobs, increased personal wealth and wellbeing through homeownership, lower cost of living through decreases in energy consumption leading to lower energy costs, and overall pride in being part of a larger vision.    

About Your Team

How our project team is organized:

Other (Please explain below)

Explaining our organization:

REDCO is a chartered entity of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe

How many people work on our project team:


How many years we have been working on our project:

3-4 years

Our revenue model:

The Keya Wakpala revenue model is multifaceted and includes a number of synergistic entities providing the various kinds of support.  REDCO, as the tribally owned holding company provides seed money, organizational capacity, and is currently serving as a pass through for grant funding.  Over time, many of these activities will be transferred to a separate nonprofit corporation, but REDCO will always support the project where needed, including business development through REDCO’s Construction Group or Real Estate Development Group or other tribal enterprise models.  Much of the development will be subsidized through grants, tax credits, and social investments in order to lower the overall cost of development so that individuals living in one of the poorest counties in the country are able to access cost effective lease and homeownership opportunities.  It should be noted that investments such as down payment assistance and grants for water infrastructure are necessary to make up for over a century of federal policies created to destroy tribal communities resulting in persistent multigenerational poverty.  Businesses, as evidenced by the existing grocery store and other REDCO businesses, are expected to generate tax revenues and provide good paying jobs for individuals in order create economically self-sustaining development.   

Partnership Potential

Why we are applying to Solve:

I am applying for the Solve fellowship to expand Keya’s Wakpala network of innovators, funders, technical experts, and general awareness.  I hire people smarter than me and believe that when you put talented, committed people in a room together that amazing things can happen.  The MIT Solve program provides an unprecedented opportunity to seek the advice and direction of accomplished and high potential individuals and organizations.  While Keya Wakpala has enjoyed great support from others, to meet our goals of affordable, sustainable community we need greater access to innovators and experts, particularly around construction and renewable energy technology. 

The key barriers for our project:

Currently, Keya Wakpala’s greatest challenge is the ability to effectively find, recruit, hire, and retain team(s) of people with the necessary skillsets to accomplish the goals of community.  Our current team, which makes miracles, must balance chasing resources vs. accomplishing work on the ground.  Fundraising requires skilled fundraisers.  Skilled fundraisers require money.  Additional resources allows us to bring the necessary team(s) of innovators.  Solve can help Keya Wakpala in strategizing, organizing, and connecting with a broader network of like-minded people.       

The types of connections and partnerships we would be most interested in if we became Fellows:

  • Technology Mentorship
  • Connections to the MIT campus
  • Grant Funding
  • Debt/Equity Funding

Other types of connections and partnerships we would be interested in:

Assistance establishing housing technology lab

Solution Team

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