Firewood Collaboration, Tecumseh Style

Murray’s blog on Tecumseh reminded me of an amazing collaboration project with the National Guard, U.S. Forest Service, Crow Creek Tribe and National Relief Charities (NRC). The project bears out Tecumseh’s wisdom about uniting for a cause and doing more together than we can do individually.

Firewood Collaboration 1NRC spotted in a regional newspaper that the South Dakota National Guard sponsors an annual “Golden Coyote” operation as a training exercise for members of the National Guard, Air Force, Army and Navy from across the country. These military units gain skills in teamwork and coordination, working in cross-cultural communities, and general operation readiness, all while performing a community service.

Like National Relief Charities, the SD National Guard also distributes firewood on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Guard works in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service to gather and deliver downed wood from the Black Hills National Forest. However, they work with outside resources for delivery and coordinate directly with recipients for scheduling.

NRC initiated a collaboration with the Guard and Forest Service to enhance the collective winter fuel efforts beyond what each group was doing separately. NRC’s part in the collaboration was identifying other reservations in South Dakota in need of wood, and then working through our Program Partners on the reservations to determine who could stockpile the wood and plan and host an orderly distribution. NRC selected the Crow Creek and Cheyenne River Reservations for this project.

Prior to the distribution, the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe took an interesting environmental step. Typically, the downed wood is a result of beetles or other environmental causes. The tribe’s environmental inspector was able to ensure that bringing the downed wood into their community would not also bring the risk of beetle infestation. Given the green light on this, the project was a go!

Firewood Collaboration 2When all was said and done, more than 535 cords of wood were delivered to the tribes last June. The tribes plan to use the trees for firewood, fence posts, and ceremonial purposes. In addition, important introductions and connections were made that will serve these tribes in winters to come. And, there is much social justice in wood from the Black Hills going to Sioux tribes in South Dakota. Here is one of the many nice thank you’s NRC received from this high-impact program:

On behalf of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, we would like to thank all the entities that were involved with the hauling and delivering the wood to our tribe. It has been greatly appreciated by the members of our communities. We have begun using some of the wood for our sun dance ceremonies, Tipi poles, sweat lodge ceremonies, fence posts, cooking stoves and saved some for winter heating.

We will be looking forward to working with all the entities on an annual basis for years to come. This project is going to help our Tribe with teaching our youth on keeping up with our traditional values, on how to build tipi’s and understand our sweats and sun dance ceremonies. We appreciate your generosity to our Tribe.

Brandon Sazue
Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Chairman


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