after earning a law degree Ron His Horse is Thunder, great-great-great
grandson of Sitting Bull, quit his job at a Rapid City law firm
and returned home to the Standing Rock Reservation, a stretch
of land that covers 2.3 million acres of prairie, in south-central
North Dakota and north-central South Dakota. His Horse Is Thunder
came home with the goal to improve economic conditions on the
Standing Rock Reservation by developing culturally relevant learning
experiences for youth. Today he is president of the Sitting Bull
convinced the Sitting Bull College board of trustees that our mission
shouldnt be just education, but it should also be assisting
the tribe with economic development and developing businesses on
the reservation," His Horse is Thunder said. As a child living
on the reservation he witnessed the hardships of reservation life.
dips to 35 percent during summer months and soars to almost 70 percent
as temperatures drop and winds howl across the prairie in the winter.
"For them its normal because they dont know what
life is like for others and we want to change whats normal
for them," His Horse is Thunder said.
I think it is changing," college resource director Sterling
St. John said. Students are beginning to see that once they graduate
and find good employment they are able to support their family.
"What I constantly tell youth, especially in our community,
is that at the Sitting Bull College, we have great cultures, we
have great instructors who are willing to help and the possibilities
are endless," St. John said. Tribal leaders plan to have an
expanding college that will improve learning possibilities and create
business opportunities throughout the reservation.
development is really what its all about," Clements Group
representative Len OHara said. "We are providing advice
to the college on how to secure the $40 million dollars to build
the campus. We went around the country and asked people if they
thought it was a worthy cause and if theyd give money to it
and virtually everyone said yes, they thought it was
a worthy cause, and yes, they thought theyd give
Horse is Thunder launched the $40 million campaign this summer to
build a new campus west of Fort Yates, N.D., within sight of the
existing campus. The new campus will include 18 low-income houses,
dormitories for men and women, a student center, cafeteria, academic/administration
buildings, faculty housing, trades building, a maintenance and sports
features will be a Tribal Business Information Center with local
businesses and entrepreneurial partnerships with culturally-relevant
businesses in South Dakota. It means business opportunities for
students, revenue for the college and more importantly, a viable
construction company established five years ago is successfully
competing on the open market, providing jobs for students and graduates
of the Building Trade Program at Sitting Bull College. "We
are building our own student housing out here on the new campus,"
His Horse is Thunder said. The revenue generated by the business
helps in so many ways.
colleges across the United States that are similar to Sitting Bull
College receive $7,000 per student from the federal government.
year the college was appropriated only $3,900 per student. "So
we need to take a look at how we can fill that gap between the $3,900
that we are actually appropriated and the $7,000 that we should
be getting," His Horse is Thunder said. That became the major
reason for developing businesses on the campus.
order for an economy to work, money earned should revolve around
in a community five to seven times and by our contracting with the
tribe, the Bureau of Indian Affairs or ourselves, to provide something
or deliver a service, we are making that revenue spin within this
community and therefore multiply," His Horse is Thunder said.
"Thats how all strong communities work." New businesses
owned by the college will do just that. Today, all reservation goods
and services come from off of the reservation, therefore, all money
leaves without first providing growth. College officials intend
to change that.
computer repair business on campus will allow revenue that is now
leaving the reservation to stay at home. Also a science lab being
completed on the new campus will spawn an Environmental Water Quality
Testing Company. "Whether youre a tribe, county, city,
state, or the federal government, you have to do environmental assessment,"
His Horse Is Thunder said. "Its for us to take part of
that market and employ students, creating revenue and allowing that
money to multiply before it leaves the reservation."
business opportunity was gifted to the college. The Thoroughbred
Retirement Foundation in Lexington, Ky. gifted six thoroughbred
horses to Sitting Bull College through an adoption process and others
will be given next year. The horses will be used to teach youth
about their heritage and income generated from riding lessons will
be used to purchase equipment and feed for the horses.
Kentucky horses are a great example of something that is obviously
culturally relevant to the Lakota people. The tribe and the college
have acquired them and they will eventually build a culturally-relevant
business that will benefit the college and youth," OHara
we dont see as an economical tool yet. We see it more as bringing
back our culture and making it relevant to our young people,"
His Horse is Thunder said. Sitting Bull College has sponsored the
Bigfoot Memorial Ride since 1988 and the Chiefs Ride since
2000. The ride begins at the site of Sitting Bulls campsite
on the Standing Rock Reservation. "A lot of children, they
want to ride, but they dont have horses," college board
member Ron Brown Otter said. He traveled to Kentucky with other
college officials to bring the thoroughbreds home primarily for
that reason. "Riding those horses again provides youth with
a means of becoming in-tune and learning about their culture and
liking it," His Horse is Thunder said.