In 2019 two students, one from Vassar University, NY and one from Metropolitan State University of Denver interned with Sweet Grass for four weeks in Mouse Creek, outside of Wounded Knee, SD. Interns assisted with data analysis for the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce’s Love of Learning (US Dept. of Education) grant, archiving, and archival analysis of information donated by Dr. Kathleen Pickering and the Colorado State University Ethnography Lab. Interns also interviewed elders about house and home to assist Pyatt Studio - Architecture and Planning in developing a culturally appropriate, environmentally sustainable, and economically affordable model home for retired elders in Oglala Lakota Country. We partnered with Thikáǧa Construction (a Lakota owned and operated construction company) to install doors, windows, and clean up the job site. Our team also partnered with Knife Chief Buffalo Nation to cut wood and build buffalo fence. During the last day of our visit we partnered with Thunder Valley CDC’s Workforce Development crew on a hike to the top of Cedar Butte (Badlands National Park-South Unit), led by Oglala Lakota ethnobotanist Richard Sherman.
In 2017, Colorado State University graduate student Julia Reedy partnered with Sweet Grass to conduct a household study and analyze data that led to the HOME Housing Study. Julia led the reporting efforts which Thunder Valley utilized for a HUD grant to build 12 low income apartments. In addition, Julia conducted work for her medical anthropology master’s thesis which demonstrated the barriers Lakota people face prior to and after being placed on a kidney transplant list.
In 2015 a total of four people attended, two students at Colorado State University, one recent college graduate, and one volunteer from Switzerland, assisted Tatanka Wakpala Model Sustainable Community by enhancing their octagonal outdoor kitchen and planting and maintaining their community garden. Sweet Grass and interns partnered with Four Bands Community Fund to evaluate their fishing derby, assess their workforce development trainings and program, evaluate their C.R.E.A.T.E. training, and create an evaluation for their VITA participation. Interns also conducted phone surveys with businesses across the Pine Ridge Reservation to kick off a five-year business and workforce assessment funded by the Administration for Native Americans.
In 2018 four students representing Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Northern Colorado, and California State University - Monterey Bay interned with Sweet Grass. The primary research centered on interviews, surveys, literature review, and primary data analysis for Thunder Valley’s Grocery Store and Food Hub Feasibility Study. Interns also made in-person and phone interviews to Pine Ridge Reservation businesses which culminated in the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce Report of Workforce and Business Development 2018: Five Years of Change, Stability, and Vision. Toward the end of summer Sweet Grass teamed up with the Johnson and Pawnee Leggins families to create permanent bridge rails for their driveway.
Alyssa Camp, a prior graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver interned with Sweet Grass during the Spring and Summer of 2016. She conducted archival analysis and document digitization for First Peoples Fund. Alyssa was also instrumental in conducting surveys and training Lakota research associates for Thunder Valley’s Oglala Oyate (reservation-wide survey). Alyssa, is now Sweet Grass’ Director of Impact Measurement and Creative Analysis.
In 2014, 11 Colorado State University (CSU) students worked on the Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River Reservations. Interns provided data analysis, technical assistance, and conducted community interviews for Cheyenne River Tribal Ventures’ annual evaluations. Interns also worked on the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce Business Assessment, Workforce Development Training Curriculum, and “Destination Pine Ridge” Cultural Sensitivity Training Results. Sweet Grass provided grant writing and reporting assistance to Tatanka Wakpala Model Sustainable Community to comply with their CSU Center for Collaborative Conservation fellowship.
During that time Sweet Grass designed and constructed an octagonal shade and outdoor kitchen area and constructed water barriers from local, natural materials to allow the growth of cottonwood trees and expansion of indigenous foods into the prairie. In lieu of “rent” Sweet Grass and interns worked with locals to re-stain a deck, repaint window sashes, and refurbish the north-facing exterior of a home for our elder Lakota host. In addition, Sweet Grass led the staining of a cabin for another host—an Oglala Lakota ethnobotanist.
Josh, a graduate student during the field school conducted his research that summer related to food sovereignty and then became Sweet Grass’ full-time Director of Research and Evaluative Systems.