Oceti Sakowin Solve Fellowship


Sustainable Community Development on Standing Rock

Growing communities, preserving culture, investing in a sustainable tomorrow

Team Lead

Kimberlynn Cameron

Basic Information

Our Solution

Sustainable Community Development on Standing Rock

Our tagline:

Growing communities, preserving culture, investing in a sustainable tomorrow. 

Our pitch:

What is the problem that you are committed to solving? 

The Standing Rock Indian Reservation falls under what is considered a food desert. As defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food deserts are urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. The tribal communities face higher risks of health problems which include heart disease, diabetes, and obesity due to the lack of access to affordable, healthy food. Fresh produce is generally shipped in due to seasonal changes that make it impossible to grow food year-round. The overall climate on the reservation is paralleled to the Midwest’s continental climate of extreme temperatures in both summer and winter. Although there are minor fossil fuel resources, there is substantial renewable energy potential on the reservation. The high winds that move freely across both North Dakota and South Dakota prairies provide a considerable wind energy resource. Other areas of renewable energy that exist include undeveloped geothermal and solar resources. While there is potential for renewable energy and economic development opportunities, poverty is still prevalent within the reservation boundaries and there is a significant lack of adequate and available housing. According to Pindus et al, “during the past two decades, although improvements have been made, the overcrowding and physical housing problems of American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIANs) living on reservations and other tribal areas remain strikingly more severe than those of other Americans.

What is the project you are proposing? 

The purpose of this project to develop a systemic solutions approach to address the need for a sustainable, community-scale housing initiative that not only addresses the need for culturally-appropriate housing at an affordable cost, but to also develop a year-round net-zero greenhouse operation for economic growth that utilizes the tribe’s renewable energy resources to offset the commercial and residential energy demands.

How will your project change your community?

Having grown up on Standing Rock, I understand the importance and need for adequate housing that is culturally-appropriate, affordable, and healthy. I also understand the current need develop to innovative business opportunities that will not only be successful, but also align with the cultural values, belief system, and traditional way of life; this project not provides a bridge from our world to the world we see from our reservation boundaries, it also allows for utilizing renewable energy to power a greenhouse operation to provide year-round growing seasons with environmentally conscious ideals in conjunction with a business mindset, infrastructure growth and educational development, and a multifaceted solution to creating a self-sustaining, truly sovereign and independent community. 

Where our project is located:

Rapid City, SD, USA

The topic our project addresses:

  • Solar
  • Housing
  • Food
About Your Solution

What makes our project innovative:

The project provides a multifaceted approach to integrate existing technologies and encompasses cultural aspects into the framework. In developing a sustainable community, it also provides the opportunity to create and implement a microgrid to tie both the housing and greenhouse into one primary energy source, allowing for a 100% renewable energy community and business. Having the capabilities to grow fresh food locally would address the tribe’s food desert dilemma, reduce the carbon intensity of food, make use of unproductive land, provide a year-round growing season, and offer food security. Furthermore, thinking of food as energy would benefit the public health.

How we use technology in our project:

Onsite technologies would potential include net-zero energy designs, passive and active solar designs, geothermal heat pump technology, solar water heater, and capabilities to tie in energy production from wind energy development on Standing Rock; ultimately, community input would direct the overall design and model implemented. By utilizing renewable technologies, fresh produce would be grown with 100% green energy and may provide the necessary marketing strategies to successfully enter the industry on a commercial level. 

Our project goals over the next 12 months:

Goal I: Partnership Development
1. Identifying funding for housing initiative
2. Identifying funding/investors for greenhouse operation
3. Developing collaboration amongst engineering schools, local tribal college(s), nonprofit organizations, local tribal government and programs
4. Building human capacity and technical knowledge/understanding amongst community

Goal II: Assessments and Modeling
1. Development of community-based strategic energy plan
2. High level assessment of renewable energy potential
3. Feasibility analysis of installing renewable energy
4. Develop & evaluate baseline data on energy consumption, costs, trends, and both short-term and long-term impacts.

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

My vision bridges who we are as a Native people with renewable technologies in order to grow our communities and preserve our culture as we work towards a sustainable tomorrow and future our people envision for Standing Rock. In the next three to five years, the project’s intent is to have successfully developed and evaluated a net-zero greenhouse operation that can be scaled up to compete commercially in the fresh produce industry nationwide to generate economic prosperity into local communities and provide the necessary capital to continue development of sustainable, net-zero homes and buildings on the reservation.

Highlights from our project:


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

Kenel, SD, USA

Second city:

Wakpala, SD, USA

Third city:

Little Eagle, SD, USA

Fourth city:

Bullhead, SD, USA

Fifth city:

McLaughlin, SD, USA

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

This multifaceted approach sparks from the service learning model developed through a collaboration by Native American Sustainable Housing Initiative (NASHI), Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation (CDC), South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Oglala Lakota College and CU Environmental Design – University of Colorado Boulder. Their service learning approach seeks to reach across disciplines and combines multiple methodologies with the goal of creating an inter-organizational method of applying work through action and education or “community-engaged teaching”. Identifying partnerships, investors, and additional funding sources will be vital in ensuring this project’s success and affordability to the tribal communities.

How many people we are currently serving with our project:

Currently, this project is in its early stages of developing a prototype in conjunction with a local tribal district. The Kenel community of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation has current infrastructure to sustain an additional 40 homes. The location is also viable for wind, solar, and geothermal energy as well as a substantial land base within the community for future business development opportunities. Because this project is modeled after the successful housing initiative at Thunder Valley on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, community engagement and involvement will be a focal point in this project’s continual evolvement. 

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

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has approximately 8,500 enrolled members living within its reservation boundaries. One of the initial goals is to develop partnerships/collaborations amongst engineering schools, local tribal college(s), nonprofit organizations, and local tribal government(s)/programs in the first twelve months. While the project will directly service the first community and its members, collaborative efforts and media exposure will provide the opportunity for expanded involvement on and off the reservation. In three years, the goal is to not only have developed a multitude of sustainable houses, but to also locally grow fresh produce for commercial sale nationwide. 

About Your Team

How our project team is organized:

Not Registered as Any Organization

Explaining our organization:


How many people work on our project team:


How many years we have been working on our project:

1-2 years

Our revenue model:

Using a multifaceted, systemic solutions approach, this project addresses the severe housing shortage on the reservation while also incorporating a commercial-scale business to position the communities for long-term sustainability, profitability, and further expansion across the reservation for similar models and approaches. Utilizing renewable energy not only provides a potential marketing strategy, it offsets the commercial and residential energy needs. 

Partnership Potential

Why we are applying to Solve:

I am applying to Solve for the potential partnerships and networking opportunities that may be available through the Fellowship. I believe Solve can help advance this project by providing the necessary platform and exposure. 

The key barriers for our project:

The potential barriers to this project include lack of funding, technical knowledge and understanding, potential transmission upgrade costs for renewable energy use, and the potential loss of partnership and funding with and from the Office of Indian Energy due to current administrative budget cuts. There is also the possibility of additional funding being reduced for tribal housing with Housing & Urban Development (HUD). Additional challenges will be identified over the course of the project’s development in conjunction with the community strategic planning session. Solve could provide opportunities for networking, exposure, and a platform to pitch the project for additional partnerships/investments.

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

  • Peer-to-Peer Networking
  • Technology Mentorship
  • Connections to the MIT campus
  • Media Visibility and Exposure

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


Solution Team

  • Kimberlynn Cameron M.S. Civil & Environmental Engineering, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
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