From the Tribal Front: we present the work and values of the Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative in our second quarterly newsletter!

SANTA FE, New Mexico |
Greetings from Northern New Mexico, where Summer’s dry heat has us envisioning the impending monsoon. We at Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative (SNCC) have been busy these past three months and are excited to share stories of our current work and expanding initiatives with you in our Summer Quarterly Newsletter.

For those of you who have only recently connected with SNCC, we are a native-led organization focusing on culturally and environmentally sustainable development with American Indian, First Nations, and Indigenous communities worldwide. Through planning, architectural design, technical assistance and research, our services help tribal communities gain self-sufficiency, improve their impacts on the natural world, and develop economically sustainable, healthy, green, and culturally-appropriate communities.

Anticipating 501(c)(3) non-profit status, SNCC will soon be in a position to scale up our work, delve into new projects, and forge new partnerships with community development corporations and educational institutions nationwide. We are looking forward to continuing initiatives in Crow Creek, SD; Spokane, WA; Ft. Robinson, NE; and Pine Ridge, SD later this season.

Our Summer Quarterly focuses primarily on collaborations with the Santo Domingo Pueblo community. Over the past three months, we have facilitated: a research project on solar energy options for the Pueblo with Worcester-Polytechnic students, a Healthy Housing Workshop in partnership with the University of Virginia and Harvard School of Public Health, a design/build studio for youth with the Santa Fe Art Institute, and the Groundbreaking of a 41-unit affordable housing development with theSanto Domingo Tribal Housing Authority.

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This Spring, the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) worked with members of the Santo Domingo Tribal Housing Authority (SDTHA) and the Santo Domingo Pueblo (SDP) to look at solar energy options for energy independence in the context of a professional practice course. The Pueblo, like many tribal communities, faces a growing need for both housing and economic development. The SDTHA and SDP worked with the WPI group to identify, assess, and make recommendations regarding the potential for solar energy implementation within the new affordable housing development featured above. The WPI team researched, analyzed, and presented aesthetic, technical, and financial comparisons of several different photovoltaic systems. The project resulted in a comprehensive report, a list of potential financial sources to fund solar energy projects, and an informational video exploring how renewable energy sources can support the goal of energy sovereignty in Native communities.


HEALTHY HOUSING WORKSHOP, Santo Domingo, NM | This May marked the first Santo Domingo Healthy Housing Workshop organized by the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Virginia, and the Santo Domingo Tribal Housing Authority with support from the SNCC. This impactful event gathered health professionals, designers, architects, tribal planners, tribal community members, tribal staff, and tribal leadership to talk about what makes up a healthy community. The training showcased crucial thinking related to the importance of design and planning and the potential impacts design can have in fostering healthier communities.

The Healthy Housing Workshop touched on a variety of topics that have the potential to positively impact public health at the Pueblo. Presentations included an overview of the draft Health Impact Assessment (HIA) that the University of Virginia created with the SNCC. This HIA study focuses on Executive Director, Joseph Kunkel’s work at Santo Domingo as an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow, working to co-create healthy landscapes and better understand  Pueblo-specific relationships between the built environment and  public health impacts. The final HIA report is expected to be completed this fall. The aim of this study is to help inform how the Pueblo develops its priorities around community development and planning, specifically as it relates to affordable housing.

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SANTO DOMINGO HOUSING GROUNDBREAKING, Santo Domingo, NM | On May 25th, 2016 we joined the Pueblo community and the Santo Domingo Tribal Housing Authority (SDTHA) to celebrate the groundbreaking of a 41-unit affordable housing development. This was a momentous day for us at the SNCC as it represented the culmination of Joseph Kunkel’s Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship project. The development scheme was first conceptualized in March 2014, when the SDTHA recognized the pressing need for quality affordable housing on the Pueblo. In 2015, the Pueblo was awarded a Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) allocation by the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority. The project, designed byAOS Architects, consists of a mix of single- and two-story housing units and suggests an alternative to the cookie-cutter ‘suburban’ cluster projects found on many reservations with an architectural approach that is specific to the Santo Domingo Pueblo and, in a broader context, more appropriate for Indian Country. The units respect the Tribe’s historical preference for density and shared community spaces while placing residents in close proximity to tribal amenities. Integrated into the development is a 3,000 square foot community center with a daycare, a computer lab, a playground, a basketball court, and a large multipurpose space for social events. Construction is now underway and is on course for a Summer 2017 completion.

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SUMMER DESIGN WORKSHOP, Santa Fe, NM | Two years ago, the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI) launched several new initiatives to address its new mission: “How can SFAI cultivate creative practices (from fine art to design to urban planning and beyond), engage with diverse communities, and address the most pressing social issues of our time?” In Summer 2014, it hosted the inaugural Summer Design Workshop, a four-week intensive course for youth who had little prior exposure to design process and practice. Led by the SNCC team, the Workshop introduced students to the practice of Public Interest Design and challenged them to design seating and shelter for the Santo Domingo community, focusing on the Historic Trading Post.

The 2016 Summer Design Workshop took place this July and introduced a group of students (aged 15-19) to another design challenge within a community setting. Students were tasked with designing and building a site-specific shade structure prototype for the anticipated Santo Domingo Heritage Arts Trail. The result, a moveable structure incorporating a bench and a raised bed for plants, is temporarily installed at the SFAI campus and serves as a potential prototype for future path-adjacent shelter at the Pueblo and beyond.

Right now, four of the Workshop participants are engaged in paid summer internships with Santa Fe based businesses: a landscape architecture firm, an architecture firm, a design-build studio, and a construction company. These internships are providing an opportunity to apply their studies to a real-world setting and give them a deeper understanding of what practice in a range of design professions could look like. This workshop exemplifies SNCC and SFAI’s aim to bring design to a broad range of community partners and create meaningful and artful change on the ground. We anticipate the Summer Design Workshop will be an annual event in partnership with SFAI and allied community design professionals.

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