TEMPE, Arizona | 2017 will bring new challenges and opportunities to Indian Country. We at the SNCC are poised and ready to push forward with our mission: to develop the capacity for culturally appropriate and environmentally sustainable development within our tribal communities. In this winter newsletter, we are enthusiastic to share creative new partnerships, the development of existing partnerships and exciting updates throughout our portfolio of projects. Stay tuned over the next few months as we update our website as a platform to share new content and important conversations that impact how we live and operate in Indian Country. If you haven’t yet, please follow us on social media, via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to participate in conversations about our work and of our colleagues. Lastly, please feel free to reach out to us with comments, feedback or questions at info@sustainablenativecommunities.org as we continue to develop entrepreneurial methods to positively impact indigenous communities around this nation.


Summer Design Workshop 2016 exhibition at the Santa Fe Art Institute

ANTICIPATING THE 2017 SUMMER DESIGN WORKSHOP, Santa Fe, NM | We are pleased to announce that SNCC will again lead a Summer Design Workshop in collaboration with the Santa Fe Art Institute (https://sfai.org/) (SFAI). For the past three years, SNCC and SFAI have co-produced an intensive Summer Design Workshop for high school and college-age students interested in public-interest design/build practice. This year, thanks to support from the National Endowment for the Arts, we’ll further integrate collaborative work between the Design Workshop participants, the SFAI artists in residence and community members in Northern New Mexico to design and realize a built project through a participatory design process. As before, we’ll provide scholarship stipends for participants in need of assistance. Upon the conclusion of the Summer Design Workshop, we will connect participants to a number of internship placements in related design fields. Please reach out to us at info@sustainablenativecommunities.org if you’d like more information or have a workshop participant in mind. You can learn more about last year’s workshop here.


Renderings of anticipated 2017 SNCC builds with Spokane (left) and Crow Creek Sioux (right) community partners

BUILDING SEASON ANTICIPATED, Spokane, WA + Crow Creek, SD | This Spring we anticipate the groundbreaking of two construction projects: housing in South Dakota and a community facility in Washington State. The SNCC team has been working through integrated design processes with both Sioux and Spokane tribal members for months to envision culturally-responsive housing, a resilient Housing Authority campus, and a multi-purpose construction facility.

In Washington, the Spokane Indian Housing Authority (SIHA) is preparing to build a new office and workshop complex — a “building to produce other buildings” — that will amplify SIHA’s ability produce quality housing across Spokane Tribal Lands. We’re also working with the SIHA team to plan sustainable site improvements at their campus and to connect their site to an adjacent elder housing complex, and the nearby Spokane Tribe of Indians Longhouse and Tribal Elder Center. Our planning work focuses on connecting SIHA to the community and enabling the SIHA campus to serve as an off-the-grid disaster resilience hub for the larger community. As you read this, the SNCC design team is on the Spokane Reservation, working with SIHA staff to clarify building systems and materials in preparation for construction.

In South Dakota, a coalition of Crow Creek community groups is preparing to break ground on SNCC-designed prototype housing. Over the past year, the SNCC design team has been working with Hunkpati Oyate Sioux tribal members, Dakotah Tipis, the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, and CORE Engineering with support from a regional philanthropic family. The home design, one of several designed with Crow Creek tribal members, features an open plan living-dining area, a super-insulated building volume, non-toxic finishes, active and passive solar design elements, and an integrated storm shelter. In parallel, we have just delivered a master plan and a related research package to the Crow Creek Tribal Housing staff for use on a site slated for housing and economic development by the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. The prototype housing constructed on this site during the 2017 building season represents the first phase of a 60-unit planned housing development—with site integrated wetlands, community gardens and recreation areas—that will connect new and existing tribal housing to tribal services and downtown Fort Thompson, South Dakota.

We look forward to seeing these designs come to fruition and serve our Spokane and Sioux community partners, and to sharing stories from the upcoming building season in the next SNCC Quarterly.


This February, SNCC Executive Director Joseph Kunkel participated in Defining Practices a cross-institutional initiative hosted by Art Center College of Design. This two-day authors’ conference focused on addressing the emerging issues around the impacts that design and research ethics has on the community engagement process. Art Center brought together practitioners and leaders in design research leaders and higher education to articulate design ethics issues, identify gaps and opportunities, map best practices, and propose paths forward. Conference participants examined how academic institutions may best hold themselves accountable for the work they do within the built environment. Conversations focused on how institutional infrastructure can support emerging design research, and leverage professional practices, while striving to positively impact the everyday lives of end-users and those in need of quality design.


Over the next six months, the SNCC team will be initiating a collaboration with the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Build Environment (SSEBE) and the Del E. Webb School of Construction (DEWS) within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. This partnership centers on project-based field work, design research and academic course work focusing on culturally-appropriate design and construction within indigenous communities. The related work will feature architecture, planning, construction, as well as research and design methodology that aligns with indigenous values and honors the worldview of our nation’s indigenous populations. SNCC will work together with the Construction In Indian Country (CIIC) Center to mentor native and non-native students alongside design practitioners and tribal leaders, to raising awareness of, and the capacity to address, the range of issues facing tribal communities.


Homes around Isle de Jean Charles

ON THE FRONTLINE OF AMERICAN CLIMATE CHANGE, Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana | The community of Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi Chitimacha Choctaw (IDJC) is on the frontline of Climate Change in Southwestern Louisiana where tribal lands are receding as sea level rises. In January 2017, SNCC participated in a community-led workshop hosted by the Citizens Institute on Rural Design (CIRD) and the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA) to focus on planning a new Tribal Community Center. As part of a larger resettlement strategy for the tribe, the proposed Center will become a hub for cultural events and economic development while bringing tribal members together. The Tribal Community Center site is envisioned as a series of indoor and outdoor spaces that connect housing and community facilities to a network of walking and biking trails and agricultural systems.

The major goals and outcomes of the design workshop were to develop a conceptual plan for the Center together with an outline for its programming and activities. During a community-driven, place-based planning process, workshop participants identified a range of resources to support the Center and its related programs. SNCC facilitated sessions emphasizing the Tribe’s traditional cultural planning practices, in order to frame and articulate shared community goals for the resettlement process and the Tribal Center. The workshop identified ways community members could physically and culturally connect to the new site with authenticity and a respect for place, while optimizing site assets and the continuity of community life-ways.

Community members and workshop participants expressed great hope that these engagement processes and outcomes, based on community input and cultural resilience, will inform HUD protocols when working with climate-impacted communities facing the challenges of resettlement.

Thank you for reading our winter newsletter and for your interest in SNCC and culturally and environmentally responsive design!

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