PINE RIDGE, S.D. (KELO) — Tatewin Means says sowing into her home community on the Pine Ridge reservation is a part of her life mission.

Along with a variety of volunteer efforts, Means runs a non-profit organization focused on culture, community and quality of life.

Means was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

“So my roots have always been here in and amongst my people,” Means said.

While she lives in Rapid City now, she spends a lot of her time in Porcupine working as the Executive Director of the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation.

“Here at Thunder Valley, our vision is liberation and a major component to liberation, our freedom as Lakota people, is reconnection to who we are as Lakota people, our lifeways, our language and our spirituality,” Means said.

For years, Means dreamt of bringing her strengths and resources back to her home in Pine Ridge. And today, she has done just that.

The Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation was founded in 2007. The land here at the Regenerative Development Community was bought in 2011 and construction started in 2015.

By providing stable homes, a strong community, and a solid foundation, the Thunder Valley Corporation has helped many people in the area.

“In this whole community approach we have 8 initiatives that address all levels of society, of nationhood. From food sovereignty, we have two and a half acre demonstration farm, we are launching our own bison herd this spring to our regenerative community development. So we sit on 34 acres here in the heart of the Pine Ridge Reservation and we are actually building a community based on our community’s vision and voice,” Means said.

Not only has the Thunder Valley Corporation been a top priority for Means, but she is also actively involved in many other projects in Western South Dakota.

Including Social Justice for Children, the Women Equity Movement, the Indian Boarding School Land Project and Bison Restoration on the Pine Ridge Reservation to name just a few.

“For us to reach liberation, for us to have true freedom we have to eliminate the chains of colonization that bind us and a lot of times and a lot of times that is in the form of trauma whether it is historical trauma or existing trauma, we have to end that cycle,” Means said.

Something very important to Means is her upbringing and her legacy.

“I come from a strong line of matriarchs, strong women, and so basically when you are raised in that environment, you have no choice but to be strong and to figure out how you can contribute to your community and your people,” Means said.

By continuing her work now, she hopes to not only help her community but educate people in South Dakota and beyond about Lakota culture.

“We are the richest people in the world because we have held onto our way of life so adamantly generation after generation,” Means said.

And while Means does this work with no expectations of recognition, she is quite remarkable.

“I am very proud of where I come from and I would just want people to remember that I am indigenous and I grew up on the reservation and I was able to help my people in some way,” Means said.

Means says the legacy left by her parents, Russell Means and Peggy Phelps, inspires her to continue pushing for change.

Means previously served as the Oglala Sioux Tribe Attorney General. 

She is also a pipe holder.