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Jul 19, 2022

Chance Renville: Cultivating Connectedness On The Reservation And Beyond

Heidi Stevens

Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation is a Native American nonprofit on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The group is focused on regenerative community development and overcoming intergenerational poverty, with a specific focus on food sovereignty, sustainable housing, honoring and keeping alive the Lakota language and culture, and cultivating youth leadership.

Chance Renville, a Thunder Valley CDC project manager, is focused on all those things plus two more: His children, ages 6 and 1.

“They see me go off to work every day, setting that example of creating community and trying to build a model for other communities,” Renville said. “A lot of times we get into a place where we think we’re dreaming too big, or this isn’t possible for us. But I remind myself we are worthy. That’s what drives me. That’s what drives everything we do.”

As a community, as a people, a new life entering into this world is something very special and sacred. It truly takes a community to raise a child.”

In each of Thunder Valley CDC’s initiatives—job training, designing and building affordable, eco-friendly reservation housing, creating a sustainable food system on the reservation—leaders seek ideas and feedback from every generation, from the youngest children to the community elders.

“If you truly want to build a community that’s by the community, for the community, you need input from all age groups,” Renville said. “Elders are able to connect back to things they’ve seen when they were younger, but we also want to build up the younger individuals so they have all the tools they need to move forward in life.”

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is the second largest in the United States and is home to the federally recognized tribe known as Oglala Lakota Nation. Roughly 20,000 residents live on the reservation, and 40 percent of the population is under age 18.

Renville said Thunder Valley CDC’s intergenerational approach reminds residents of their interconnectedness and responsibility for one another—especially the reservation’s youngest residents. Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ, in fact, is a Lakota phrase that translates to “we are all related,” or “all my relations.” 

“As a community, as a people, a new life entering into this world is something very special and sacred,” Renville said. “It truly takes a community to raise a child. And we try to provide guidance and service and support to all of our parents.”

A North Star we’d all do well to follow, regardless of where we reside.

“Healing, hope and liberation,” Renville said. “That’s really what we want to provide for our community, for our people, and ultimately for an example to other communities to say, ‘Hey, this community is doing that over here. Why can’t we do the same thing?’”


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