Dan Akee, a 94-year-old Navajo Code Talker got to go home to the house he built 60 years before because of Red Feather Development Group. Six years ago he and his wife Margaret were forced to move into a trailer next door after the house had become uninhabitable due to a leaky roof, broken windows and no heat source. The WWII hero’s only wish was to “Go Home” and that somehow, someway his house would be restored for him to live there again before he died. Russel Begaye, President of the Navajo Nation thanked Red Feather for completing what had been begun 90 days before. “Wow, the house is amazing and benefitting of a national WWII hero and inspiration of the Navajo Nation.” Over $30,000 raised through generosity.com and another $50,000 in materials were donated for the project. Dan Akee is one of 10 remaining Navajo Code Talkers from WWII.
Kii' Nat Wan Lalwa (KNWL) is a volunteer organization originally created to serve in an advisory capacity to the Red Feather Development Group on their Hopi straw bale home builds. "Kii'natwanlalwa" is the Hopi practice of traditional home building and maintenance customs for the rejuvenation of life. In recent years, KNWL has expanded their capacity to deliver programs designed to meet additional home-related needs on the Hopi reservation. The mission of KNWL empowers the Hopi people by building and improving homes with sustainable materials through volunteers, partnerships and the Hopi concept of naya (helping one another).The Tsakwantota Natural Plastering Program -- a joint project of Red Feather and KNWL -- is an opportunity designed to provide volunteers with a service learning experience on the Hopi Reservation. Many cultural opportunities were interspersed with the fun work of plastering homes using traditional Hopi techniques. Home plastering at Hopi is an essential component to the long-term preservation of both historic homes and traditions.
During this two week project we completed multiple homes and other historic structures...ensuring that these homes are preserved for the future and are more wam for the coming winter.
In August 2014, Red Feather returned to the Village of Hotevilla on the Hopi Reservation to partner with the Sekayumptewa family to build a post and beam, straw bale home that represents the "next generation" of Red Feather's energy-efficient, affordable, sustainable homes. In October of 2013, Red Feather hosted the first phase of a community “design charrette” on the Hopi Reservation for the purpose of developing plans for the next generation of our super energy efficient and affordable straw bale homes. The charrette provided a forum for existing homeowners, community members, and other tribal stakeholders to share their ideas for integrating culturally significant design elements into the new home. Participants also discussed lessons learned from previous Red Feather builds and other construction projects on the reservation, as well as new collaborative opportunities that would support traditional Hopi lifeways. The new design:
On average, Tribal households pay significantly more in home energy expenses than other American households . In spite of the fact that tribal lands (which cover almost 5 percent of the total area of the United States) hold an estimated 10 percent of the country’s renewable energy resources, including enough solar energy potential to generate 4.5 times the national total energy consumption in 2004, more than 14 percent of American Indian households on reservations have no access to electricity, compared to 1.2 percent of all U.S. households. (Source: 1990 US Census) In fact, the Hopi reservation has some of the highest solar energy potential in the country, but a significant number of Hopi families use wood and coal (unhealthy heat sources) to provide home heat. For several years now Red Feather has integrated solar thermal (hot water) systems into our home designs in order to take advantage of this affordable, efficient and environmentally-friendly home heat source. In 2010, Red Feather facilitated a Solar Thermal System workshop in the village of Bacavi on the Hopi reservation, where we retrofitted an existing straw bale home with a solar thermal system, while teaching tribal members about solar thermal technology through class instruction and hands-on installation. This year, funding from the Grand Canyon Trust and a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture enabled us to offer a more extensive Solar Training workshop that included the installation of four photovoltaic (electricity-generating) systems and one solar thermal (hot water) system. As with our straw bale construction program, the recipients of the systems were required to contribute a portion of the cost financially. They will see a return on that investment within approximately two years. Within days of announcing the opportunity, the training was enrolled to capacity (20 students) and we had a waiting list! Mark Jensen, Red Feather’s Construction Program Director, delivered the solar thermal training. We partnered with Orion Thornton, owner of Onsite Energy (http://www.onsiteenergymt.com) and contract instructor for Solar Energy International, to deliver the photovoltaic training. The class was comprised of builders and electricians, tribal employees, students, and other members of the community interested in learning more about the solar industry. All the students showed enthusiasm to learn, asked well thought-out questions, and during installation, showed no hesitation to jump right in and try something new, like: soldering copper pipe, getting on the roof, wiring circuits to testing them, or even crawling in a hot and dusty attic space. And, best of all, many of the students expressed interest in pursuing further education in the solar industry or getting systems for themselves or for family members.
On Friday, June 25th, Albert McManus and Clara One Feather and their two children walked in to their new, beautiful, straw bale home nestled in a gentle valley of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. It's a home they actively participated in building with the help of many volunteers and Red Feather member support. Beyond completing their "sweat equity" hours, both Albert and Clara were on the site each day, at times working late into the night to help keep the project on schedule. In addition, volunteers each week were treated to a Clara's world famous Indian tacos. As usual, the late spring weather was a challenge (including two nearby tornadoes), but Red Feather staff and the spirit of volunteerism prevailed! Congratulations to the McManus/One Feather family on their new home and heartfelt thanks to all the volunteers and supporters who make the project a great success!
New Straw Bale House
This year, Red Feather partnered with the Limberhand family (Joe Limberhand, Virginia Williams, and their two girls, Betty Ann and Johanna) to build a fantastic new straw bale home to replace their 45-year-old trailer. Nestled in a secluded spot in the Muddy Creek area of the Northern Cheyenne reservation, we felt very fortunate to be able to spend time there this summer. On Friday, June 15, 2012, volunteers started arriving for the first "official" week of the build. Work had actually already been underway for about a week as staff prepared the camp and oversaw the preparation of the foundation. Joe, Virginia, Betty Ann and Johanna Limberhand and their extended family welcomed the first week of volunteers with a performance by Joe's drum circle and a prayer delivered by a Cheyenne elder. His message to the group was this -- as we build this house with the Limberhands, each of our thoughts and emotions will leave an imprint that will become a part of their home. We were reminded to be kind to one another as we worked and lived together, and to be kind to the beautiful land where we were so fortunate to be spending the next few weeks.
In August, Mark and Marilynn (Red Feather construction staff) and Straw Bale Construction Interns returned to finish the interior of the home in time for the arrival of the new addition to the Limberhand family -- a little girl born September 27th. As you can see, the home turned out beautifully! Many of you reading this message shared a role in making this dream a reality for the Limberhands. Please continue to send good thoughts their way.
Work is complete on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation to build a home for Kimberly Spang, her partner Floris Medicine Bull, and their three children. Prior to moving into their Red Feather home,the Spang-Medicine Bull family resided in a two-bedroom house, which had become pretty cramped for their growing children. Kimberly, who works full-time at the Northern Cheyenne Natural Resource Department, prepared tenaciously to become a homeowner, and both she and Floris played key roles in the construction of their new home. In addition to stacking bales and pounding nails, the couple generously organized several cultural presentations for build volunteers and made home-cooked meals to share under the dining tent on Friday nights. Red Feather was delighted to partner with the Spang-Medicine Bull family, and welcome them into their new home!
Director of Development and Communications at Red Feather. Passionate about Healthy Homes for All.
Categories Home Renovation, Education, Navajo Code Talker, Veterans