US Socialism: Indigenous Community Wealth Building
Stephanie Gutierrez discusses the community wealth building collaboration between the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation and The Democracy Collaborative.
For the Lakota people of the Plains, ‘wealth’ has always meant to live by our virtues in order to have a happy, well-balanced life. Wealth was not and is not about materialistic things but helping, giving and taking care of one another. Our wealth is measured in our ability to care for our people and to provide a strong foundation for future generations. Before colonisation, our culture was what made possible our immense, largescale management of our people, homes, lands and resources. As a matriarchal society, with hundreds of millions of acres, we operated a self-sufficient economy able to support the needs of all the people. Although our communities have been greatly affected by colonisation, wealth building according to our traditional ways can still be seen in our relationships and in the ways our people continue to survive and thrive.
When I was introduced to the community wealth building (CWB) framework, I was working for the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation in South Dakota, which had committed to a five-year project with the Democracy Collaborative. In order to make sense of the process, we spent time reading their report Cities Building Community Wealth on building a more inclusive economy grounded in broad, local ownership, and discussing the drivers of community wealth building with family, friends and community members. We came to understand the notion by referring to our values as a people and considering how the framework translated to Lakota beliefs and traditional ways of being.