The Northern Arapaho Tribe has a tribal priority to reintroduce and preserve the Arapaho language.
Even though the language is taught in school, students spend the majority of their time at home or in the community interacting with family and friends where there is inconsistent reinforcement of cultural cues learned in the classroom.
How can a traditionally oral language be made relevant to young people who are digitally connected to games, and other mass media screens?
To answer this question, Wyoming Community Media and it’s producers Alan O’Hashi and Glenn Reese teamed up with Lorre Hoffman and the Maker Space 307 summer youth service learning program, based in Fort Washakie on the Wind River Reservation.
Four students participated during the three-day class and production project.
Northern Arapaho elder and story teller Merle Haas wrote down a short story passed down to her from her great grandfather, Chief Yellow Calf.
“The Fox and the Woodtick” teaches a lesson about “thinking outside the box.”
Northern Arapaho Eagle Drum Society singer and drummer Alison Sage spoke about the traditional importance and healing properties of making music.
Artist Robert Martinez gave a presentation about how tribal artwork has evolved over the years and continues to be an important means of storytelling.
We worked closely with Bob Ottinger and the Reality Garage in Boulder, Colorado who loaned us a Vuze virtual reality camera, a Samsung 360 camera and a high speed computer.
When it was all said and done, the youth combined their self-composed music and original art to tell Merle’s folk tale in two dimensions and 360 degree virtual reality on location at the historic Arapaho Ranch Mansion north of Thermopolis, Wyoming.
This is a pilot project that demonstrates an efficient way for tribes to present traditional language and cultural preservation efforts in a not-so-traditional format to tribal and non-tribal cultures.
On the road in Wyoming last week one night was spent at the Green Creek Inn and RV park. If you’ve stayed in camping / RV parks there’s, generally, an area set aside for semi-permanent places for longer-stay RVers.
In Wyoming, they are seasonal park workers, oil and gas field workers, hard-core hunters and fishers.
There’s been talk about low cost housing types for Millennials paying off student debt, seniors seeking nursing home alternatives and marginalized populations like homeless vets.
Forms of cooperative and collaborative approaches float to the surface. Tiny houses are low cost to construct and lots of them can be crammed onto a piece of ground. As such, there are cities that are building tiny houses for the homeless population.
A few years ago, I helped organize a Regional Cohousing Conference in Boulder. There were around 90 people in attendance from the US, Canada and Australia with various interests in this collaborative housing form.
In a past life, I used to be a city planner in Wyoming and a member the Boulder Planning Board in Colorado, as well as the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley in Longmont. I studied ecological biology and environmental politics as an undergrad and grad student. How to live a balanced life in both the human and natural environments has always been an interest of mine.
The cohousing idea is a little bit about the buildings, but it’s more about setting up an old fashioned sense of community in which residents participate in the design, character and culture of their neighborhoods. With an itinerant population like homeless people, creating a sense of community would be a challenge.
The cohousing idea originated in Scandanavia, which is a bit more communal and socialistic than in the US. Here, cohousing tries to adapt communal tenets into the “rugged individualism” of America.
The pitfalls of that evolution was the main topic of the Regional Cohousing Conference which was entitled “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” I’ve written a post or two about those issues.
Over the past few years, interest in “tiny houses” has been growing. That is, people choosing to live in homes that are from 200 to 600 sq ft in size.
They are generally built on a “flat bed” and can be wheeled around from place to place, but also can be built on a foundation, but that kicks in an entirely different set of building requirements. Tiny houses on skids or wheels fall into the land use category of mobile homes.
They are far different than your standard mobile home. Regular mobile homes can be the size of stick built houses that incorporate some space saving design features. If you google “tiny house” lots of websites and images pop up.
How about this idea – a cohousing community that consists of tiny houses?
It makes sense to me.
The biggest hurdle for traditional cohousing, as well as regular housing, for that matter, is money.
Money for land, money for the development. Because cost is such a huge factor, homes are constructed that maximize profit. This generally means expensive houses crammed onto a tiny space. How about the opposite – inexpensive houses on tiny spaces, that results in more open spaces?
Tiny houses cost anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000 and can be parked in friends’ back yards. They are often built with sweat equity. There’s a cable tv show about downsizing baby boomers, young couples and individuals making the move to drop out of the “bigger is better” society. Some tiny homeowners want to be more mobile, others are sedentary.
With tiny houses, a cohousing organizer wouldn’t need near as much space as a typical coho development. It would depend on the rules, but a tiny house development would likely be more transient.
Utilities could be “hook ups” like in an RV park. Decisions would have to be made, based on political jurisdiction about individual septic or a septic field or central wastewater collection; individual water cisterns or central water.
I would think there would be some amenities like streets, sidewalks, open space, in addition to the common house.
At the typical RV park, the longer-stay “residents” have access to the common showers / restrooms, laundry, the little store and breakfast available to the overnight campers.
I can envision a common house that is more permanent, though. As a monetary hedge against potentially higher turnover rates, the common house could be mixed use with community amenities like the open dining area, kitchen, laundry facilities, TV room, guest rooms, with business tenants or owners like a convenience store, coffee shop, business offices, laundromat and the like.
I happened to be at a commercial development in Highlands Ranch – a ‘burb of Denver. There was high and medium density housing on the back side and mixed use / commercial fronting on the main drag and a strip mall with convenient services like coffee shops and kitschy stores that also included large box retail which require lots of parking.
Highlands Ranch is more known as a typical “cul de sac” nation and not as a “sustainable” community – intentional ir not.
Because tiny houses are small, neighbors would be more likely to frequent the common house, than in some traditional cohousing communities in which homes are the same as in suburbia with large living rooms, utility rooms, large kitchens. Neighbors go in their house and you don’t see them again.
There are the unfounded housing characteristics necessary for resale, as espoused by Sarah Susanka author of “Not So Big House.”
Susanka, who is also an architect, says that the sense of “home” has less to do with quantity and everything to do with quality. She points out that we feel “at home” in our houses when where we live reflects who we are in our hearts.
I heard her speak at Denver University a few years ago. The examples that stuck with me are those of the “den” and “dining room.” She asked the huge audience about who uses their den and who eats in the dining room. Not many hands went up.
I’d say that, for the most part, communities still have a bias AGAINST mobile home parks and hold the “trailer trash” stereotype. In a place like Boulder, there would be an uproar about this as a form of affordable housing. The best place to try this out would be where land is inexpensive and there is less of an elitist attitude.
At the coho conference, I was talking to a fellow filmmaker from Minnesota, who also lives in cohousing, about the idea of tiny house cohousing.
I’ll plant the seed here, but it may take me developing the idea in order for me to document it.
As it turns out, I am trying to get interest in a mixed use intentional community located in Cheyenne, Wyoming called the Lincoln Court. We had our first informational meeting with participants naming “tiny houses” as one of the possible land uses, along with cohousing, apartments, coworking offices, gallery and performance space and studios.
The project is moving forward with a draft business plan available. Check it out. The project is planning for a tiny house village to diversity apartments, and two affordable cohousing projects offering stick-built town houses and cottages.
Anyone interested in building a tiny house in a cohousing community?
This article was originally published in December 2014, but updated, in part due to a wordpress glitch that obliterated the story.
The LINCOLN COURT mixed use development is an ambitious one but meets a variety of community needs. Plans are to develop on the 15 acre Back 40 Subdivision on the West End of Cheyenne, Wyoming consistent with the approved Missile Driver Corridor Plan.
The project is organized by Boulder Community Media dba ECOS. Download a copy of the draft business plan narrative.
The property is adjacent to the former Hitching Post Inn site. The project name is homage to the Lincoln Court, a motor lodge that preceded the Hitching post, which fronted on the Historic Lincoln Highway (US 30).
The Lincoln Court project targets the affordable housing need with purchase price-points between $200,000 to $300,000. The vast majority of those needing housing will be those households who earn between 0 and 80% of the county’s Median Family Income. The project will work with Habitat for Humanity and the Wyoming Community Development Authority (WCDA) programs for first-time home buyers.
Based on a 2017 housing needs survey completed by the WCDA, Laramie county has 9,520 substandard housing units and based on incremental growth, an additional 4,074 dwelling units will be needed by 2020. Out of this need
WCM envisions a project positioned to target those wishing to incorporate more creativity in their business and day-to-day lives seeking to build equity in them selves or improving their housing situations. From a larger community perspective, the project supports and implements Cheyenne and Laramie County community development goals by enhancing the social and cultural experience for current and future residents through a mixed-use creative intentional community and possibly improving blighted property – the LINCOLN COURT alter-ego Hitching Post Inn site. The project also nurtures economic development by providing housing for primary jobs and also space for local low-impact businesses to expand and entrepreneurs to flourish.
Based on a 2014 economic development report by Cheyenne LEADS and a 2017 report by the Wyoming Community Development Authority there is a big need for housing, particularly affordable housing in Cheyenne and Laramie County.
Lincoln Court offers the full range of benefits to Cheyenne with regards to affordable housing as a key economic development objective:
The project meets this housing need through a mixed-use development consisting of owner occupied and rental, universally-accessible senior and intergenerational cohousing dwelling units – detached and duplexes, civic and community spaces and appropriate retail that would support the community such as a coffee shop, offices, live-work options. A site map is attached.
The LINCOLN COURT also is interested in innovative continuous care, including intergenerational “green houses” as championed by Bill Thomas for caregivers who could live “on site” in the cohousing community with their disabled family members who need more intensive and specialized health care nearby.
The target market is wide open and consists of intergenerational individuals and families, as well as seniors over 50 years of age, who may be local or from out of town “empty nesters” and wanting to downsize, “vigorous retired” people wanting to stay active and age in a community setting. In support of this, the project will investigate compatible services such as personal care, urgent care.
The project is a public – private partnership with strong private sector partners and the affordable housing component involving participation by local, state and federal government agencies. The project is economically viable with a balance among strong equity from the public and private non-profit sectors, debt financing and sales/lease.
The East High School class of 1971 historian Ralph Zobell released the most recent EHS ’71 Obituary update. Download from the link or click on the image of Ed Frye.
We get inquiries about the Central list, and if anyone is keeping track of this, let us know and we can get your classmates in touch with you.
It’s also coming up on Frontier Days. I make it to Cheyenne for at least one day of festivities. This year, likely, during the first three or four days. I’ll be traveling around later in the week working on a movie in western Wyoming.
CFD is always a great time to reconnect with classmates during planned and serendipitous encounters. Gone are the days when Downtown was the entertainment district.
All the revelry sprawled out of town – Cadillac Ranch on East Lincolnway and the Outlaw on the south Greeley highway. There’s still the Albany and the Crown. The Plains Hotel Wigwam redux is okay. I see the old Mayflower changed hands again. I keep forgetting that the annual crowds stay the same age and I keep getting older and older.
Keep taking your medicine and paying your insurance premiums so you’ll be in tip-top shape for the 50th reunion that will take place during the summer of 2021. By then, everyone should be retired and there should be no conflicts, right?
Here are the 23 counties designated by license plate number with my picks and some suggestions from others.
Where in Wyoming have you eaten a pretty good ‘out of the way’ burger – that burger tucked away in a hole in the wall? (No national chains, please!)
1. Natrona County – Wonderbar in Casper. The place has changed hands. Is the food still the same, worse, better?
2. Laramie County – Two Doors Down all in Cheyenne. I originally had down the Plains Hotel, but that place has been going through some transitions lately.
3. Sheridan County – Wagon Box Inn in Storey; Rib and Chop House Sheridan – 1/2 pounder and try the squash casserole
4. Sweetwater County –
5. Albany County – Altitudes in Laramie
6. Carbon County – The Virginian – The Bronc Stomper, open face burger topped with red or green chili – the fries are hand-cut. The Mangy Moose (not to be confused with the Teton County Mangy Moose).
7. Niobrara County –
8. Platte County – Howard’s in Glendo, recommended by Matt and Pete Mead
9. Big Horn County – The Hyattville Cafe – 1/2 pound mushroom – swiss
10. Fremont County – Gannett Grill in Lander; Red Willow in the Wind River Casino – Mushroom Swiss Burger at Casino prices!
13. Converse County – The Koop in Douglas; The mushroom swiss burger at the Depot – add salad and soup
15. Hot Springs County – Butch’s in Kirby (closed on Sunday and Monday)
16. Johnson County – Dash Inn – The Bacon Cheeseburger with potato wedges and gravy in Buffalo
17. Campbell County –
18. Crook County –
19. Uinta County – Mountain View Drive Inn; Goin’ South in Lyman
20. Washakie County –
21. Park County – Silver Dollar in Cody. I still like the Irma, but they allow smoking in the bar and the second hand smoke permeates the restaurant.
22. Teton County –
23. Sublette County – Stockgrowers in Pinedale; GRB – Daniel
This is a good start – what are your choices – if you have alternates to the ones listed, let us hear about them.
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself – Leo Tolstoy
Be the change you wish to see in the world – Mohandas Gandhi
I followed Gandhi’s strategy for as long as I could. There came a point in our struggle when the brute force of the oppressor could no longer be countered through passive resistance alone … We chose sabotage because it did not involve the loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future race relations. – Nelson Mandela
When I cleared customs in Chicago, the Homeland Security guy was more interested in how my visit to South Africa went than the packaged beef Biltong – potential contraband – I had in my bag.“Did you know Gandhi got his start in South Africa?” he asked as he scanned my passport. This was the line for travelers with no checked luggage so we weren’t holding up people. “If I did, I’ve forgotten,” I answered. “I’ll do some research after I return home.”
My research resulted in a “pilot” travelogue of my recent trip to South Africa. You can check it out here.
When I was in South Africa, the latest news was about the unearthing of a new hominid’s remains – Homo naledi – in a South African cave. South Africa is one of the first places on earth occupied by humans.
That was 300,000 years ago.Fast-forward from prehistoric times through 17th and 18th century British and Dutch colonization and the 1994 fall of apartheid, South Africa is racially integrated, but social and economic equities are slow to improve living conditions for all.
I’m investigating a third story for the “Aging Gratefully” documentary series about the connection among cultural traditions, aging and the role of a community in native and non-native cultures.
Little did I know that Mohandas Gandhi might have been South Africa’s most controversial immigrant.
Gandhi’s work later inspired Nelson Mandela.
Come to find out, Gandhi formed a couple intentional communities in his efforts to improve life for Indian immigrants in the early 20th century.As a young lawyer, he purchased the Phoenix community near the town of Durban on the Indian Ocean. The community was influenced by the Catholic Trappist order and it’s simplistic monastic lifestyle.
Later, he partnered with a Johannesburg farm owner and formed the Tolstoy community named after the Russian author who was also his friend and colleague.
Jews, Muslims, Christians and Hindus lived and worked together in Tolstoy to eliminate discriminatory practices against other minority immigrant groups.
That brings me to my story about the possibilities of melding traditional community customs and rituals around multi-generational care for elders into contemporary indigenous society.To check things out, my travels took me to an intentional community development effort in South Africa called Memel Global, which is also the site of a organic community permaculture garden.
Not knowing what to expect, I tagged along with my neighbor and Memel Global project architect Bryan Bowen of Caddis Architects and his colleagues, Jamison and Molly.
They are working with Steven Ablondi and his wife Cindy Burns as they develop their project in the town of Memel and the township of Zamani in the Free State Province of South Africa. Steven and I are friends and colleagues on the National Cohousing Association board.
South African communities generally consist of towns like Memel, which under apartheid were inhabited by the white minority.Adjacent townships like Zamani were the homes to the black majority who were were relocated there, in many cases, arbitrarily dividing traditional tribes and breaking up families.
Township homes have been government provided since the 1950s. That practice continues today.
Memel Global first focused on the SheWins non-governmental organization that empowers women and girls to transform their communities and meet their social needs.
Marley Hauser, a volunteer from Vermont, originally arrived to be a soccer coach. In the “other duties as assigned” category, she’s helping develop a sanitary napkin manufacturing process for SheWins. The plan is to fill a community need and at the same time employ some people. The unemployment rate is at least 50 percent.
Memel Global is involved in a wide-ranging list of projects from housing for families and the elderly to while supporting health to primary education to sports programs to the arts.Isaac “Shakes” Mafanela from the township of Soweto adjacent Johannesburg works with the SheWins sports program. His after school efforts include soccer and track teams.
Shakes was also my guide for a couple days. I was interested in township life and he showed me around Zamani and Soweto.
Memel Global has a wide-ranging mission. I’ve initially narrowed the scope of one documentary project down to community building and cohousing that taps into tribal culture and family traditions.Over time, I hope to collaborate with a fellow filmmaker I met in Memel, Pieter Lombaard. He has a production company in Pretoria. So far, our story hasn’t become crystal clear.
He has been documenting Memel Global for the past couple years. Currently, he also is working to get artists to come to Memel, set up residencies and teach skills to local aspiring artists – painters, musicians, dancers.
I couldn’t have picked a more complex place than South Africa, but there’s a huge need for affordable housing.
The housing patterns made 50 years ago exist today. After apartheid, the government constructed township housing with the good intention of improving living conditions.
Even though separations based on race are technically no more, the reality is, South African society is separate but equal based on social and economic class.
Township residents are trapped with no other housing options since they can’t develop any equity.
Like Native Americans on reservations, township members don’t own their land but rather it is held “in trust” by the government.
In the United States, it is possible for tribes and tribal members to take their land out of trust status, which is counter-productive because they give up their sovereignty rights to the surrounding state and federal governments.
In South Africa, there are isolated pilot programs like one in Capetown that re-appropriates land to the occupier. Memel Global is working with the Memel town government to build housing on some of the uninhabited urban plots.
In my way of thinking, the path of least resistance would be to create a pilot project. A group of culturally related families would organize themselves into a community and jointly purchase the site. An outside funder – likely donors – could then finance and help the community construct the homes and common spaces. There could be a variety of ways. and combinations to deed land to the occupiers; swap property from government ownership elsewhere to the Memel site.
Why culturally related?
Having worked extensively with Native American tribes – particularly the Northern Arapaho – I am aware of the importance of ritual and clanship and how those define contemporary communities and physical territory. At one level, the Northern Arapaho Tribe governs for the common good, but at a deeper level, there are clan and spiritual overlays that cause conflicts and not apparent to the outside observer.I wanted to find out if that was also true in this particular part of South Africa. Shakes introduced me to a family in Zamani. The matriarch of the house explained that she would like to improve her housing conditions and expand her living area, but was not able to do so because the land and her home were provided by the government.
When asked whether she would move into a new community. She said she had other relatives who would move to Zamani and live in a community but only if members consisted of her family members. There could be a larger community of many clan-based subcommunities. This was the traditional social pattern before tribes and families were dispersed during apartheid.
The traditional way of living for South African tribal members is not only tribal based, but also family based. This is evident in the township housing design. The plot of land is fairly large. On it is a main building that has a living area and a master bedroom and bath and in some cases a kitchen.
In the back is generally a detached accessory dwelling unit that has three rooms. The uses vary from bedrooms, to a kitchen, to office space depending on family needs at any particular moment. There is detached water source and toilet. As for this Zamani family, there is an open space behind the house where the family performs rituals.I stayed the night in Soweto with a friend of Shakes. That house was a similar layout. One detached bedroom was occupied by a family member, the second was an office space for the woman of the house to practice her traditional medicine and the third was an Air B&B-type room where I stayed.
Deteriorating housing and an inability to keep up with demand remain unintended legacies of apartheid more than 20 years after former President Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress came to power after the nation’s first multiracial vote.
Since that time approximately 4 million homes have been built by the national government. That may seem like a lot, but construction has not been able to keep pace with demand from an ever-growing population in both the rural and urban areas.
Unauthorized settlements are spring up near towns and townships, including the informal community of Foster near Memel and Zamani by settlers unwilling to wait for the government to get around to providing promised housing.
In 1994, the housing backlog was nearly 1.5 million. The need has swelled to well over 2 million as the population has grown by over 13-million people.
The middle class also victims of the housing crunch.
There are 15% of South Africa’s 15 million households earn enough to secure a private mortgage, but difficult to secure because the land can’t be collateralized.
About 60% earn less than R3500 or $270 per month and qualify for government housing. But because of the construction waiting list, those homes won’t be constructed anytime soon.
The middle class makes up 25% and includes law enforcement officers, health care providers, educators and the military. They fall between the cracks because they earn too little to qualify for bank financing and make too much to qualify for government housing. This group would be a good market for the intentional community pilot project.
How might cohousing help South Africa meet its housing gap?The American cohousing template generally includes one or more people who are burning souls and strong advocates. They recruit other members who want to develop a place to live with others, own their private homes, and at the same time agree to maintain jointly owned spaces such as the common house and courtyard.
Cohousing community members are usually unrelated and may or may not share common values or rituals. That’s typical in American society that emphasizes pulling oneself up by their bootstraps and keeping to one’s self.
Cohousing, in a sense, pounds rugged individualism square pegs into community-based round holes.
Cohousing created around South African cultural norms may be a way to bring together tribes and families, which traditionally are more community oriented – a natural fit.
In the bigger picture, in a place like South Africa where social integration is a relatively new way of life, is cohousing a way to bring racially and culturally diverse multigenerational communities together?
Using cultural brokerage, it’s possible to create a variety of black sub-communities: some traditionally family-based, some based on members from different traditions who practice their rituals elsewhere.
For whites and blacks to live together in a consensus community will take a special group of people willing to leave their cultural and social baggage behind.
Cohousing in America tends to be occupied by a white, liberal, educated, upper income demographic and encouraging diverse communities is a huge challenge.
Living in any intentional community is hard work, let alone living in one with neighbors way different.It’s not like being an accidental tourist for a week, or living in the college dorm for a semester. It’s day in, day out, month in month out.
It’s a lifestyle commitment.
Nonetheless, one thing all have in common is a need for interpersonal relationships at many levels including the care and respect friends and family particularly as we all get older.
The Memel Global communities approach is a step in the right direction and rekindling some of the South African intentional community flames.
Ghandi once said “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Supporting projects like the very ambitious Memel Global community is a great way to walk your talk.