Special Thanks to Stanley Tools When the people at Stanley Tools heard that Robert could use tools to build more houses, they donated $20,000 worth of tools to his organization!
For more Information, please contact: Red Feather Development Group PO Box 907 Bozeman, MT 59771–7187 PH: 406–585–7188 FAX: 406–585–7187 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.redfeather.org
How it Began Seven years ago, Robert Young was shocked to read an article about Native American elders found frozen to death every year in their own homes, many without heat, electricity or running water.
"I can't think of a more ridiculous way of dying in this country just because of lack of housing. The tragic part is one, that it's happening, and [two,] that it's not news anywhere else in the country." — Robert Young
Taking Action Robert decided to "adopt" a native elder through a national charity and flew to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota to meet his "adopted" grandmother, Katherine Red Feather, a Lakota-Sioux Indian.
"My first day on the reservation was a shock. After seeing Katherine's home, everything changed. [She was] living in an abandoned trailer with no way of communicating. That was a really tough thing for me to shake, and I didn't want to shake it.
We read all these problems in the newspaper everyday. Yet we can still turn the page. I couldn't do that anymore with this, because I saw it firsthand. I knew for me at that point that I really wanted to see what we could do to build one house that would be for Katherine Red Feather." — Robert Young
Building Hope Robert Young, a former clothing manufacturer, had never built a house, but it didn't stop him from his plan to help Katherine Red Feather. He spent two years recruiting friends and raising money, then partnered with the University of Washington to learn how to build homes using materials local to South Dakota—like straw, an excellent source of insulation.
"What we're trying to do is [learn and] teach this process, teach that they can use their own resources." — Robert Young
Katherine's children and grandchildren worked twenty-hour days side by side with volunteers learning how to build their own home.
"We really wanted to involve the local community. We believed if they didn't feel ownership and weren't empowered to get involved, then it really didn't make sense for us to be there." — Robert Young
The Dream Expanded Robert's dream of just building one house for Katherine Red Feather has grown into an organization named in her honor.
Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard got involved in the building of Katherine's new home. "It was the idea: to build houses for [the elderly] who were living in abject poverty. It sounded like a smart plan. I was ready for that," says Stone.
Over the past six years, people from all over the country as well as high-profile volunteers like Stone Gossard, have completed 35 building projects on reservations in Washington, Montana and South Dakota.