Mary Collins

Mary Collins 2.jpg

"Grown men can learn from very little children for the hearts of little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss." —Black Elk

Founder of Lakota Tiny House Nation, Mary L. Collins began the project in 2015 to support the Lakota people of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. She has been an ally, hunka relative, and advocate for the tribe for over 16 years.  She has been recognized by the national program "Giving Tuesday" as a Woman Who Gives. She holds a BFA in Writing from Johnson State College and works on behalf of children in Vermont's Foster Care Services as well as provides marketing consulting for a number of nonprofits and small businesses.

In the winter of 2015 five suicides deaths of young teens on Pine Ridge, and seven additional suicide attempts by other teens in the same community spurred Collins into action. Having developed deep and meaningful relationships with the Lakota Nation over the last 16 years, Collins had already worked on and spearheaded many projects there.  This was different.  Children as young as twelve years old were taking their own lives. Deeply saddened and angry about this terrible, irrevocable loss of young lives, their promise and potential, Collins felt her sympathy was not enough. And so, Lakota Tiny House Nation was born.

One of the most serious challenges on Pine Ridge is lack of housing. This contributes to the stress and day-to-day struggles of many Lakota people. According to the Oglala Housing Authority, there is an estimated shortage of approximately 4000 homes on the Reservation. Substandard housing is the norm. It is not uncommon to see between 10 and up to 20 people living in a single home. 

In cooperation with Vermont Tiny House builder, Peter King, contractor and friend, Peter Limanek, and spiritual elder Pete Catches, Jr. along with his wife, Cindy Catches, and many hunka (adopted) relatives, including youth leaders; it became clear that the young people of Pine Ridge wanted to be part of something meaningful and true to the culture. Above all, they wanted to help make life better.  While most relatives and friends provide the spiritual and cultural resources needed to make their children's and grandchildren's lives happy and healthy, many of these same families don't always have the financial resources necessary to support their health and well-being. Youth sometimes feel a hopelessness that becomes overwhelming.

LTHN not only supports the building of tiny homes; it adds pride, self-esteem, and a measure of safety that comes from having a safe place to live. For Lakota youth, the project also contributes to being part of something positive and worthwhile while not feeling isolated or alone.

Houses are built by a dedicated group of mentor/carpenters, electricians and plumbers, roofers and others - from both on and off the Reservation with the support of youth.  Donations from across the globe have helped us to build or renovate homes in Manderson, Pine Ridge, and Kyle. Future goals for LTHN homes include  serving the people not only as homes, but as food distribution centers, clinics, animal shelters, artist cooperatives, retail shops, welcome centers, safe houses, and much more.  Youth empowered. Youth supported. Youth sustained. Your kindness, generosity and sharing of this campaign is gratefully and deeply appreciated.

Many thanks and welcome to Lakota Tiny House Nation.

Lakota Tiny House Nation
with Mary Collins
Community Vision Stage, 3:30pm

Mary will share the evolution and impact of Lakota Tiny House Nation.

Erin Maile O'Keefe