The Dakota way is to plan for the Seventh Generation, to make sure that resources will be available in the future to sustain life for seven generations to come. Conserving and protecting the earth today ensures that there will be food, trees, natural areas, traditional wild foods and medicines, cultural resources, and open spaces in the environment for coming generations to not only survive but to thrive. A staff of biologists, water resource specialists, technicians, managers, and others in the Land and Natural Resources, Public Works, Wozupi, and Cultural Resources Departments fulfill that mission.
The SMSC is committed to clean, natural foods and conducts activities to support this goal:
- Mazopiya – The SMSC opened a natural food market on the reservation in late 2010 focusing on local, natural, and clean, organic foods.
- Wild Foods – The Community maintains the habitat for wild foods, which are found on the reservation. Morel mushrooms, puffball mushrooms, blackberries, raspberries, chokecherries, wild plums, currants, and cattails grow abundantly. Plum trees and chokeberry bushes, cultivated species of two traditional Dakota foods, have also been planted in areas of the Community. More than 1,700 pounds of wild rice has been hand sown in Community wetlands for food, cultural purposes, and as a food supply for wildlife.
- Maple Syrup – As Dakota have done for generations, the SMSC makes maple syrup using sap harvested from Community trees, producing an average of 140 gallons in a good year. SMSC Maple Syrup is available commercially at various locations, including at Mazopiya.
- Wozupi – The SMSC has a 10-acre organic garden and a three acre orchard which were first planted in the spring of 2010. Planted and maintained by staff, Community members, and volunteers, the bounty is offered for sale during Farmer’s Markets as well as at Mazopiya, the SMSC’s natural food market. About 300 free range tribal chickens live in the orchard and produce eggs. Tribal members, employees, and the general public have the opportunity to participate in a Tribally Supported Agriculture (TSA) program by purchasing a share in the garden in exchange for 18 weeks of produce, classes, and special events. Some produce is also served in SMSC restaurants.
- Honey Program – More than 4.8 million honeybees in 120 hives in six apiaries maintained by the SMSC produce nearly 400 gallons of honey each year. Honey is available commercially at various locations, including Mazopiya.
The SMSC is committed to alternative forms of energy:
- Koda Energy – The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and Rahr Malting of Shakopee built an innovative facility to generate electricity and heat using wood, barley waste, and leftover agricultural materials such as oat hulls from General Mills’ Cheerios cereal. Considerably cleaner than a coal plant, this biomass energy generation project provides energy to run Koda Energy and Rahr Malting with 12.5 mw of excess energy sold through contract with Xcel Energy. The plant began operating in 2009.
- Geothermal Temperature Control – Two energy-efficient and water-efficient buildings on the reservation have a geothermal heating system for temperature control to capture heat and cooling from the ground. Geothermal wells were drilled down 180 feet to utilize the temperature of the earth, which maintains a constant 52 degrees, to help heat and cool the buildings. One of the two buildings houses the South Metro Federal Credit Union which is LEED certified. The other houses the natural food market Mazopiya.
- Wind Energy – A 1.5 mw wind turbine began operating on the reservation in 2009. Energy created by the turbine is metered as it enters the nearby Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative substation that provides electricity to the SMSC and the surrounding area. The generated energy is offset against Community energy costs.
- Waste Vegetable and Motor Oil Initiatives – The SMSC recycles waste oil on site by processing 18,000 gallons of waste vegetable oil from the Community’s restaurants to produce biodiesel for use in Community vehicles and equipment. Waste motor oil and vegetable oil which was previously hauled away at considerable expense are both being used to heat buildings which reduces the use of natural gas.
- Green Initiatives – The SMSC has implemented numerous "green" projects: an addition to the fire station and a second sheet of ice at Dakotah! Sport and Fitness both utilize daylight harvesting, skylights, and a combined 22 solar panels. The Dakotah! Ice Center also contains a 32,648 square foot green roof and skylights. An additional 180 solar panels are in use at Dakotah Meadows Mini Storage, the SMSC Public Works Building, and the Organics Recycling Facility. The SMSC has a total of 258 solar panels in use on the reservation.
Other activities which support environmental stewardship:
- SMSC Restores Native Prairie, Preserves Habitats –The SMSC engages in restoration activities, which include the re-establishing of native prairies on Community land. More than 500 acres of former farmland has been reclaimed over the past few years. Prairies filter phosphorous and nitrogen from the soil, reduce or eliminate erosion, provide habitat for nesting birds, increase species diversity, and add an unmatched aesthetic value.
- Prescribed Burns Rejuvenate Prairie – Each year SMSC Land and Natural Resources Department, Mdewakanton Emergency Services, and Bureau of Indian Affairs fire personnel conduct prescribed burns on Community lands. A prescribed burn is an intentionally lit, low intensity fire used by land managers to replicate natural fires. Prescribed burns benefit natural communities by removing dead plant materials, adding nutrients to the soil, releasing native seed banks, and killing non-native species.
- Surveying Flora and Fauna – For five years SMSC biologists surveyed wildlife on the reservation. Staff conducted surveys to monitor the breeding birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles yielding valuable information for staff biologists. Six different types of frogs; 107 types of breeding birds; and 31 species of breeding mammals including field mice, shrews, meadow voles, opossums, squirrels, raccoons, deer, woodchucks, minks, ermines, muskrats, beavers, badgers, white-tailed jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits, foxes, and skunks call the Community home. Staff also erect and monitor bluebird and duck houses.
- Water Quality – Hydrologists assess water quality and levels in representative water bodies across the reservation. They implement the Community's Wellhead Protection Program to protect the area around the three Community public water supply wells and employ erosion control efforts to keep sediment from entering tribal water bodies. They review both residential and commercial plans, inspect sites, and review site development permit applications. Hydrologists maintain a weather station to collect atmospheric data. Bioretention areas, also called rain gardens, collect and infiltrate rainwater that falls on impervious surfaces, like parking lots and streets. A Water Resource Management Plan for the SMSC has been developed to maintain and improve the condition of the natural resources of the SMSC. Pervious pavements are used to infiltrate rainwater in several locations.
- Educational Activities – SMSC Land and Natural Resources Department staff conduct a number of educational activities throughout the year including a weeklong celebration of Earth Day and a salt and fertilizer use program. A project with Playworks Summer Camp each year involves a number of different experiments with water quality sampling equipment and may include bug collection and flow monitoring over the summer. Children in the SMSC Education Department learn about maple syrup, honey harvesting and production; and organic gardening. As part of the Storm Water Pollution Prevention efforts, the department holds public meetings.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – The SMSC encourages the reduction, reuse, and recycling of materials to lessen solid waste in landfills and has produced a booklet on the subject. The Recycling and Waste Disposal Guide is filled with information about recycling, reducing, reusing, and safely disposing of hazardous waste and household materials. Community enterprises collect paper, glass, boxes, newspapers, plastic containers, aluminum cans, and other items for recycling. Furniture and other items still in good condition (like computers, mattresses, and linens) are donated to Indian tribes and charitable organizations. Annual Spring and Fall Clean Up Weeks held by the SMSC Public Works Department help Community members dispose of unwanted items like home and yard hazardous materials, small piles of brush, appliances, and tires.
- Organics Recycling Facility – The SMSC operates an Organics Recycling Facility which processes leaves, brush, and other organic materials into usable compost. Local haulers transport materials to the facility where they are ground up and mixed together following a science-based recipe that carefully blends carbon, nitrogen, and moisture. The output is then placed on a windrow pad, a designated area which contains the rows which are turned every three days. The materials are then screened and ready for use after about 12 weeks. The ORF is available for use at no charge to neighboring governments Shakopee, Prior Lake, and Savage. The local school system also recycles their food waste, paper, lunch trays, and other materials at the site.
Water Reclamation Facility – The SMSC operates the most advanced Water Reclamation Facility in the state of Minnesota, treating wastewater using a combination of advanced "ultra-filtration" European technologies to purify it to drinking water standards. The sludge from the filtration process is dried using a biosolids process, the first of its kind in the United States, to create a product usable as fertilizer on lands within the Community. Clean, treated water from the facility is used for irrigation on the reservation, including on The Meadows at Mystic Lake. The WRF features a 31,000-square-foot green roof, one of the largest in the Upper Midwest, which contains more than 45,000 seedlings along with seeds for native prairie grasses and flowers.