Over twenty years ago Darrell Hunter was one of three students in the first-ever woodshop class at Little Wound High School in Kyle, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Reservation. His teacher, who Darrell indicates was also a supportive mentor, created the class so he could develop his talents and prepare to go onto a vocational program at a nearby technical school. Today, Darrell teaches the same woodshop class that he graduated from and is helping students discover and capitalize on their own unique talents.
Even more recently, Darrell took his passion for woodworking one step further and launched his own business that sells his custom wood creations, such as chests, cabinets, display cases, and log furniture. With support of Lakota Funds’ Building Native Art program, Darrell used a loan and an equity injection to purchase equipment, tools, and a supply of lumber to start D&A Custom Wood-Working. He also received personalized assistance from Lakota Funds to build his business skills and set up his accounting systems.
“It was one of my dreams to start my own business. Lakota Funds got me going. Someone told me I should go through them, and here I am today,” says Darrell.
This August Darrell was recognized by Lakota Funds as an “All Star” for his participation in multiple programs designed to build assets for Lakota individuals and families. In addition to the lending and business assistance programs, Darrell uses Lakota Funds’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site to prepare his taxes every year. He has also enrolled his daughter in the Child Development Account program, a unique matched savings program designed for grade school children.
“Darrel is an extraordinarily talented individual, and someone who is truly embracing many of the programs we offer to build assets for himself and his family. For that, he has been named a Lakota Funds All Star,” says Tawney Brunsch, Executive Director of Lakota Funds.
The All Star program was designed by Lakota Funds to encourage their clients to participate in multiple programs, and recognizes the hard work and accomplishments of those who are working to build assets for themselves and their families.
For many of his creations, Darrell uses reclaimed wood from downed Cedar trees found in the region. He mills the logs at his facility and builds each piece with his own two hands.
“I just like to be creative. I just visualize what I want, and then I make it. Each piece goes from my mind into wood,” comments Darrell on his creative process.
Darrell believes that Lakota people have great potential for building their own businesses.
He says, “There are a lot of other people that have talents - not just in woodwork like I do - but in other arts too. I think Lakota Funds could help a lot of people - small business guys like me.”