|"[...] If the Southern Water Tribe is going to start collaborating more with other nations, we need to show them that we're equal partners."|
|— Head Chieftain Hakoda regarding the construction of the Southern Water Tribe Royal Palace.|
The Southern Reconstruction Project was a restoration effort undertaken by a small contingent of the Northern Water Tribe to rebuild the Southern Water Tribe during the final stages of the Hundred Year War. Led by Master Pakku, the project eventually grew to involve large-scale urbanization efforts overseen by Malina and Maliq.
In 40 AG, Fire Lord Azulon ordered a series of raids of the South Pole as a means of eliminating the Southern Water Tribe from the war effort. Over the course of the next 54 years, the raids instituted by the Southern Raiders virtually eliminated the tribe's waterbending population and effectively weakened the tribe. In 97 AG, many of the tribe's chieftains and warriors, led by Hakoda, left to join the Earth Kingdom in the war effort, leaving the tribe devoid of leadership. In addition, the isolation of the local tribes from one another resulted in further deterioration of the Southern Water Tribe's political structure.
Shortly following the Siege of the North, Master Pakku traveled with a group of Northern waterbenders, healers, and warriors to the South in order to aid in its redevelopment. Following Fire Lord Zuko's coronation, Hakoda returned to the Southern Water Tribe and was elected by the local chieftains as Head Chieftain of the Southern Water Tribe. He coordinated with the Northerners and worked with Malina and Maliq to plan numerous construction projects in and around the South Pole. Although initially reluctant of at least several of Malina's plans for urbanization, Hakoda came to understand the waterbender's perspective and agreed to the planned changes.
In order to carry out the blueprints, Malina and Maliq enlisted a group of workers who specialized in construction bending, including Noa, Kam, and Soonjei. The crew operated closely under the two siblings' supervision and implemented the overhaul of the central village from an aggregation of huts and tents to a large settlement consisting of numerous buildings, similar in structure to the Northern Water Tribe. Local businesses were also formally established, including the opening of Two Fishes Northern Cuisine and the transformation of Ashuna's hut-based seal jerky venture into a cart-based distribution enterprise. Malina and Maliq also oversaw the building of a town hall for the local city government and began plans for the construction of the Southern Water Tribe Royal Palace, for use by Hakoda. Around this time, Pakku also established an academy and began to instruct new benders in the tribe in the art of waterbending.
The Southern Reconstruction Project met opposition from Southerners who opposed foreign intervention in the redevelopment of the Southern Water Tribe, including the participation of Northerners, who many saw as cowards for having remained uninvolved during the war. These self-regarded "patriots" disliked the reconstruction efforts by Malina and Maliq, which supposedly only served to civilize the South in the eyes of the North and reshape the Southern Water Tribe into a "cheap imitation" of its Northern counterpart. Led by Gilak, these citizens began to gather in a series of caves underneath the shipwreck, preparing for the likely occurrence of war when they seek to eradicate foreign presence from the South. The gatherings also served to maintain Southern oral traditions, through the stories of elders like Thod, Gilak's second-in-command.
In 102 AG, two members of this opposition group stole Maliq's briefcase of schematics during a dinner at Two Fishes Northern Cuisine, prompting Katara and Sokka to follow them to the group's secret hideout. Although Gilak initially attempted to convince the two of the group's cause, he eventually held Sokka hostage as a means to force the two siblings to see his perspective. Katara easily subdued him before promptly escaping the scene with Sokka, albeit without recovering the suitcase.
Even though the Southern Reconstruction Project aided the Southern Water Tribe greatly in the process of rebuilding, the living conditions and economic situation of the South remained dire, forcing several Southerners to seek work abroad. Over time, the North restored its rule over the Southern Water Tribe and sent many more waterbenders and resources to aid its sister tribe, eventually allowing the South to return to prosperity. Despite this resurgence, the imposition of the North over Southern affairs exacerbated the conflict between the two sister tribes, eventually resulting in the outbreak of the Water Tribe Civil War in 171 AG.