Notes from the Field: Solar Heat Arrives to more Southwest Tribes

by Jordan Engel, Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center Intern

solar heater_ute mountain ute tribe
Emily White Man stands next to her new solar heater on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation in Towaoc, Colorado.

In the past couple of weeks, the Tribal Renewable Energy Program and Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE) had the chance to meet up with folks from the Ute reservations in southwest Colorado and give the gift of renewable energy to two families. Henry and I loaded the van with the pre-assembled heater kits (thank you Heart of the Rockies Church) on Sunday, July 22nd, and installed two units in two afternoons.

Henry Red Cloud solar heaterThe first heater was installed at the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s demo home in Towaoc, Colorado – where the Colorado Rockies meet the Great Basin Desert. Emily White Man, who lives in the home with her children and grandchildren, told me that the cold desert winters put a strain on her wallet as her heating bills were beyond what she could afford. The 1950’s-era, one story house is partly heated with butane, and partly with portable electric heaters in the bedroom where the butane heat can’t reach. With her new solar air heater, Emily can be comfortable this winter without burning as many fossil fuels or paying outrageous sums to the energy companies.

At the Southern Ute Reservation, a large group of neighbors, volunteers, and tribal employees came out to help with our installation at the Cedar Point Public Safety House in Ignacio. Though a much more modern house than the one in Towaoc, it was still heated with fossil fuels, though this time with natural gas. As pressure builds to frack Colorado’s natural gas reserves, this solar heater sends the message that there is another way.

solar heater_southern ute tribeThanks to our donors, Trees, Water & People donated the two heaters to the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes, the first step in spreading family-scale renewable energy to this part of Indian country. Now there are two more communities that have clean heat that will last for decades and perhaps a few people will see the units and be inspired to take our training class at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center in October.

“We do not want riches, but we want to train our children right.” Those were the words of Maȟpíya Lúta, Chief Red Cloud, whose name we honor at the Renewable Energy Center. The Solar Warriors we train here have the same priorities: to return to their communities and help their people, their children, and generations to come.

And with that, we’d like to welcome one more generation to our Solar Warrior community. Tashina New Holy, the first daughter of our own Delbert New Holy. She was born Saturday in Pine Ridge at just under 6 pounds. Yawášte!

More photos from the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute solar heater installations:

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Trees, Water & People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to developing sustainable community-based conservation solutions.

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