By Jamie Folsom, National Director
Renewable energy fields like solar are a bright pathway for women, and for Cheyenne Poor Bear (Oglala Lakota), solar technologies are a great opportunity to live out her values and traditions.
“Growing up Native, we always emphasized taking care of Mother Earth and trying to do less harm. This way of thinking was instilled in us.”
Cheyenne’s opportunity to step through the door into the solar industry came last year during a workshop to install solar PV systems for Lakota Solar Enterprises’ office building and an energy-efficient home for Oglala Sioux Tribal Housing. In partnership with GRID Alternatives, Trees, Water & People hosted the eight-day workshop at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center.
After the training, Cheyenne kept in contact, looking for opportunities to take the next steps. She had seen renewable energy companies develop around her home in the Denver Metro area, but college and other courses were too expensive – a common stumbling block for many. Her interest and perseverance paid off, however, and she landed a 12-month GRID Alternatives‘ Solar Corps Fellowship this March. Based in their northern California offices, she is working with low-income and Tribal projects – installing, learning the trade, as well as community outreach and volunteer management.
In stark contrast to other construction and energy-based industries, she isn’t the only woman learning the how to install solar PV.
“It is a great time for women. A lot of people didn’t think women could do renewable energy work, but it completely is a great time for women to get involved. My whole crew is women, my supervisor and mentor is a woman, which is amazing.”
And although Cheyenne was torn about taking this position away from home and family, she wants to stick with it and move ahead in solar.
“The fact that I could work with tribes is important, too, you know,” she said. “I’m really happy I made the decision to do it. I thought during the orientation and new crew training that this is exactly where I need to be. I am excited helping people and helping Mother Earth.”
To learn more about TWP’s green job training for Native Americans please visit www.solarwarriors.org.