Finally Together Again

Silas Red Cloud leads the crew by creating a line for tree planters to follow. Photo by Evan Barrientos

by José Chalit Hernandez, Marketing Manager

Planting trees is about more than just planting trees. We hear this frequently from our partners. On Lakota Tribal Lands, planting trees is done with great care, intention, and gratitude. When asked about what makes Pine Ridge a special place for him, Chief Henry Red Cloud told us it was the beautiful country, the rolling hills and the animals. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs all here,‚ÄĚ he mentioned as he spoke on the importance of honoring trees as relatives. 

After a year of managing the pandemic in their community, the Oglala Sioux Tribe was excited to join us and Red Cloud Renewable (RCR) last month by sending out a group of hard-working tree planters to join our spring planting. Thanks to all of the tree planters being vaccinated against Covid-19, TWP staff (who were also vaccinated) were able to join for the first time since 2019‚Äôs planting season to reconnect with old friends and meet new people. For five days, we planted trees alongside Lakota community members and visited former planting sites where we observed many healthy and robust ponderosa trees that were planted 5+ years ago. 

Tink and her son Ladon help arrange a tray of tree seedlings in the green house at RCR. Photo by Evan Barrientos

For many in the tree planting crew, the spring planting season presented a valuable opportunity to earn income, feel empowered and reconnect with others in the community after a long year of uncertainty and scarcity. Each day started bright and early with freshly made coffee and a hearty breakfast. During meals and between activities, the hired cook that supported the project, Tink, shared stories with us and the other tree planters about her time at Standing Rock supporting the NODAPL camp. Her son Ladon would run around the Sacred Earth Lodge at RCR with a big grin and greet us all in the morning and be there in the afternoon after returning from tree planting. For the first time in a long time, we felt deeply connected to our partner community. We felt incredibly grateful to join forces with this group of generous, resilient, and hard-working people. 

While in Pine Ridge, we also began filming the long-awaited short documentary about our reforestation efforts, thanks to another funding sponsor. As a supporter of our tribal reforestation programs, we want you to be among the first to gain exclusive access to this video content later this summer! See how below.

In New Mexico, our National Program staff are currently meeting with the Tri-Pueblo Coalition to finalize timelines and logistics for tree planting in the Jemez Mountains in the coming months. Tree planting in New Mexico will also be a unique opportunity as we enter our third year of partnership with Santo Domingo Pueblo and the second year with Cochiti and Jemez Pueblos. So many exciting things are on the horizon, and we can not wait to share more stories directly from our partners with you. Thank you for believing in and supporting Indigenous-led projects! 

Celebrating World Water Day Every Day!

by Lucas Wolf, Assistant International Director 

World Water Day is an important day in a long list of significant calendar dates, sharing the same week with International Day of Happiness, International Day of Forests, and The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. For those organizations that work with water, we know how critical it truly is as an element and necessity of all life on this planet. “Agua es vida, or water is life;” that simple yet profound phrase is uttered in communities across the Americas that have less water than most. It‚Äôs a statement and a refrain that captures the full awareness of the delicate nature of life and our total dependence on this one element.

At Trees, Water & People, we seek to expand on that awareness through programs that support enhanced water access in communities throughout Central America and the US. This year in Central America, our efforts with water will focus on rainwater catchment tanks in the Cordillera¬†(mountain range) de Montecillos in the highlands of central Honduras. Our local counterparts, CEASO (Center for Teaching and Learning Sustainable Agriculture) were assisted by several TWP work trip participants this past January. CEASO’s philosophy towards water is holistic and profound; they see the importance of the forests, the soil, and the other elements existing in a balanced cycle that keeps our natural world healthy and able to support rural communities.

Rainwater tank
Work tour participants worked together with CEASO to complete a rainwater catchment tank!

In El Salvador, a country ravaged by deforestation, our counterparts at √Ārboles y Agua para el Pueblo diligently work to keep their nursery humming with new plants, which will go towards diversifying a smallholder plot or anchoring trees and their roots to a critical watershed. In Guatemala, our partners at Utz Che look to build rural resilience and increased access to water for marginalized indigenous and campesino communities in all of the geographic zones of the country.

La Bendición, our special exchange community that has hosted two recent TWP work trips, seeks to find solutions for their water woes by capitalizing on the old coffee plantation infrastructure that they hope can be transformed to provide the community with more robust water security during the dry season. Here in Managua, work continues at NICFEC, the Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy, and Climate, which will serve as a demonstration center for best practices and methods to maximize water conservation and soil management for sustainable agriculture in a changing environment that is projected to see fewer rains in the future.

La Bendición
Community members of La Bendición working to repair old coffee plantation infrastructure to increase their water security.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the region, there are additional stark reminders of the critical importance of water. M√©xico City continues to sink due to continued overdrawing of its aquifers, the number of planned resorts for Costa Rica¬īs booming Guanacaste region is in jeopardy due to a lack of available water, and here in Nicaragua, the land of the large freshwater lakes, many communities south of Managua face an acute shortage of water and virtual dependence on water distribution trucks.

In the United States, TWP stands with the Water Protectors of Standing Rock in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Over this past winter, we provided off-grid solar heaters and generators to provide warmth and energy to the protest camps. These camps are the frontline resistance in a struggle for critical water and natural resource sovereignty. All of our strategic partners are focused on water, and we at TWP are striving to find ways to boost our water-related projects as we continue to hear how critically important it is for the survival of our communities.

Examples abound across the globe, and these stories of water stress are reminders that we must continue to focus our efforts on conservation, education, and innovation to stem the looming water crisis. If you would like to support these Central American communities protect and improve their water resources, please donate today!

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Volunteer Voices: Standing with Standing Rock

by Sally MacAdams, TWP Volunteer

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It was kind of by chance that I got inspired about the many benefits of renewable energy projects in Native American communities back in mid-2015. I was listening to a podcast about the social, environmental and economic issues associated with oil and mining projects on reservations and the hope offered by green alternatives. From my home in Melbourne, Australia, it might have seemed like something very distant from me ‚Äď except that I had recently gotten interested in Community Owned Renewable Energy (CORE) and coincidentally, my father and his wife had just moved to Colorado, and I was already planning a trip to visit in 2016.

I quickly became a little obsessed with researching CORE projects in North America, particularly in First Nations, and I teamed up with a local Australian organization called Community Power Agency so that I could channel this obsession into something useful. As a community sustainability professional, I was also hoping to be able to contribute to something during my trip to the US, so I started to look around at not-for-profit organizations in Colorado and came across Trees, Water and People (TWP).

I connected with TWP‚Äôs Development Director Gemara Gifford, and after a Skype conversation, I was excited at the possibilities of contributing to TWP‚Äôs Tribal Renewable Energy Program. And I was especially excited to learn about TWP‚Äôs partnership with Henry Red Cloud of Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE). I had been moved to tears by a quote from Henry in This Changes Everything about how there are times when incremental change is okay, and then there are times “when you need to run like a buffalo.”

Fast forward to August 2016, and I arrived in Fort Collins and felt immediately welcome at TWP. My work focussed mostly on seeking funding for green building projects, solar furnaces and other sustainable development partnerships between TWP and LSE.
Towards the end of my time in Colorado, I was lucky enough to travel with TWP’s Executive Director Richard Fox up to meet Henry and to visit the epicenter of many of these projects: Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center at Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

Welcome to RCREC
The welcome sign at RCREC from my trip with Richard Fox to meet Henry Red Cloud.

Coming full circle to what had first sparked my interest in tribal energy, right at the end of my placement at TWP, a partnership project was forming to support the water protectors at Cannonball, North Dakota. The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline had been growing more and more intense during my stay in the US. The historic gathering at Standing Rock of so many tribes from across the Americas, and of allies from around the world, epitomizes the fight of indigenous communities across the globe to have their sovereignty respected and to protect their water, land and sacred sites from companies, institutions and governments who consistently disregard these rights.

Denver NoDALP Event
People across the country are showing solidarity with those at Standing Rock, like this event in Denver.

To support not only the Sacred Stone and Oceti Sakowin Camps, but also the permanent community at Standing Rock as they face the coming winter, Lakota Solar Enterprises and TWP have come together with a range of partners, including Honor the Earth, Standing Rock Tribal Council, local (Colorado) organiser-fundraiser Samantha Reynolds and Namaste Solar, to provide solar heaters, straw bale shelters, and solar systems to power local radio. You can contribute to these projects here.

Seeing this come together felt like a very fitting end to my time with TWP and I’m looking forward to continuing to follow TWP’s and LSE’s collaborations across the country.

If you would like to help TWP support those standing up against the Dakota Access Pipeline, please donate today. Thank you for your kindness! 

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