4 Generations of Tree Planting

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4 Generations of Tree Planters!

10,000 SW Douglas Fir tree seedlings from the San Juan Mountains have gone into the ground near the Tent Rocks National Monument on Santo Domingo (Kewa) Pueblo’s Tribal Lands; the 3,000 remaining seedlings were taken to the Santa Fe Indian School by Cochiti tribal members where they will be planted by students and community leaders on nearby public lands.

With the help of the Santo Domingo Pueblo War Chief and his lieutenant, we were able to recruit over 15 volunteers from the local tribe to gather last week to inaugurate and launch our first joint reforestation project! As we’ve reported previously, the “Las Conchas” forest fire of 2011 devastated the highlands of the Pueblo community where Douglas Fir trees used for traditional ceremonial and conservation purposes were burned en masse. Trees, Water & People’s collaboration with the Kewa Pueblo is a one of a kind reforestation program that marries indigenous traditions and customs with climate resilience strategies of the West.

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Training the volunteers on the basics

After delivering the seedlings to the Pueblo’s greenhouse last Tuesday, we settled into a meeting at the Governor’s office where strategy, timeline, and scope of the project were revisited one final time. We originally planned to start planting on Wednesday, but due to heavy rains, the War Chief and his staff decided to hold off one more day for the climate to dry. Nevertheless, rain is a significant blessing and element for many Pueblo communities – the timing of our delivery of the seedlings felt more than apt. Thursday morning, we embarked to the planting site on top of the mountain in a line of 4WD trucks carrying just under 900 seedlings.

Rocky road conditions aside, we arrived at the site just shy of the morning breeze and kicked off the day with a prayer from the War Chief himself and a short, hands-on training on our methods and strategy. Unlike ponderosa pines, we learned from the New Mexico State Forestry Division that Douglas Fir seedlings like to be planted in cluster patterns of about 25 seedlings spread 2-3 feet from each other; this is a term called “nucleation”. The volunteer crew was quick to learn, and everyone was happy to teach one another, even in their native language.

Most impressive of all – beyond any technical achievements or success – is the multi-generational impact and participation that a project like this generates. We remember the recurring sentiment expressed by the War Chief and other elders in the community throughout the day:

“We may not be around here long enough to see these trees mature, but it’s important we have our youth here to experience it and participate in the work themselves as they are the future stewards of these lands”. 

At every stage of sustainable development, TWP’s core mission has always been to empower local people to manage the natural resources they depend on, and we believe this happens best at the participatory level. The local tribe thanks you for your donations and commitment to the well-being of their community and their land – your dedication is what helps climate vulnerable communities continue to be resilient and powerful amidst our changing environment.

To learn more about how you can support our reforestation program on Tribal Lands, visit – https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/indigenous-west-reforestation/

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Swinging into the ground to make room for a seedling

Graduating TWP’s Solar Suitcase Training

By José Chalit, Marketing Manager

Earlier this summer, Trees, Water & People facilitated a 3-day long Suitcase workshop at the Pine Point School in Minnesota on the White Earth Reservation in partnership with Winona LaDuke’s non-profit Honor The Earth. In addition to educating 8 students, 2 science teachers and the school principal on the basis of solar energy, our National team also implemented activities from the National Indian Youth Leadership Project (NIYLP), aimed at boosting self-esteem and social-emotional development through hands-on learning.

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Student from Pine Point School holding a HELIO light

Upon completion of the solar suitcase workshop, students and teachers also received HELIO “lights”, a portable, solar-powered charger and flashlight created by Makers4Good, as a token of graduation and achievement of the solar curriculum.

Rebecca Geraldi, Giving Coordinator of Makers4Good recently told us:

When Makers4Good first learned about Trees, Water, & People, and for all they strive, we made a concerted effort to find a way to help support those efforts.

Our solar-powered light and power bank, HELIO, is a wonderful companion to the solar suitcases distributed by Trees, Water & People to U.S. Tribal Lands. HELIO provides personal and portable light and power that can be used by the same community members, on an individual basis. HELIO can charge phones and light the night, helping to keep people connected, productive, and safe.

This meaningful outcome strongly supports Makers4Good’s overriding social good mission, and we are delighted to partner with Trees, Water, & People. Together, we are brightening the lives of others — all with the power of the sun and the shared common aim of making a difference.” – Rebecca Geraldi, Giving Coordinator, Makers4Good

And, for a limited time, Rebecca’s team is offering you 20% off their HELIO light by entering the discount code “TWP19” at checkout here: https://helio.energy/buy-now

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The lights are on!

As we expand our solar suitcase trainings to other tribal communities aiming to reclaim control of their natural resources and improve their communities, we hope that graduates of the program can utilize HELIO in practical and educational scenarios.

Thank you, Makers4Good, for your commitment to social good and environmental sustainability – collaboration from organizations like yours is indispensable in the process of creating positive change!

 

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Graduates of 2019 Solar Suitcase Program at Pine Point School!

 

Welcoming New Leadership to the Tribal Program

As the storms and flood events in the Midwest this past winter and spring demonstrate, extreme weather events spurred by climate change are becoming the new normal. Often, those hardest hit are the most vulnerable, and their communities often lack comprehensive adaptation strategies to prepare for these shifts.

For that reason, we’re proud to welcome two talented Colorado State University (CSU) alumni to Trees, Water & People (TWP) who bring deep, personal experience in helping Native American communities thrive culturally, economically, and ecologically.

Dr. Valerie Small joins us as TWP’s new National Program Director, bringing several years of experience working with Tribal colleges and communities on climate adaptation strategies. She comes to us from the Crow Tribe in southern Montana and is excited to help us think bigger about climate readiness for indigenous communities across the Americas.

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Dr. Valerie Small Ph.D. and James Calabaza at our office

 

James Calabaza came to us from the family farm where he grew up in Kewa (Santo Domingo) Pueblo, New Mexico and a position with the USDA in Albuquerque, where he worked in farm loan management. His vast background in counseling Native youth in both academic and community settings will help him lead TWP’s in-field operations and educational programs as our National Program Coordinator.

 

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James and local Lakota tree planter during Pine Ridge reforestation

 

Our schedule for the National Program over the next six months is packed with new projects, new partnerships, and long-term visioning for TWP’s next 20 years. We know that to achieve great things, we have to make great investments in our organization, and we’re betting that these talented individuals will help us all do our best work yet for people and planet.

Please help us welcome Valerie and James to the TWP family!

World Centric & TWP: A Profound Partnership to Save the Planet!

By Patricia Flores White | Development Director

During a recent trip to visit our corporate grantors, World Centric®, we were able to sit with their staff over lunch to find out more about the work they do. It was so inspiring to speak to folks passionately working every day, to help people and the planet!

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TWP National Director, Eriq Acosta, and W.C. Development Manager, Janae Lloyd

World Centric® was founded in 2004 to raise awareness about large-scale humanitarian and environmental issues. Their disposable food service products are designed to reduce pollution and waste through composting, require less energy and water to produce, come from renewable resources, and are created from waste products that help save biodiversity and habitats. What is most incredible is that 25% of their annual profits are invested in nonprofits like Trees, Water & People to create social and environmental sustainability.

Together, we have invested in a profound partnership to help people and the planet! I truly believe that through collaboration, we allow each organization to specialize in their individual field in order to meet common goals. This holistic model of cooperation through social enterprise is a means to achieve greater societal aspirations addressing social justice and conservation through alliance and cooperation.

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Source: http://www.worldcentric.org/about-us/newsletter/2011/october

Finding solutions by coming together to solve problems that affect the entire planet sets the example of what is possible, of what can be accomplished through collaboration. We have empowered each other to create solutions by working in unison. This asset-based approach to helping people and the planet is a way to build enthusiasm, energy and strengthen relationships that propel people and cultures to the ‘next level’.

On behalf of TWP and the communities we serve, we would like to thank World Centric® for their continued support and innovative vision! To read more about the many ways to ally with and support TWP, please visit our partners page on our website.

Grounding Our Work Across Cultures: Indigenous Perspectives

by Eriq Acosta
Personally, I feel really sensitive and protective of our tribal communities. Although I am not a direct descendant of the Lakota I still feel responsible for keeping our communities safe.
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Solar Training in 2017
One can attempt to understand my hesitancy of bringing strangers to the reservations who want to “come see the native folks and their culture”; the thought of doing this didn’t sit well with me at first. The world, obviously not all, has historically held very skewed perspectives of Indigenous people. On one side of the spectrum, we are described as these glorious people who ate all of the buffalo and roam the plains, moving our teepees from here to there, and living off of the land. On the opposite side of this are descriptors like drunkards, poor, sickly and “without”.
The truth is not all of us live in teepees and eat buffalo. When traveling throughout the United States, one will find many differences and similarities between life on or off the reservation: poverty, disease, or corruption as some examples. These are not exclusive to the reservations, it is everywhere. Being an urban Mexican-Indian myself and having lived with people from urban settings and on reservations, I have seen so much beauty. Beauty in the people, the culture, and the land – it’s all around.
It’s not that I choose to turn my head to the struggles, rather I choose to fuel myself with all of that beauty so that I can continue to do the hard work that needs to be done. In Leonard Peltier’s words, “What you believe and what you do are the same thing. In Indian way, if you see your people suffering, helping them becomes absolutely necessary. It’s not a social act of charity or welfare assistance, it’s a spiritual act, a holy deed.” 
With that said, I was hesitant to host TWP tour groups to Pine Ridge Reservation. However, this is the second year I have hosted the folks from Lansing Michigan Catholic High School and the second year that I have been overly impressed. Volunteers were asked to provide an evaluation of the most recent trip and one person wrote:
“It definitely made a mark on me. Being able to help people who are definitely in need and not only being welcomed like we were but also being able to partake in their amazing culture was an experience of great significance”.
They came to Pine Ridge to learn, to be of service, to enjoy the plains, and most importantly learn the story of Indigenous people from Indigenous people! I am honored to call them friends and family of the human race!
Thank you to all who came and offered their time and energy. Your efforts are much appreciated and we look forward to more opportunities like this in the future.
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Setting sun over rolling hills of Pine Ridge

 

Learn more about our U.S. Tribal programs and how you can help here.

Volunteer Voices: Tree Planting on Tribal Lands Nearly Complete

by Rachel Hamalian, Volunteer

From May 18 – 20, I had the privilege to be a part of Trees, Water & People and Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center’s (RCREC) campaign to plant 30,000 pine trees on Tribal Lands in areas most deeply affected by forest fires. I stayed at the Sacred Earth Lodge in Pine Ridge along with good and new friends who volunteered for this project. We all enjoyed breakfast and coffee together in the morning before heading off to locations on the Oglala side of Pine Ridge as well as at Wounded Knee. In the beginning, I felt nervous about plunging a large sharp blade into the ground to create a home for the baby trees – I’m not a particularly strong person, and I don’t pride myself on my manual labor skills. But, Avery and Silas Red Cloud taught us how to properly create a hole, plant the tree, get rid of any air bubbles, and create a nice bed. By the end of the first day, I was a tree planting master.

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Black Hills Ponderosa Pines Seedlings were planted on Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and Cheyenne River Reservations

One of the most memorable moments for me occurred on the last day of tree planting. Henry Red Cloud, one of the founders of RCR, spoke to our group of 25 volunteers as we began to plant. He told us about his beliefs for the mission, how we as humans seem to have lost touch with nature, and we treat it as a machine instead of as something alive. It is true, we take and take, and give little back. Henry told us, this is a way to give back, and these trees will continue to give oxygen and life for generations after us. We planted over 2,500 trees that day alone.

I struggle with finding the right words to describe the powerful lessons I’ve learned from my experiences and relationships built in Pine Ridge. While this project has helped to heal the landscape within the Reservation, there is still much healing to be done. I feel a great love for the Natives we worked with on this project, who invited us as volunteers to come back and continue to learn about their culture and how to be an advocate. I plan to accept their invitation, as well as continue my relationship with Trees, Water & People, and the good friends I’ve made who share similar goals.

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Tree planters working during the month of May to fulfill our reforestation goal of 30,000 trees for Tribal Lands

A note from TWP’s National Director, Eriq Acosta: 

Thanks to the incredible donors, volunteers, residents of Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and Cheyenne River Reservations, we are 95% complete with our third season of tree planting on Tribal Lands! Although tree planting season takes hard work and dedication, there is nothing more rewarding than being able to put a tree into the ground, and sharing the experience with like-minded people in the fight for a more just and sustainable planet. We will be headed back up to Pine Ridge Reservation next week with a group of 40 volunteers from Lansing Catholic High School from Michigan, and we look forward to keeping you updated!  

To stay up to date about TWP news, please sign up for our eNewsletter.

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Volunteer Voices: An Alternative Break to Pine Ridge

By James Zafarana, CSU Alternative Break Participant

I feel blessed to have gone to the Pine Ridge Reservation with Trees, Water & People and Colorado State University. Over the past few months, our group of eight students have been learning about the reality of life on Pine Ridge. It was honestly scary. The statistics speak for themselves. Indigenous communities in our country face some daunting institutional barriers. It made me wonder where we can target interventions to chip away at these obstacles. Trees, Water & People, along with the community partners we worked with on the reservation, taught me how we can work collaboratively to dissect these issues.

During our trip, we spent a day at the Allen Youth Center, where we saw how the Center is providing a safe space for youth on Pine Ridge. During the day, we played with kids and learned about how the Center is mentoring the kids and helping to preserve Lakota culture. The mentors told us how they are attempting to combat the high dropout rate, mental health, and substance abuse issues through mentoring.

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The CSU Alternative Break students at the Allen Youth Center painting with some of the children there.

We spent two days at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. During this time we helped maintain their sustainable garden and install a new roof on their greenhouse. Henry Red Cloud, the proprietor of Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE), showed us how his community is using renewable energy to provide power and heat homes on the reservation, reducing the economic burden of energy use. He explained how his partnership with TWP has enabled LSE to scale up their operation and provide a teaching space for sustainable energy and gardening practices.

Our last day was spent at the Pine Ridge Girls’ School. This school is working hard to revive their culture by incorporating traditional knowledge systems with Western education models. While this school acknowledges the value of teaching Western methods of scientific discovery, they also feel strongly that their mission is to foster an appreciation for their students’ traditional Lakota culture.

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The CSU Alternative Break student stopped at Badlands National Park before heading home to Colorado.

Each of these places are tackling these formidable barriers in ways that felt more attainable. This trip was one of those unique experiences that helps refine your values and inspires your future. It demonstrated to me how even some of the most daunting, wicked problems can be tackled when members of the community fight.

For more information about upcoming service trips like this one, please sign up for our email list!
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