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.

TWP Partner, Henry Red Cloud, Receives White House Award

Henry Red Cloud at RCREC
Henry Red Cloud – Champion of Change

Today, the White House honored ten local heroes who are ‚ÄúChampions of Change‚ÄĚ for their efforts to promote and expand solar deployment in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.

As President Obama highlighted in his State of the Union address, the pace of solar deployment has picked up. Last year was a record-breaking year for new solar installations, and the amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased around eleven fold ‚Äď from 1.2 gigawatts in 2008 to an estimated 13 gigawatts today, which is enough to power more than 2.2 million American homes. In fact, every four minutes another American home or business went solar. Whether it is deployed at the utility scale or by rural electric co-ops, businesses, multifamily housing, or new home builders, solar power is now a cost competitive option that offers financial and environmental benefits. This trend has yielded new economic opportunities for many Americans ‚Äď job growth in the solar industry is now increasing by 20% each year.

President Obama is committed to continuing the momentum. In June 2013, the President launched a comprehensive Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution and advance the clean energy economy. As part of that Plan, the President set a goal to double solar, wind, and geothermal electricity generation by 2020 and to more than triple the onsite renewable energy production in federally assisted residential buildings.

Today, at the White House Solar Summit, individuals that are leading the charge across the country to create jobs and economic opportunity in solar power were honored. These leaders are driving policy changes at the local level to further advance solar deployment in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.

About Henry Red Cloud, Founder & Sole Proprietor of Lakota Solar Enterprises, Pine Ridge, SD 

Henry Red Cloud headshotHenry Red Cloud is¬†the Founder and Sole Proprietor of Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE) on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.¬†One of the first 100% Native American-owned and operated renewable energy companies in the nation,¬†LSE employs tribal members to manufacture and install efficient solar air heating systems for Native American families living on reservations¬†across the Great Plains.¬†Additionally,¬†Henry¬†manages the¬†Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center¬†(RCREC), a¬†one-of-a-kind¬†Native¬†educational facility¬†where tribes from around the U.S.¬†receive hands-on¬†green job¬†training in renewable energy¬†technology¬†and¬†sustainable building practices.¬†Henry¬†Red Cloud¬†is providing Native Americans with ‚Äúa new way to honor the old ways‚ÄĚ through¬†sustainable energy solutions¬†that are environmentally sound, economically beneficial, and culturally appropriate.

 

Helping Communities in Central America Adapt to a Changing Climate

National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change

by Megan Maiolo-Heath, Marketing Manager

For many years, we have been supporting conservation throughout Latin America, helping local people manage their most precious natural resources: trees, soils, and water. During this time, the communities we work with have experienced the negative effects of climate change first-hand, including hurricanes, droughts, flooding, and crop loss.

Here in the U.S. and other developed nations, we are beginning to see how a rapidly changing climate can hurt our environment, economies, and health. But, the poorest people in the world have been feeling the brunt of climate change for years.

Honduran farmer
Local farmers and their families are feeling the effects of climate change first-hand.

We have been working with our partners in Central America to help communities face this challenge by continuing our efforts to plant millions of trees and build clean cookstoves for thousands of families. In addition, we have introduced clean energy products, such as solar lighting and solar cell phone chargers, so families can gain access to energy that does not lead to more pollution and environmental degradation.

But this is not enough. We must continue our work to educate people and share knowledge across borders. This is why TWP is developing the National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change in La Paz Centro, Nicaragua.

This new facility will be an educational resource where communities can learn about renewable energy, forest management, clean cookstoves, and clean energy solutions. In addition, we will develop the center as a global facility, where global citizens from around the world will be empowered with the skills needed to adapt to climate change in their region.

2014 Project Timeline:

National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change 2014

We have broken ground on the Center and constructed several buildings already. Now, we are moving onto the next phase of development: building classrooms, hands-on demonstration sites, and forestry plots that will make this a unique place for learning and sharing knowledge.

You can support this project by making a donation through our website: www.treeswaterpeople.org. Thank you for your support!

For questions about the new Center please contact Sebastian Africano, International Director, at sebastian@treeswaterpeople.org. Stay tuned for updates!