Notes from the Field: Summer Update from Tribal Lands

Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE) and Trees, Water & People (TWP) are continuing our efforts to help Native American communities move towards energy independence. This week we are conducting a solar air heater workshop and installing ten solar air heating systems for the Sisseton Wahpeton Tribe in northeast South Dakota. The training is teaching twelve tribal members about the uses of solar energy and how to install the energy saving solar heating systems. These solar heaters push the number of total systems the LSE/TWP team has built and installed for tribal families to more than 1,000 systems. Additionally, the vast majority of these systems made at the LSE manufacturing facility at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Sisseton Wahpeton Tribe members installing a solar air heater during a training with Lakota Solar Enterprises and Trees, Water & People.


It is also the first major installation of our new Off-Grid Solar Heaters, which now operate solely on solar power! Heat is provided even if the grid goes off, as it is apt to do all across Native American Reservations. After this training is completed, the tribe has discussed getting 21 more systems and will use their trained workforce to get them installed.

Next, LSE will be taking down the old defunct wind turbine tower at the Kili Radio Station on Pine Ridge. Friends will install a new 10 kW Bergey wind turbine there in September, and a bit later Henry and the LSE crew will install another 6 kW solar electric array. A few years ago LSE installed a 5 kW solar electric array there, as well as one of their solar air heaters. Together, this should reduce the Radio stationed huge electric and heating bills by more than half.

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Henry Red Cloud (left) leads a solar panel installation training at the Kili Radio Station in 2013.

Training and demonstrations like these are possible because of you, our supporters! Your contribution helps build job skills for Native Americans while also reducing CO2 emissions. Please donate today to keep programs like these going into the future.

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TWP Celebrates International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

by Lucas Wolf, Assistant International Director

Today marks an important date on the calendar for indigenous communities around the world as the United Nations declares the International Day of the World¬īs Indigenous Peoples. This year, the Indigenous Peoples Day highlights the importance of education for indigenous communities worldwide.

For the international and national partners of Trees, Water & People (TWP) as well as the home office employees, every day is indigenous people¬īs day. Our tribal program in the US continues to break new ground on housing opportunities on the Pine Ridge Reservation, expand access to sustainable agriculture and improve food security, and work to reforest hillsides that have been decimated by fires and erosion. Our partnership with Henry Red Cloud has led to many educational opportunities for Native Americans over the years, such as business development courses, green job training, and sustainable building.

Solar Women Warrior Scholarship winners
These two young Native American women were the recipients of our Solar Women Warrior Scholarship and learned how to install solar air heaters. Here they are working on fans for a heater.

Internationally, with our partner Utz Ché in Guatemala, we are also working to provide education opportunities, training, and capacity building for indigenous communities. In our primary community of La Bendición, where we led two work tours last year, we continue to support training in beekeeping (two youth leaders attended an apiculture and permaculture workshop at the Mesoamerican Permaculture Institute in San Lucas de Toliman).

La Bendición was founded in 2000 by two different indigenous communities that were displaced by the armed conflict in the 1990s in western Guatemala. They were relocated to an abandoned and defunct coffee plantation in the southeastern part of the country and were passed a bill for the value of the land, as assessed by the government. The discrepancy between the valuation of the land and what they received has characterized the next 16 years of their community’s existence. They have fought for dismissal of this over-inflated debt so they could get on with learning how to live separated from their ancestral land and people.

Osvin Goméz of La Bendición fits a wax mold into a frame for the beehive to build a new honeycomb.

According to Oswaldo Mauricio, our primary coordinator with La Bendición and the director of Campesino exchanges for Utz Ché:

“The relationship between TWP, Utz Ch√©, and La Bendici√≥n contributes to an enhanced quality of life in many different ways. Together we improve the overall reforestation and conservation of the forests, protect the watersheds and the rivers, moderate the use of firewood and pressures on the forest, and help smallholder farmers diversify their parcels (productivity projects). All these activities are the primary focal point for the creation of better educational opportunities, both informal and formal. All of these developments help to ensure clean and healthy food production and consumption for the families of La Bendici√≥n.”

In addition to these efforts, our ongoing goal to build 500 clean cookstoves, in collaboration with Utz Ch√© and two Guatemalan improved cookstove producers, EcoComal and Do√Īa Dora, is helping to train and educate other Utz Ch√© communities on the use and maintenance of the clean cookstoves. Your donation will allow indigenous communities in southern Guatemala to have access to these clean cookstoves, as well as the training they need to use and maintain them.

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Trees, Water & People Accepting Applications for Green Business in Indian Country Start-Up Award

tribal programTrees, Water & People’s (TWP) Tribal Renewable Energy Program is excited to offer the Green Business in Indian Country Start-Up Award for a second year in a row. The award, valued at $10,000 Р$20,000, includes cash and technical assistance to help jump-start new business endeavors in Indian Country.

Applicants must provide a business plan, an operating budget, and a start-up budget. Application materials and details on the award can be found at Completed applications are due no later than 5 p.m. MDT, Tuesday, September 1, 2015. The deadline to request an entrepreneur mentor is June 15, 2015. Mentors can help develop applications to make the best presentation of ideas.

Leading up to the Award application deadline, a five-day Green Business Development in Indian Country workshop will be hosted May 31 ‚Äď June 5, 2015 at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Scholarships and a limited number of travel stipends are available for this workshop through the generous support of the Putnam Foundation. For details and to register for this workshop, please visit This workshop is not required to apply for the Start-Up Award.

‚ÄúSome of the most important work we do is helping Native individuals create jobs and provide green alternatives to industries from outside the community that are less sustainable for health and environment. This award gives us the opportunity to promote local economies and benefits to the environment,‚ÄĚ said Jamie Folsom, TWP‚Äôs National Director.

Trees, Water & People is proud to sponsor this award and offer assistance to Native American entrepreneurs who are eager to create and grow their green business ideas. For more information about our Tribal Renewable Energy Program please visit

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Project Update: Solar Women Warriors Scholarship Fund

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Gail Hubbeling (left) and Jamie Folsom at the Compressed Earth Block training.

We are excited to report that the women who were awarded the Solar Women Warriors Scholarships have completed their training with us and have utilized these funds to learn important new skills in renewable energy and sustainable building.

We were delayed by weather in October of 2013, when the first Compressed Earth Block (CEB) Training was originally scheduled to take place. However, we were able to reschedule the training for May 18-24, 2014 and it ended up being a great success! Alison Goings, a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, and Gail Hubbeling, a member of the Ihanktowan (Dakota) Tribe and also a veteran of the U.S. military, both attended the training on scholarships funded by The women learned how to build a home using a compressed earth block machine, which produces blocks that are affordable and very energy efficient.

In addition to these two scholarships, we awarded a third Solar Women Warrior Scholarship to Robin Davis, a member of the White Earth Tribe. Robin attended one of our Solar Air Heater workshops held on the White Earth Reservation. After learning how to install solar heaters onto a home, Robin and the other trainees were employed by the White Earth Tribe to install 10 heaters for families in need. These heaters save families up to 30% on their monthly utility bills for 25 years, greatly decreasing household expenses using clean energy from the sun.

Get personal

“I’ve been interested in energy efficiency and renewable energy for sometime now. I want to share this knowledge with our Native communities along with the Housing Authority. Housing is the one shortage we need to overcome.” – Gail Hubbeling, Scholarship Recipient

Risks and challenges

Our biggest challenge with this project was the weather! We had no problem finding Native American women eager to attend our workshops; our main challenge was dealing with freak storms that delayed holding the workshops. We had originally planned to have the Compressed Earth Block training in October of 2014 but Mother Nature was not having it. A huge snow storm hit the Pine Ridge Reservation, causing us to postpone the workshop.

What we’ve learned

GRID Alternatives solar energy trainingWe’ve learned that beyond green job training, we need to also focus on helping trainees find meaningful employment opportunities, where they can utilize the skills they have gained. This is why we started the Green Business Development Program in 2013. This program helps Native entrepreneurs develop and implement viable green business plans within the reservation context, which is a much more challenging economic situation. In addition, we are also continuing to work closely with tribes, such as White Earth, to create jobs for trainees after they complete our workshops. Many tribes have access to Federal funds for renewable energy and economic development that can be used to employ their members in the green economy.

Next steps

We are now working with the women to offer more access to our workshops as well as an opportunity to apply to our Green Business Development Program. Our ultimate goal with this program is to see Native American women find jobs within the renewable energy and sustainable building sector, using the skills and experience gained from our workshops.

Bonus Day – Donations matched 50% today!

Today is a Bonus Day at! When you donate to one of our projects on GlobalGiving today, your donation will be matched 50%. Plus, the organization with the most individual donors will receive a $1,000 bonus!

DONATE to one of the following projects that support renewable energy and economic development on tribal lands:
entrepreneurs fund_enews
help build SEL
support organic farming2
There is only $130,000 in matching funds available, so please don’t delay in making your gift!

Upcoming Training: Green Business Development for Native Americans

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This five-day course for aspiring “green” entrepreneurs from tribes throughout the country is based on the¬†Indianpreneurship¬†curriculum developed by ONABEN. It is designed to offer students the basic knowledge they need to tackle the challenges of starting a business, especially on reservations.

All students should leave the training with products including outlines for a business plan, start-up budget, and operating budget. These items are important in attracting any kind of investment in a new enterprise, and are required to apply for Trees, Water & People’s Tribal Renewable Energy Program’s Green Business Start-up Award.


Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, Pine Ridge, South Dakota


July 6 – July 12, 2014


Scholarships are available to Native Americans who are interested in attending this training. To be eligible, you must have a business idea that is centered in sustainability, renewable energy, or other “green” business ideas.

To receive a scholarship, you must complete all application materials.

Application Checklist:

All items due June 13, 2014

For questions please email Jamie Folsom at or call 970-484-3678.

Upcoming Training: Building with Compressed Earth Block

compressed earth block training

Students from tribes throughout the country can join Lakota Solar Enterprises, EARTHinBLOCKS, and Trees, Water & People for a hands-on training in making and building with compressed earth blocks. Compressed earth blocks are a sustainable construction material that uses high pressure to create bricks from soil, clay, and a tiny amount of cement.

Key components of this training include mixing ratios, the use of a compressed earth block machine to make bricks, and designing and constructing a naturally well-insulated and efficient earth block building.

When: May 18-24, 2014

Where: Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, Pine Ridge, South Dakota

Applications due May 6, 2014!

For more information and to apply please visit

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Notes from the Field: Solar Heating at Sacred Earth Lodge

by Lacey Gaechter, National Director

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Mother Nature shows her power in the night sky over Sacred Earth Lodge

After opening it’s doors to the public in late 2013, the Sacred Earth Lodge (SEL) has already hosted several groups and we look forward to hosting many more visitors and Native American trainees in 2014.

Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center
on-site solar and wind demos

This week, we will host our first Solar Hot Water Heater Training at the Sacred Earth Lodge. Once the new hot water system is in place, it will join our growing selection of on-site renewable energy demonstration units. Along with our existing solar air heaters, wind turbines, and grid-tied and battery-tied photovoltaic systems, we will now have a solar hot water system that can be taken apart and reassembled class after class. This equipment gives us the ability to do hands-on training, which is so important to the learning process and what makes our training program unique.

The hot water generated in this solar water system will be mixed with anti-freezing agents and circulated through a radiant heat floor to keep the building warm, using only the sun’s rays!

You can help support this important new clean energy system and contribute to SEL’s low impact, sustainable building design by visiting our fundraising project on Global Giving. Stay tuned for more updates about our Tribal Renewable Energy Program!

Happy Holidays from Trees, Water & People!

Happy Holidays 2013

During this holiday season, we want you to know that we appreciate your support of our organization! At Trees, Water & People (TWP), we work with communities that are facing very difficult environmental and social challenges. Our staff and partners are connecting local people to important resources and tools for natural resource conservation and economic development.In 2013, generous donors helped fund many projects, including:

  • Building the¬†Sacred Earth Lodge¬†– a one-of-a-kind renewable energy training facility for Native Americans
  • Construction of¬†clean cookstoves in Guatemala¬†to reduce deforestation and indoor air pollution
  • Helping hundreds¬†of rural families in Honduras gain¬†access to solar lighting¬†technologies
  • Training for¬†300 Haitian farmers¬†in sustainable agriculture and watershed protection
  • Providing¬†healthy,¬†organic produce to Lakota families¬†living¬†on the Pine Ridge Reservation
  • Producing¬†50,000 trees¬†in our community¬†tree nursery in El Porvenir, El Salvador

As we make plans for 2014, we hope you will consider supporting our innovative, community-based programs that are helping people and the planet!

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Update: Solar Women Warrior Scholarships Awarded

Solar Woman Warrior
Anna, a trainee from the Quileute Tribe, graduated from our Green Business Development Training this year.

Since the Solar Women Warriors Scholarship was fully funded on, we have awarded three Native American women with scholarships to attend our Compressed Earth Block Training at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC), located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

In partnership with Lakota Solar Enterprises and EARTHinBLOCKS, this multi-day course will offer students hands-on instruction in this unique form of sustainable construction. The training includes instruction on how to operate a compressed earth block machine, mixing mud ratios and building with earth blocks. Trainees will also learn how to design and construct an earth block building.

In addition to awarding these scholarships, we also opened our new dormitory and training center at RCREC. The Sacred Earth Lodge is a one-of-a-kind facility that allows us to host many more trainees and provides much larger classroom space for our workshops.

Sacred Earth Lodge

Risks and challenges

Our biggest challenge with this project has been weather. The Compressed Earth Block Training was originally scheduled for October 18-26, 2013. However, a very large and destructive early winter storm pounded Pine Ridge with nearly two feet of snow, causing extensive damage to buildings, roads, and trees and killing thousands of cattle. Due to this rare October snow storm, we have had to reschedule the training for Spring 2014. All three women will attend the rescheduled training using their scholarship funds.

“My intent is in utilizing all opportunities available to become sustainable, reduce energy consumption, and do the best I can for our Mother Earth. I would like to build Earth Block homes on the Yankton Sioux Reservation to alleviate the lack of adequate housing in Indian Country.” – Florence Hare Yankton Sioux

“My interest is to learn any and all I can about energy efficiency and renewable energy to one day build my own home.” – Tina Marie Steele, Oglala Lakota Sioux

Next steps

The next step will be to train all three of the Native American women who were awarded scholarships. After the women receive their hands-on training, we will help them gain access to other green job training opportunities that compliment sustainable building. In addition, we offer Native American entrepreneurs access to business development through the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center.

More information

We have created a new website for our Native American trainees! It is still under construction but you can check it out here: