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.

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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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Community Voices: Jeff King, Northern Cheyenne Tribe

Jeff King works to install a large solar array in northern Colorado. He has turned his passions into a career in renewable energy.
Jeff King works to install a new 1 megawatt “solar garden” in Lafayette, Colorado.

Jeff King hails from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in southeastern Montana. He is passionate about sustainability and renewable energy. He has attended many of our workshops at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) and consistently stands out as a leader that is eager to learn and grow. After receiving several certifications from our Tribal renewable Energy Program, Jeff has started working for a solar company in Colorado install PV systems throughout the state.

‚ÄúI have been interested in renewable energy for a long time, but my interest has been magnified in recent years due to more awareness of global climate change and also from working in an industry (coal) that frowns upon the mere mention of renewables. That attitude has made me even more eager to learn and push on behalf of the world.‚ÄĚ

Read more about the people our work has impacted in our Community Voices section of our website.

Notes from the Field: Solar Heater Workshop at White Earth Trains New Group of Solar Warriors

We recently partnered with Honor the Earth, Lakota Solar Enterprises, Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERT), Ojibwe Wind, and the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP) to conduct a Solar Air Heating workshop at the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.

During the 5-day course,¬†students learned how to assemble kits for solar air heaters and participated in hands-on solar air heater installations on White Earth Reservation homes. After the training, the White Earth Tribe will hire these new “Solar Warriors”¬†to install ten solar heaters on the homes of tribal members.

Henry Red Cloud, the lead instructor for the training and owner of Lakota Solar Enterprises, shared his view of¬†solar energy with¬†the students: “It’s like a rebuilding of a nation. Taking our old way and then taking this new way. We gotta step forward all the time.”

At the end of the training, one student commented, “I really thank you guys for having Henry come and teach White Earth Members like me and my daughter and my son-in-law. This new trade that is coming, I’m so glad that it is here.”

To learn more about the workshops offered by Trees, Water & People’s Tribal Renewable Energy Program click here.

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TWP Welcomes New National Director

Jamie Folsom
Jamie (right) with a trainee at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center earlier this month.

We are pleased to welcome Jamie Folsom as the organization’s new National Director. Jamie will be responsible for managing our Tribal Renewable Energy Program, where she will work with Native Americans to build and install supplemental solar heaters for families and provide green job training to tribal members across the country.

Jamie is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma with a background in program management, science education, and communications. In her most recent position as Project Manager for the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center, she nurtured collaborations with a wide-range of partners and conducted outreach and technical training within Native American communities.

Trees, Water & People Renewable Energy ProgramAt TWP, Jamie will use her extensive experience in community organization, research, and technical training to facilitate green business development for tribal communities wishing to invest in sustainable energy systems and affordable eco-friendly homes. She is devoted to working with Native populations to improve overall health and environmental wellness.

‚ÄúI feel very fortunate to be able to work with tribal communities on environmental projects that meet their needs, honor the spirit of self-determination, and recognize the amazing talent and skills we have among us,‚ÄĚ said Folsom. ‚ÄúIt is an honor to work with people who understand the bigger picture.‚ÄĚ

“The relationship between Native Americans and non-Natives has been a harsh tale,‚ÄĚ said Richard Fox, Co-Founder and Executive Director of TWP. ‚ÄúWhile we cannot change the past, we can change the future and I know Jamie will play a key part in writing a new chapter in this relationship, built upon respect, partnership, and developing the renewable energy training and resources that will help create a powerful sustainable future for Native American communities.”

Please help us welcome Jamie!

Community Voices: Elmer Melton

by John Motley, National Program Assistant

John Motley and Elmer
Elmer Melton (left) and John Motley

Lately, we have had many firsts at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. In early February, we conducted our first ever Solar Hot Water Heater Training along with having our first trainee from an Alaskan tribe visit RCREC. With the frigid weather on the Great Plains making life hard for many Lakotas, there could be no better time to install a solar hot water heater, and we were happy to have a new friend from Alaska join us for the installation!

Elmer Melton is from the Noorvik Native Community in Noorvik, Alaska. We have worked with students from more than 20 different tribes but this is the first student we have hosted from Alaska. Elmer describes himself as “a miser in energy use” and has had experience with energy conservation programs in his community. He said he “would like to learn how to make hot water with renewable energy sources” so he can share this knowledge with his native community. With fuel costs being so high in his community, Elmer is eager to learn about clean, renewable energy alternatives.

solar hot water system
The control center of the solar hot water system inside the Sacred Earth Lodge.

The goal of the Solar Hot Water Heater Training was to install a solar hot water array that could be integrated into the¬†radiant heating floor of the Sacred Earth Lodge. We used reclaimed panels from two homes in Boulder,¬†Colorado. This new system will also serve as a hands-on demonstration site for future workshops. In addition to it’s educational value, the new system will provide the Sacred Earth Lodge with renewable heat from the sun, keeping our environmental impact and heating costs low.

Elmer
Elmer Melton installing the new solar hot water system

The benefit of radiant heat is that even when the sun goes down the heat trapped throughout the day is released into the thermal mass of the concrete floor which then slowly releases heat well into the night. This new addition will drastically reduce the lodge’s consumption of traditional energy sources like wood and electric. With our students and some local Pine Ridge residents, we completed the five panel solar hot water array with no problems. Completion couldn’t have come at a better time as Pine Ridge is now seeing some of its coldest temperatures of the year. But as long as the sun keeps shining, the lodge will stay warm and comfy even on the coldest of days!

Rent the Sacred Earth Lodge

Sacred Earth Lodge

The Sacred Earth Lodge is a one-of-a kind facility located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. It is a beautiful and functional space available for rent to visitors, conferences, workshops, and as an affordable meeting location in the heart of Indian Country.

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We offer hostel-style lodging with shared sleeping spaces, restrooms, and a community kitchen. We hope you will visit soon!

Amenities:

  • 3 bedrooms (The Lodge sleeps 23 people total)
  • Men and Women’s Restrooms and Showers
  • Community Kitchen w/ dining space for 30-50 people
  • Washer and Dryer
  • Learning and Meeting Spaces (seats up to 30 people)
  • On-site renewable energy, sustainable building and energy efficiency demos

For rental rates please read the Sacred Earth Lodge eBrochure.

For more information and to make your reservation please contact John Motley at john@treeswaterpeople.org or by phone at (877) 606-4TWP.

Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center
Renewable energy and sustainable building demo sites

Happy National “Shout Out for Solar” Day!

shout out for solar day

 

We are joining people from around the country and the world to celebrate National “Shout Out for Solar” Day! ¬†Will you join us?

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) writes, “When all of the numbers are finally in, 2013 will go down as a record-shattering year for the U.S. solar industry.¬† We’ve now joined Germany, China and Japan as worldwide leaders when it comes to the installation of new solar capacity.”

Now that is something to celebrate! You can join in this special day by visiting the SEIA website, downloading one of the #GoSolar signs, and posting to your social networks.

“Today, solar is one of the fastest-growing industries in America, employing 120,000 workers and generating an estimated¬†13 gigawatts (GW)¬†of clean electricity ‚Äď enough to effectively power 2 million homes. “

Let the world know that you love solar and support this important industry. Cheers to a clean energy future!

america loves solar

Notes from the Field: Native American Entrepreneurs Aspire to a Greener Future

native american business development training

by Lacey Gaechter, National Director

Today was the first day of our Native American Green Business Development Training ‚Äď something that Trees, Water & People and I have been working toward for the last year. While the training is the continuation of a process we started in 2008 – giving Native American students the technical skills they need to enter the green job market – it is only the first step in our new Green Business Development Program. The next will be awarding one “Start-Up Assistance Scholarship” to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) student with the best application, which means we think he or she will have the best chance of succeeding in his or her environmental social enterprise. The fact that this training is only the start of us helping more Native Americans create livelihoods that benefit Mother Earth makes this week extremely special for me.

Yesterday we dove right into the training, going over the basics of a business plan, a mission statement, products and services, and the purpose of market research. It was so inspiring to hear of the students‚Äô different aspirations for renewable energy, green building, and sustainable timber harvest businesses. Every single one of them focuses on the importance helping their people ‚Äď creating jobs and improving lives through their businesses.

Henry Red Cloud
Henry Red Cloud shows students the solar PV system at RCREC.

We ended the day with a special guest lecture from one Mr. Henry Red Cloud, proprietor of Lakota Solar Enterprises. Henry talked to the students about what being a sole proprietor means to him and gave everyone an in-depth tour of the Red Cloud Renewable Energy, where there is plenty of fodder for the imagination, from solar panels to straw-bale houses and organic agriculture. After the tour, our long-time friend and frequent student Leo White Bear, had decided that he was going to build his own Compressed Earth Block machine, water his lawn with a passive-solar water pump, and sell solar water distillers as part of his business, Off the Grid. This is, of course in addition, to the 10 or so other products that Leo was already planning to offer.

One of my favorite moments of the day came when I asked Henry what the hardest part of being a business owner is, and he responded ‚Äúbookkeeping!‚Ä̬† His favorite part about running Lakota Solar Enterprises: ‚ÄúEverything else!‚ÄĚ I think he speaks for most of us!

Save the Date! Grand Opening of the Sacred Earth Lodge: Oct. 11, 2013

Sacred Earth Lodge

You are invited to the Grand Opening celebration of the Sacred Earth Lodge on October 11, 2013 in Pine Ridge, South Dakota! After a year and a half of planning, construction, volunteer trips, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, we are excited to open our new training building to the public.

October 11, 2013, 2:00pm – 8:00pm

Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center
Pine Ridge, South Dakota
 
Stick around for cultural activities!
October 12, 2013, 9:00am – 12:00pm
Sacred Earth Lodge
Click to enlarge

The Sacred Earth Lodge is the newest edition to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) campus, located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and headquarters for our Tribal Renewable Energy Program. This new building will be used as a training center and dormitory for our ever-expanding Tribal Program. With such huge demand for our workshops, we are excited to add more and better classroom space, facilities and many more beds to RCREC.

For more information please contact Lacey Gaechter, National Director, at lacey@treeswaterpeople.org or by phone at (877)606-4TWP.