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´s 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´s 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 Ché, and La Bendición 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 Bendición.”

In addition to these efforts, our ongoing goal to build 500 clean cookstoves, in collaboration with Utz Ché and two Guatemalan improved cookstove producers, EcoComal and Doña Dora, is helping to train and educate other Utz Ché 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.

“I 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.”

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.

“I 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,” said Folsom. “It is an honor to work with people who understand the bigger picture.”

“The relationship between Native Americans and non-Natives has been a harsh tale,” said Richard Fox, Co-Founder and Executive Director of TWP. “While 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!

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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 – 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!

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