Notes from the Field: The Gift of Heat, The Preservation of Culture

Lacey GaechterBy Lacey Gaechter, Assistant National Director

Pine Ridge, South Dakota

“The heater works great,” says Leonard Littlefinger of the solar heater that Trees, Water & People supporters donated to his Lakota language school. Our partner, Henry Red Cloud, installed the heater in the school’s meeting room, which Leonard said came in handy this winter as he consulted with tribal elders who are helping him establish his curriculum’s vocabulary and grammar. In Leonard’s words, the heater “did the trick.” “It just quietly did its job,” he added, “you know, when you get to be our age, you need a good heater.”

Leonard is the founder of the Sacred Hoop (Cangle’ska Waka’n: “chan-GLAY-shka wah-KAHN”) School, which is a part of the efforts on the Pine Ridge Reservation to preserve traditional Lakota culture. Part of learning a language, says Leonard, is understanding the way a society’s culture is integrated into its words. For instance, the Lakota word for hoop carries with it undertones of “the circle of life”. It is for this reason that Leonard chose the word hoop instead of circle for his school’s name.

The Sacred Hoop School’s first group of students is scheduled to arrive this June. Currently, Leonard is finalizing his curriculum with, as he puts it, “the combined knowledge of over 500 years of Lakota language and culture” between himself and the other elders. At this inaugural two-week immersion program, Lakota students, parents, and siblings will be invited to bring traditional language back into their home.

Leonard is truly a leader in his community and has been selected for an honorary Doctorate of Humanities from the College of Mount Saint Joseph in Ohio, where he is delivering this May’s commencement address. We hope all Trees, Water & People supporters take the same pride that we do in playing a small role in the amazing endeavor of preserving the Lakota language.

To learn more about TWP’s Tribal Lands Renewable Energy Program please visit http://treeswaterpeople.org/tribal/tribal_intro.htm .

Notes from the Field: Tree Planting on the Pine Ridge Reservation

By Megan Maiolo, Marketing & Communications Coordinator

June 6th, 2011: Pine Ridge Reservation, SD

We spent the last 4 days on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Oglala Lakota.  With the help of over 20 volunteers, we planted 94 trees around homes on the Reservation.  These trees will provide families with windbreak from the bitter winter winds, shade from the intense summer heat, and, most importantly, the beauty of nature around homes.

TWP Board President Jon Becker plants trees with Noah Red Cloud in the Fraggle Rock neighborhood on Pine Ridge.

The majority of the trees were planted in the Fraggle Rock neighborhood, where many of the homes have been built by Alliance Builders, a great nonprofit based in Pine Ridge.  After we were finished we enjoyed a community potluck, drum circle, and fire show.  Celebrating the work with the communities we serve was the most rewarding part of this experience.

Pine Ridge is a magical place; the energy you feel when you are among the Lakota, our Nation’s First People, is powerful and often hard to describe.  The Lakota have a strong connection to the land, physically and spiritually, a connection that American society could greatly benefit from if it was explored and respected more.  This is a group of people that thrived on the Great Plains for thousands of years, up until the late 1800’s, when they were systematically slaughtered and pushed off their land by the U.S. government.  This genocide culminated with the massacre at Wounded Knee in the winter of 1890.  Since this time, the Lakota have been struggling to survive and preserve their culture.

The Tree Huggers!

Although this is the poorest place in the U.S., the Lakota are hopeful that positive change will come to their people, bringing with it a sense of healing for one of the most oppressed groups of people in this Nation’s history.

Thank you to our partner and dear friend Henry Red Cloud for hosting us and opening up his property for us to camp on.  In addition, we would like to send warm thank yous to all of our Lakota friends who accepted us into their community with open arms.  We are looking forward to the next trip to Pine Ridge, where we can share in the activities that make this a better place to live!

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Thank You to the Global Harmony Community Chorus!

We would like to thank our friends at the Global Harmony Community Chorus for raising over $18,000 this month for our Tribal Lands Renewable Energy Program!  Also, many thanks to everyone who attended and generously contributed.  Donations from the event will help us to continue putting the power of nature — the warmth of the sun, the power of the wind, the shelter of trees — to work for Native Americans.

A solar heater beneficiary stands proud (Photo by Dan Bihn, 2010).

The “Songs of the Earth” concert weekend, held February 12th and 13th in Roseville, MN, featured special guests Brent Michael Davids (composer, flute) and Henry Red Cloud (5th generation descendant of Chief Red Cloud).

 

About Global Harmony Chorus

Global Harmony is an inter-faith, non-auditioned community chorus open to all who wish to sing to make a difference.  To date, Global Harmony Community Chorus has raised over $102,000 for global relief efforts.  To learn more please visit http://globalharmonychorus.org/.

TWP Makes Progress at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

This last week was an important one as our good friends from the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) came to visit us on the Pine Ridge Reservation. RREAL is working to break down financial and informational barriers to the widespread use of solar energy out in Minnesota. They feel that like the digital divide which separates communities based on access to information, there is also a renewable energy divide and that specifically lower income communities are in danger of being left behind as our society shifts towards a renewable economyrreal-solar-heater-at-childrens-village.

These are our types of folks and a natural friendship has evolved that is slowly becoming a successful partnership as we share ideas, equipment and a vision to extend solar heating systems and other renewable energy applications to those who need it most.

This week, Jason Edens Tim Ollhoff and Steve Benson arrived at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) on Pine Ridge with three of their solar heating systems. The first one they installed with Henry and Avery Red Cloud of Lakota Solar Enterprises at the Lakota Children’s Village, which serves as the home for Lakota children in need of shelter.

It was a most wonderful installation that will provide heat for pennies a day for Lakota children in great need for many years to come!

Their second solar heating system was installed as a solar demonstration and education unit at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. The Center is being developed as a place for tribal members from across the Great Plains and beyond to be trained in facility and family sized renewable energy applications and installations.

The third unit will be installed by Lakota Solar Enterprises for another family at Pine Ridge in the weeks ahead.

We also planted windbreaks and shade trees for two families at the Fraggle Rock community in Pine Ridge. The north wind there blows hard and cold for much of the winter causing entire rooms in homes to be abandoned during winter because they are so cold. So we plant trees as family windbreaks which will immediately start to shield the homes from the bitter chill and will grow over the years into a solid wall of protec

tion. We also planted two shade trees at each house to provide shade during the extremely hot summers.

Children's Village in Pine Ridge

While we were in the neighborhood, we also installed one of LSE’s solar heating systems. Together, we will use these three homes to demonstrate natural ways to lower heating costs and we will now begin to raise funds for additional tree planting in the neighborhood in the spring of 2009.

A special thanks to TWP’s Tribal Lands Program Coordinator, Liz Sunderland, who coordinated the RREAL visit and handled many of the logistical details of getting these five installations done.

That’s the true spirit of Trees, Water & People....getting difficult things done…. and done well!

Each dreaming their own version of peace and reconciliation…

I just got back to Colorado from another trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Henry and Avery Red Cloud and a TWP friend and donor, Al Byrnes, and I were installing another of our solar heating systems. We’ve previously done about 200 solar heating systems for families on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations. This one, though, was very special.

It was for and at the KILI Radio station, the Voice of the Lakota Nation. Our workshop installation was in conjunction with a major celebration honoring KILI Radio’s 25th anniversary of being on the air, as well as a celebration for the installation of a very amazing pretty darn big wind turbine that will produce about 1/2 the electricity the station needs to operate. It is indeed another big step forward for Energy Independence across the seven Lakota reservations.

Honor the Earth was a big sponsor of the wind turbine project and was there for the celebration, as was the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy (ICOUP). Bands, speakers, the solar heater workshop and installation, a feast, and an amazing giveaway … made this installation all very powerful and good.

We then returned to the mini-campground at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center there at Pine Ridge. Henry and Avery live there at this developing sustainable living center.

A major core is the renewable energy training center where Native Americans are trained in family and facility scale renewable energy applications. We are currently building a loft in our main building with two bedrooms, a bathroom and small kitchen so visitors from other tribes have a place to stay as they learn about solar heating, windbreaks, wind turbines, shade trees and the making of solar electricity.

On the Sustainable Living side, there is also a small straw bale office, a greenhouse and garden area, a sweat lodge and a some of the bison from the Red Cloud herd.

For more info on what we are doing, check out our Tribal Program on our website – www.treeswaterpeople.org. Your friendship, your help, prayers and financial support are all greatly needed and appreciated for us to raise the funds and finish manifesting this amazing project.

After a night of stories around the campfire and some fire dancing and fun, we went to sleep … me … in a Red Cloud tipi in the middle of the Sioux Nation … each of us dreaming about our own version of peace and reconciliation.

Richard Fox
National Director
Trees Water & People

“Lakota Past and Present” Adventure

Over the last five years, TWP has been bringing family-sized renewable energy applications to tribal communities. During most of that time, we have worked with Henry Red Cloud on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Henry is the owner of Lakota Solar Enterprises and has led most of our renewable energy workshops and installations. Recently, we have expanded our partnership with Henry to develop the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, a facility that will train Native Americans about renewable energy applications for many years to come.

While our primary focus has been on providing Lakota families with more than 200 solar air heating systems, we have also been involved in solar electric and wind turbine installations as well as planting trees as windbreaks for more than 130 additional Lakota families.

Most of our work has been on the Pine Ridge reservation, but we have also installed demonstration solar heaters for families on nine other reservations ranging from Skull Valley in Utah to White Earth in Minnesota.  Four of these installations were done in partnership with Winona LaDuke and the Honor the Earth organization.

Over the years, we have had many people ask to come with us and learn about the Lakota people, conditions at Pine Ridge, and our efforts to build renewable energy capacity in tribes across the Great Plains. We have brought some of these folks to Pine Ridge in the spring to help us during our last 6 years of tree planting there.

This fall, we will begin to gently expand our efforts to engage more people in working with Lakota people to build a more sustainable energy program and reduce outrageously high utility bills. We believe that with energy prices continuing to rise, and potentially doubling over last winter’s costs, that we need to do everything we can to get more solar heating systems in place and protect more tribal families, especially the elderly and children.

These supplemental solar heaters will reduce heating costs by 20-30% for 20 to up to 30 years for pennies a day and should be a part of every tribes new energy policy. Check out our website for more information.

Please take a moment to read the flyer about the Lakota Past and Present Adventure. I hope you will consider attending and that you will pass it on to your friends and associates for their consideration.

Richard

Sponsor a Lakota family

Through friends we came to understand that Lakota people living on reservations were paying up to 70% of their income just to pay their exorbitant heat and electricity bills. To help ease this problem, Trees, Water & People has been building and installing supplemental solar heat systems for Native American families living on reservations in the Western U.S. These solar heaters save 25-35% on heating bills, and we estimate that they will stay in service for 20-30 years. Besides keeping families warmer in the winter and saving significant money, the heaters have other benefits. Many families must choose between paying for heat, food, or medicine…a choice no one should have to make. Many families use the savings from our heaters to buy more food and medicine, so the heaters help improve health and nutrition.

Many Lakota women make beautiful star quilts. They often have to move in with other family members in the winter because their homes are too cold or too expensive to heat. When families are consolidated, there is no room for work on quilts, so this important source of income is lost during the long and bitterly cold winters. Each solar heating system costs about $1,200 for all of the material and the cost of installation. Currently, we have funding that covers about $800 of this cost, so we still need to raise about $400 per heater so we can get as many installed as possible before this next winter. We’re asking our friends and supporters to consider sponsoring a Lakota family so they can receive one of this heaters. You can help at whatever level you feel is appropriate. The Lakota are struggling…and they are holders of great wisdom. They still hear the life within the land and move with their ancestors along a powerful way. We hope you will help us to preserve this important culture and these important people.

Richard