Welcome Eriq Acosta, our new National Director!

by Eriq Acosta, National Director

Eriq Acosta

We are excited to introduce our supporters to our new National Director, Eriq Acosta! He will be working closely with our partner, Henry Red Cloud, on the Pine Ridge Reservation to keep our Tribal Renewable Energy Program running strong. Here’s a little bit about him:

I am a Mexican American Indian man whose education and life have spanned throughout the United States. My passion for working with young people and families has earned me many honors and speaking engagements promoting unconditional positive regard and strength-based programs for youth and families throughout the U.S.  When doing this work of my heart,  I am transparent, authentic, honest, and passionate about modeling principled behavior. With the support from many mentors, I realized the impact that this work provides Native American communities as an inspiration and guide to re-learning and recovering “multi-generational greatness.”

Eriq Acosta
Looking beyond myself to the future!

I earned my bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University and a master’s at Regis University where I excelled academically and socially. I have spent the majority of my career in the nonprofit sector: United American Indian Involvement, National Indian Youth Leadership Project, and Red Horse Nation, in urban areas and on reservations throughout the U.S. as a teacher, mentor, trainer, guide, and community member.

Currently, I hope to expand the healing work of Trees, Water & People based in Fort Collins, Colorado, by combining my gained experience throughout the years, and most importantly the wisdom of our elders. I will work to assist and learn from the many communities TWP serves, as well as to embrace the multi-generational greatness of Native American communities!

Welcome, Eriq! We know you will be a great addition to the TWP Family!

Richard Fox, Trees, Water & People’s co-founder and former Executive Director/National Director will be retiring after 19 years but will remain on staff to help Eriq transition to National Director through the end of the summer. Following his retirement, Richard will remain involved with TWP as a board member.

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Volunteer Voices: Working on the Solar Warrior Farm and Loving Every Bit!

by Patrick Hall, TWP’s Solar Warrior Farm Intern 
What an exciting season it’s been! The farm seems to have a life of its own. I’ve been surrounded by farming my whole life, I’ve seen bits and pieces throughout the seasons, and I’ve studied a little and talked about it with friends, but I haven’t actually done farming myself. So in a way, this has been a very new and experimental opportunity for me. I’ve grown and learned so much just by listening to the winds and watching nature.

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The Solar Warrior Farm is thriving despite some setbacks earlier in the season, thanks to the hard work of Patrick Hall!

One difficulty I had early in the season was that the truck we use for hauling things and making store runs broke down, so I’ve been unable to get a lot of the supplies that I would like. However, that allowed me to focus on what I DO have and how I can utilize those things to reach my end goal. This season’s theme has been success and failure. Two steps forward, one step back. We started off with a late frost killing ALL of the transplants. Ouch. But with determination, we grew enough seedlings and talked to enough organizations in Fort Collins, CO to resupply.

However, I had never worked with irrigation before. So during this lag time between extermination and revitalization, I began experimenting and learning. Even after the plants came into the ground, I was still puzzled about certain aspects of irrigation. I still play around with it, trying to maximize the amount of water the plants are getting, only to realize I need a lot more emitters. So I bought some more — they were the wrong type. So I bought some others from somewhere else — they didn’t work. And we were buying hundreds at a time, so I really hope I can get some emitters that do WORK because these plants need more water!

Patrick (left) the intern with volunteer
Patrick Hall (left) works with volunteers to produce local food on the Solar Warrior Farm on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Something I truly appreciate is the magic of this place. Listening to stories of the elders, reading books written by medicine men, visiting sacred sites and hearing the spirits’ call, this has been a beautiful place to reside. I’ve left the farm a few times to go to a sweat lodge or go hiking with a friend, but for the most part, I’ve been staying right here. We even had a local mama turtle lay her eggs in one of the garden beds! Good turtle medicine, showing signs of fortitude and persistence, which was really helpful for me at the time. Tankashila (Grandfather Spirit) blesses me with what is needed, not just what I want. I’ve had a friendly face show up just as I begin to get lonely; a volunteer engineer shows up on the day that I was determined to put together the irrigation system and much more.

Trees, Water & People is a unique nonprofit working to find solutions to some major issues on the Pine Ridge Reservation. If you like the work they’re doing, show it by supporting projects like the Solar Warrior Farm.

 

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Notes from the Field: Native Students Expand Solar PV at KILI Radio

KILI radio solar PV expansion

On the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Oglala Lakota, over 40 percent of residents live without access to electricity. On Native American Reservations across the U.S., the Energy Information Administration estimates that 14 percent of households have no access to electricity, 10 times higher than the national average. Many tribes are looking to renewable energy as a way to provide reliable, clean energy to their tribal members.

Since 2007, Trees, Water & People’s Tribal Renewable Energy Program has been training Native communities in a variety of renewable energy applications, including solar PV, solar heating, wind energy, geothermal, and solar water pumps. This program strives to put the power of nature — the warmth of the sun, the power of the wind, the shelter of trees — to work for Native Americans.

Last week, we hosted a Solar Energy Workshop that brought Native Americans from around the country to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The workshop explored basics of solar energy and culminated in a hands-on installation at the KILI Radio station, Voice of the Lakota Nation, where students expanded a solar PV array.

Students expanded the KILI Radio station's solar PV array, creating more clean energy sources on Pine Ridge. (Photo credit: Boots Kennedye)
Students expanded the KILI Radio station’s solar PV array, creating more clean energy sources on Pine Ridge. (Photo credit: Boots Kennedye)

We were honored to have an all-star list of guest instructors join us for this workshop. Special thanks to:

 To learn more about upcoming workshops please visit www.solarwarriors.org.

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 – $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 http://www.solarwarriors.org/workshops/images/2015-start-up-business-award.pdf. 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 – 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 http://solarwarriors.org/workshops/green-business-development.html. This workshop is not required to apply for the Start-Up Award.

“Some 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,” said Jamie Folsom, TWP’s 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 www.solarwarriors.org.

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Notes from the Field: Indianpreneurship

by Jamie Folsom, National Director

ONABEN's Trainers in Training!
ONABEN’s Trainers in Training!

Our Native American Business Network (ONABEN) hosted their Indianpreneurship Training of the Trainers in Portland, Oregon a few weeks ago. I was so excited to attend and have the chance to meet business and economic development professionals from all over Indian Country.

There is nothing better than being in a room full of people who share your goals of helping others get jobs and create jobs in their communities, especially for Native people because we often live so far from one another. It was truly an event that brought to mind Sitting Bull’s words: “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”

ONABEN1TWP has adapted the 12-week Indianpreneurship curriculum for its week-long Green Business Development in Indian Country (GBDIC) training. We focus on renewable energy, sustainable housing and other applications of green technology that will benefit Native communities. The training helps with the nuts and bolts of budgeting and marketing for students who are considering starting their own businesses. They leave the week-long course with a foundation for creating a strong business plan. The Training of the Trainers gave me new ideas for GBDIC as part of our efforts to foster better business skills, particularly in the area of creating a solid financial foundation for starting a business.

Thank you ONABEN, and those who attended, for sharing your knowledge and skills. Whatever good we do for our people today, our children and grandchildren will be watching and passing on to their children, so we better get good things done!

To learn more about ONABEN please visit www.onaben.org

Project Update: Solar Women Warriors Scholarship Fund

Gail and Jamie
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 Catapult.org. 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.

Native American Trainees Install 1 Megawatt Solar Garden in Colorado

by Lacey Gaechter, National Director
Lafayette Colorado solar garden
Using the knowledge and experience gained from their classes at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, three of our Native American trainees are currently employed by Bella Energy to install a 1 megawatt photovoltaic “Solar Garden” in the city of Lafayette, Colorado.

Recently, I went down to support our friends at Bella, see the job site for the first time, and touch base with our students, Landon, Kale, and Jeff. Well, the job site was impressive. A 1 megawatt solar array is huge! The project is called the Lafayette Solar Garden. Funded by Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards Community Program, owned by the City of Lafayette, and available for use by residents and business in the town (“subscribers”), this is a tremendous community resource.

Bella Energy, an exceptional Colorado solar company (whose CEO, Jim Welch, helped found TWP’s Tribal Renewable Energy Program in 2002) is charged with the installation of the million watts of the Lafayette Solar Garden and subcontracted Lakota Solar Enterprises to help. So it came to be that Kale Means, Landon Means, and Jeff King were given this ideal opportunity to put their green jobs skills to use.

The City of Lafayette and local businesses will utilize the majority of the electricity generated by this solar garden resulting in annual cost savings and the offset of 1,034 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of planting 27,883 trees and placing 213 zero-emission passenger vehicles on the road.

solar garden Lafayette ColoradoAll from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana, Jeff, Landon, and Kale have been chomping at the bit to start this gig and were excited to experience a new place – living in Erie, CO for the duration of the job. For my part, I was excited to see them after their fourth day on the job and see how things were going.

When I arrived, the guys were nowhere to be found. Jeff text me that they had to go to get haircuts. It was great to see the Bella folks and hear good things about the Lakota Solar Enterprises crew, but what the heck? I drove an hour to attend the dedication ceremony, and all Jeff, Kale, and Landon had to do was not leave. I called Jeff after the festivities were finished to find out what was so important about a haircut. Well, it turns out that it was Kale’s birthday and he wanted a haircut for his own celebration. Happy birthday Kale!

It’s so great to see our friends thriving in this new environment and on the job. Thanks to Bella and the City of Lafayette for this opportunity, and thanks to Landon, Kale, and Jeff for being such hard working, talented, and now well-manicured guys.

1 megawatt Solar Garden Colorado(Photos courtesy of Jon Becker, TWP Board President)