Volunteer Opportunity: Help Complete the Sacred Earth Lodge Sept. 26-29

Dedicated volunteers have helped build the Sacred Earth Lodge from the ground up!
Dedicated volunteers have helped build the Sacred Earth Lodge from the ground up!

Take this opportunity to travel to our Tribal Renewable Energy Program’s headquarters on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for a long weekend of fun, hard work, and new experiences! Although it is only a five hour drive from the Trees, Water & People office in Fort Collins, Colorado, a trip to Pine Ridge will offer volunteers an unforgettable cultural experience and an opportunity to help build the Sacred Earth Lodge, our new training center and dormitory.

What: Volunteer Weekend to finish building the Sacred Earth Lodge
Where: Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota
When: Thursday, September 26 – Sunday, September 29
Who: Flexible volunteers who like adventure, hard work, lots of fun, and all kinds of weather. Volunteers 14-18 are welcome with adult companions.
Why: To help finish building the Sacred Earth Lodge and to make new friends!

All the Details:

Volunteers are invited to arrive any time after 5:00 pm on Thursday the 26th. We will host full work days Friday and Saturday and a half day on Sunday. Projects will end by 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, and volunteers are welcome to head home any time Sunday. The primary focus of this trip will be to put on the finishing touches on the Sacred Earth Lodge and basic beautification of the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center campus. This is the final push before the October 11 Grand Opening of our new training facility.  Anything could come up, so please be flexible. Projects may be outdoors and certainly will not take place in a climate-controlled environment. Check the weather prior to coming.

Food:

  • TWP will provide volunteers with meals and snacks during the trip.
  • Food purchased by TWP will be vegetarian but feel free to bring any food you desire. We will send out a meal plan as the date comes near.
  • TWP cooking equipment and utensils will be available for use.
  • Volunteers will help in preparing all meals and snacks.

Transportation:

  • All volunteers are responsible for their own transportation and related costs getting to Pine Ridge.
  • I will be happy to coordinate carpools where possible.
  • Our facility is located down a short dirt road. Many sedans have traveled it without any problems.

Lodging: Camping or Hostel-Style Bunks

  • Campers on the Red Cloud Renewable Energy campus must bring their own camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag and pad, etc.). Weather is unpredictable, so only those comfortable in the outdoors should camp.
  • There will be ample bunks available due to the new lodge, but please bring your own bedding. (sheets, blanket, pillow, etc.) The room will be co-ed and may have up to 10 people per room.

To volunteer, please email the following information to John Motley at john@treeswaterpeople.org:

  1. Name of all people in your volunteer party
  2. Email addresses for all people in your volunteer party
  3. Your cell phone number
  4. Which days you have available to travel to and work in Pine Ridge
  5. Where you will be coming from and returning to (e.g. most people will be coming from Fort Collins, CO)
  6. Whether you will be camping or require a bunk in our loft (first come, first served!)
  7. Do you need a ride?
  8. Can you offer a ride – if so, to how many people?
  9. Any other questions you may have?

Once we have confirmed your spot John will email you directions to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center and provide you with additional details.

We hope you can make it!

Tribal Design

Photo of the Week: Solar Heating for Rural Native American Families

solar air heater Pine Ridge Reservation

About this photo

Henry Red Cloud, Tribal Renewable Energy Program partner and owner of Lakota Solar Enterprises, stands with Joe Yellow Hawk, an Oglala Lakota who lives near Kyle on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Yesterday, Henry and seven trainees from three different tribes (Crow Creek, Eastern Shoshone, and Navajo) installed a new solar air heater for Joe and his family as part of a 5-day training.

Joe’s family is currently dependent on wood and very expensive propane to heat their home. This new solar heater will harness the power of the sun to heat the families’ home, saving 30-40% on heating expenses every month for the next 20 years!

To learn more about the Tribal Renewable Energy Program and our solar heating systems please visit our website.

 

3rd Annual Warm Clothing Drive for the Pine Ridge Reservation

Aidan and Henry Red Cloud with coats collected during the first Warm Clothing Drive in 2010.

For the last three years, the Fort Collins community has provided warm clothing for the 42,000 residents on the Pine Ridge Reservation. This year is projected to be the coldest on record and, once again, Aidan Stolz is asking for help to provide coats and warm clothes to his good friends.

If you want to donate gently used clothes or new fleece blankets, drop off locations are spread throughout the Fort Collins area. Please bring donations to the following locations: McGraw Elementary, The Clothes Pony and Dandelion Toys, Harmony Gardens Nursery, and Trees, Water & People. Please look for the labeled totes with Aidan’s information on them. If you are not able to drive to any of these locations, please respond to this email and we can come to you. No matter how big or small, your clothing donation is appreciated and will be well used. Aidan thanks you from the bottom of his heart and looks forward to a great warm clothing drive!

Trees, Water & People is located at 633Remington St. in Fort Collins, CO 80524. A red collection bin is located on our front porch for any items you would like to donate to the drive.

Questions? Please email Aidan Stolz at  aidan_stolz@yahoo.com

Notes from the Field: Providing Lakota Families with the Gift of Heat

by Rachel Blomberg, TWP Donor

Rachel Blomberg is a Cornell University student who raised over $2,000 for Trees, Water & People to install solar heaters on the homes of Lakota families living on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Last month, she flew to the reservation to help install the solar heaters. She details her experience below:

“My project could not have unfolded more perfectly.  As soon as I stepped off the plane in Rapid City, South Dakota, Darrell Red Cloud and another volunteer, Rachael Maddox, were there to pick me up and drive me out to Lakota Solar Enterprises on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  On the way, we stopped at the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Home Improvement Program (HIP) office to speak with the inspector administration assistant, Clarence Yellow Hawk Sr., who chose the homes for this installation.

Upon booking my flights to return to Pine Ridge, I was unsure if we would be able to accomplish more than one installation.  However, once I got to the home of Henry Red Cloud at Lakota Solar Enterprises, I became aware that we would be doing not just one, but three solar panel installations that week. This was possible because of the generosity of donors to Trees, Water & People’s Global Giving and carbon offset fundraisers.

The very next day after I arrived, Henry Red Cloud, me, and six other crew members associated with this solar air heater installation project loaded up the Solar Warrior Wagon with all our supplies and drove to the home of Gillard Good Voice Flute, who lives with three other elderly men.  Gillard and his family, or “tiospaye”, are one of the lucky ones to receive a new HIP home from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Oglala Sioux Tribe, one of only about 10-14 homes built per year for families in need of housing.  This made his home ideal for a solar air heater installation, as these homes are moderately insulated and powered by electricity, not propane.

While Henry instructed everyone on how to properly install the heating system, we all worked together to get the solar panel in place, the duct work run below the floors of the home, the air vents positioned in the floors, and the thermostat installed in the inside of the home.  After a full day of work, we accomplished our goal of giving the gift of heat.  However, we like to tell the home owners, “You just got solared!” instead.

After working on the home of Gillard, the next day we accomplished another installation at the home of Wanda and Darrell Walking, and the following day we installed one more at the home of Mike Merrival.  All three of these solar air heaters will heat homes for families with elderly and children, and will help a family’s heating and electricity bill decline by 30% a month.  As long as the sun is shining, as it does for 300 days a year out at Pine Ridge, these families will have free heat running through their homes, even when the temperatures drop below -40 degrees Fahrenheit.  These solar air heating systems not only provide some relief for families living at life-or-death poverty rates, they also reduce negative environmental impacts caused by heating a home with electricity or propane while helping this nation’s Native peoples become energy independent.

One of the most important things that happened this week was spreading the word about my project to others.  The first day I was there, a separate group from Massachusetts was helping build straw bale homes at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center.  When they heard about what I had accomplished with my project, they decided that they would also try to complete the same goals and bring more solar air heaters to Pine Ridge.”

Thank you to Rachel for all her hard work and dedication to the Lakota people! You can have the same impact that Rachel did by donating to this project, directly supporting Trees, Water & People’s Tribal Renewable Energy Program.

 

 

 

Notes from the Field: Climate Change, Solar Warriors and First Harvests

by Jordan Engel, Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center Intern

It seems to be on everybody’s minds these days. Maybe they don’t reference it directly, but no one can ignore the facts. Climate change is happening now. In days like these, when 100 degree temperatures are engulfing much of the country and bizarre and deadly weather is taking its toll right here in our communities, we can no longer marginalize our relationship with the planet. The National Climatic Data Center released a study today reporting that the current drought affecting the continental U.S. rivals the severity of the 1930s dust bowl. Here on the Great Plains that might scare a few people. It seems inane that we as a society are still turning up the oven knob while you, your family, and billions of people you’ve never met are all inside that very oven. We must ask ourselves what we are doing for the Earth, and in turn for ourselves. Not for our grandchildren – that falsely implies that our actions will not affect us in our lifetimes – but ourselves.

At the Tribal Renewable Energy Program, we can proudly say that we are doing a lot.  We’re training Native Americans to be 21st century Solar Warriors and defenders of Mother Earth. This past week was an important milestone in the program as walls went up in the new training annex in Pine Ridge. The interior construction of this new training space was expected to take two weeks, and was done in just over one. So now we’ll just take a moment to send out a few obligatory thank you’s: Big thanks to TWP board member Jeremy Foster for leading this project. His dedication to the renewable energy program cannot be understated, and without him, none of this would have been possible. We’re also supremely indebted to all of our volunteers who gave their time to travel to Pine Ridge and work like dogs for a while. And of course, we couldn’t have done it without our friends at Re-Member, an amazing volunteer service non-profit based in Pine Ridge which supplied tools and man power for a week. If you haven’t heard of them, please do yourself a favor and check them out.

With all this heat, you’ll be happy to hear that the Solar Warrior Farm hasn’t shriveled up and the squash hasn’t begun baking right there in the sun. In fact, we were told the other day that it is the best garden on the reservation, and last week the Solar Warrior Farm had its very first harvest! Beautiful yellow summer squash, an explosion of zucchini, buffalo currants, buffalo berries, calendula flowers, cilantro, mint, dill, wild bergamot, and sage all came out of the garden are were promptly distributed to visitors and other Pine Ridge residents. The rewards of our food security program are beginning to be realized, and they are so sweet. The key to our success thus far has been access to water. Water is life – without there are no trees, no people, no Trees Water & People (and you shudder to think “what would the world look like without TWP?”). In the garden, ecological design demands that there is redundancy in all things as a sort of safety net to prevent complete system failure. Irrigating solely from well water is dangerous because times of drought will eventually leave people hungry as well as thirsty. As rumors began to circulate around the reservation that wells were going dry in Porcupine, Wounded Knee, and elsewhere, we didn’t wait any longer to diversify our water sources. A solar-powered pump was installed to divert water from White Clay Creek to the garden. Rainbarrels are planned for water catchment from the greenhouse roof. A large cistern in the garden is kept full as an absolute last resort to keep the plants alive. With these measures in place, we can allay our fears of drought and move on to other battles: pests.

If you drive down Solar Warrior Road this time of year, it might seem like you’re boating across rough water. Grasshoppers, thousands of them, jump out of the road on both sides and form what appears to be cohesive liquid wave until further inspection reveals it to be a biblical swarm of bugs. Folks around here have told me horror stories of how the ubiquitous insect destroyed their gardens in an afternoon. Luckily Henry, the experienced gardener that he is, had an organic solution to save the Solar Warrior Farm from being devoured. Spreading flour over the corn stalks acts as a natural insecticide that doesn’t poison the food. It seems to be effective so far, but it’s an ongoing battle.

I’m starting to wonder whether the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center may have outgrown its name. Since its inception, it has become an educational center in many areas other than energy – from sustainable food production to natural building. And it continues to grow. In the coming months, straw bale and rammed earth homes will be going up and natural construction workshops will be planned around those events. We already preparing the sites and anticipation is building.

As new architecture makes its way onto the reservation, I think it is appropriate to briefly pay homage to the vernacular architecture of the Lakota people. The more I learn about tepees (and I’ve learned a lot by putting them up and taking them down in the last couple weeks) the more I appreciate their design for doing everything that good architecture should. They use local materials, are appropriate for the local climate, the conical frame offers robust protection from the wind and rain, and they’re comfortable. I’ve slept in the tepee during the hottest nights of July and during the coldest nights of May – no complaints. A small fire inside the tepee will keep you plenty warm. Tepees are meant for easy assembly, but make no mistake; it’s only easy if you know what you’re doing. Henry was once in the tepee business and he and his family are seasoned tepee veterans. There are precise measurements and subtle details that that few realize. For instance, contrary to popular belief the tepee is not a symmetrical cone. The front end is more steeply pitched to leave a low ceiling in the rear sleeping quarters and a high one in the front living area. So if you’re feeling the heat out there, go crawl into a tepee if you have one.

Photo of the Week: Aerial View of the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center

A beautiful aerial shot of the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center in Pine Ridge, SD, headquarters of the Tribal Renewable Energy Program. (click the photo to enlarge)

Join us for Lakota Adventure 2012!

You are invited to the 2012 Lakota Adventure: Past and Present! Below, you will find an itinerary of events and a registration form. If you have any further questions about this trip please contact Lacey Gaechter, National Director, at lacey@treeswaterpeople.org or by phone at (970) 484-3678.

 

Sending Our Love to Chief Red Cloud

by Lacey Gaechter, National Director

Chief Oliver Red Cloud
Richard Fox (right), TWP's Executive Director, visits with Chief Red Cloud at his home on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

I just got a very sad phone call from Henry – his uncle and the current Chief of the Oglala Lakota tribe has just received a prognosis that he will shortly be joining the spirit world due to complications from diabetes. Chief Oliver has opted to decline dialysis treatments, and instead returns home to live the rest of his life at home on the Pine Ridge Reservation. A healthy diet will make the rest of his time on earth longer and more comfortable. Henry is proud of his uncle for his decision to chose quality of life over prolonging his life in the hospital. He is upbeat about the rest of the time he will have with his uncle, and he asks all the Trees, Water & People (TWP) community to send good thoughts and prayers to Chief Oliver and the Oglala community that he has lead as his ancestors have for generations.

 Thank you, TWP supporters, for giving Chief Oliver the gift of heat with a solar air heater years ago. Please send good wishes to him now for comfort and love from friends and family.

Joins us for the 2012 “Lakota Adventure- Past & Present”

Trees, Water & People Tribal Renewable Energy Program logoPlease join us for the 2012 Lakota Adventure, September 30th-October 6th! Below you will find an itinerary for the trip as well as a registration form. For further questions we encourage you to contact Lacey Gaechter at (970) 484-3678 or by email at lacey@treeswaterpeople.org.