**Announcing** Ground Source Heat Training at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center

Ground Source Heating

Trees, Water & People, the nonprofit arm of the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC), has funding that will allow us to grant a scholarship to 10 trainees for our Ground-Source Heat Training, scheduled for December 15-21, 2011. We are very happy to offer this opportunity to qualified and enthusiastic candidates!

What: Ground-Source Heat Installation Training

Learn how to heat a building using the heat stored in the ground beneath it!

Where: Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, Pine Ridge, SD

Who: Ten trainees from Tribes throughout the country will join Henry Red Cloud and Trees, Water & People for this hands-on training.

When: December 15-21, 2011 (including arrival and departure days)

*You must complete the attached application to be considered for the training.*

Applications Due Wednesday, December 7

Photo of the Week: Expanding the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center

The new training annex at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) will add much needed space to the RCREC campus, including larger dorms, a commercial kitchen, classroom space, and a demo room.

Volunteer Opportunity: Help Build a New Training Annex at RCREC

We have purchased the building kit for our new Training Annex at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC), and we need your help to put it together! Made possible by our very generous donors, the new Training Annex will provide us with a dedicated training facility, allowing the existing building at the RCREC to become a year-round solar air heater manufacturing facility.

Can you join us November 4-7? Save your spot soon; we only have 12 available.

What: Training Annex Construction
Where: Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, Pine Ridge, South Dakota
Arrive: Friday evening/ afternoon, November 4
Work: Saturday-Sunday, November 5-6
Depart: Monday, November 7
Why: Take this opportunity to visit the Pine Ridge Reservation and play a critical role in our expanding training program.

Keep in mind that South Dakota weather is unpredictable in November. This trip is for volunteers who enjoy a little adventure!


  • Volunteers are invited to sleep in the existing co-ed dormitories at the RCREC. There is one semi-reliable indoor plumbing facility, but you should plan on some rustic conditions.
  • Volunteers are also welcome to bring camping equipment and camp on the RCREC campus, but be prepared for potentially COLD weather!


  • You will be responsible for your own transport to/ from the RCREC.
  • For those of you traveling from Fort Collins, CO on Friday and returning on Monday, I will be happy to facilitate carpools.
  • Henry does live down a dirt road. Many sedans have traveled it.


  • TWP will provide food for the trip, and volunteers will cook as a group for each meal. The food we provide will be all be vegan (no animal products of any kind). Plan accordingly if you require any other diet.

Our volunteer capacity is limited to 12 people. Please email me as soon as possible to reserve your spot, and be sure to keep me updated if your availability changes so that other people can have the opportunity to volunteer.

To Reserve Your Spot:
Please email Lacey Gaechter (lacey@treeswaterpeople.org) with the following information:

  • Let me know when you plan to arrive/ depart
  • Where you’ll be coming from
  • If you’d like a ride or to offer a ride from Fort Collins
  • Will you sleep in our dormitory or bring your own camping equipment?
  • Any other questions that you have?

We hope you can make it!

Notes from the Field: A Vision Unfolds

By Pete Iengo, TWP Office Manager & Volunteer Coordinator

August 11, 2011: Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota

Day 3 of the Straw Bale Workshop, Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center

Celebrating walls, a roof, and a long days work!

Today we started the day off by stacking the final bales up to the roof and stuffed all the gaps that were between the rest of the bales.  Finally we are ready to have a mud party!    We started on the inside.  The first plops of mud were slapped on by Henry and his grandsons.  It felt appropriate that this process was initiated across Lakota generational lines.  This very well could be an excellent community-based, sustainable solution for people on the reservation.

The rest of us were quick to join in…; its a lot of fun slapping mud on to the house.  There was no shortage of mudders, because well, it’s so fun!  The whole day there was lots of friendly mud slinging, slapping and hand printing.

Standing inside of the house mudding all day allowed you to feel how efficient it will be…; it is nice and cool!  The windows and door are strategically placed, according to the vision of Henry Red Cloud’s father.  The entire design was passed along to Henry orally and memorized so that it could be rebuilt one day.  That day is upon us.  It us humbling to be here and see the vision unfold.  This house is the seed of a vision that will help people across Indian Country; a prototype for a sustainable housing solution here on the rez.

You can contribute to sustainable housing on tribal lands by clicking here!

Notes from the Field: Let’s stop talking and start doing

By Pete Iengo, TWP Office Manager & Volunteer Coordinator

August 9, 2011: Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota

We are on day two of the straw bale house construction.  There has been great progress, thanks to the seemingly endless enthusiasm and energy of the TWP volunteers, Re-Member crew, Northern Cheyenne Reservation trainees, as well as many friends and family of Henry Red Cloud.

Birch Hincks, TWP's Tribal Lands Intern, works hard building a frame for the straw bale house.

This progress is in spite of a daunting thundershower that rolled through at about 10am today.  It looked as though the storm could really hamper our progress.  However, the ominous soaker lasted about 40 minutes, and before I knew it the crew was back to work.  After the storm came a lot of humidity and some searing sunshine.  It was definitely a stark reminder of Mother Nature’s power, the harsh year round conditions here on the reservation, as well as the great power of human will.

This is a very diverse and determined group, and while there are different motivations coursing through the project, there is a common thread that has become clear; let’s stop talking and start doing something to help people improve their lives.

By the end of work today we will have a complete roof, and the door and window frames will be in place.  Also, the foundation will be secured to the straw bale stacks with a simple but effective wood slat and bale string system.  With the structure of the house securely in place we are ready to have a plaster party!  All day participants have been sifting the clay to a fine powder, in preparation of the mixing process.  The clay stucco solution is the glue that will unite the house structurally and is going to be applied tomorrow.  Henry has been jesting about tomorrow’s Plaster Party all day, keeping things light.  In the days following we will add the finishing touches.

Flip through the time-lapse photos below to see a days worth of construction on the new straw bale house.

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You can donate to this project by clicking here!

Notes from the Field: Sustainable Housing Solutions

By Jon Becker, TWP Board President

August 8th, 2011: Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota

We arrived yesterday at about 5:30, thought we might be driving through a tornado in the last few miles.  We’re all in one piece.  We were able to go to the local fairgrounds for the final day of the annual Oglala Lakota gathering.  We saw unbelievable costume regalia, dancing, drumming, and song.  We were all moved and honored to be able to experience this.

Today’s action –  the foundation has been completed – earth bags laid up four courses high and tamped down into place.  Roof framing, using recycled plywood I-beams, completed, plywood roof sheathing underway, close to done.  Very interesting and diverse crew.  About a dozen from Re-Member non-profit located across the road that does a variety of service projects.  Re-Member staff

and visitors (from assorted Midwest locations, including a couple bicycling across the country) are here.  About six visitors from Northern Cheyenne reservation, who recently did solar air heater training and installations with Henry, are here, very eager to be helping out.  Two travelers from North Carolina have come.  Seven TWP staff, board, and friends are working, along with Henry’s sons Cyrus and Avery, and a few grandchildren.  Dave Kaplan and Lindsay Herrara of Fort Collins are doing remarkable experimentation and testing to determine the optimum “recipe” for stucco made from local clay which we’ll use to create a weatherproof exterior surface on top of the straw.   You can really feel the space now – a 24′ diameter circle, lots of natural (often local and recycled) materials, and good clean human energy going into it.  Nobody’s gotten hurt!  We’re having fun.  Please don’t rain on us (too hard).

You can help us finish this project by making a donation online! Click here to support sustainable straw bale homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Yellow Hair Family to Receive Solar Air Heater and New Pallet Home

Solar Air Heater
TWP’s Solar Air Heaters, like the one pictured here at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, reduce a family’s monthly utility bill by 20-30% for up to 25 years.

Thanks to TWP’s supporters on Causes.com, we far surpassed our $2,800 fundraising goal to provide solar air heaters to Native American families. To date, we have raised nearly $7,000 from 322 donors!  With these funds we will provide three different Native American families with solar air heating systems, giving them free, clean heat for years and years to come.

Walter and Alison Yellow Hair
Walter and Alison Yellow Hair watch the construction of their new house on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

The Yellow Hairs are one of these families.  Right now, our partner organization, Earth Tipi, in partnership with Texas Natural Builders, is constructing Walter and Alison Yellow Hair a new pallet home from reclaimed materials.  This new, sustainable house will provide much better protection from, and insulation against, the harsh South Dakota winters than their current mobile home, which was originally headed for the dump when they inherited it.  With huge holes in its walls, such a poor structure can be deadly in the extreme weather of the Great Plains.  We believe that every family is deserving of dignified and comfortable housing that is properly heated and we are so lucky to have supporters who feel the same way.

Now, Walter and Alison will enjoy a new home and a new source of clean, free heat with a TWP solar air heater.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the fundraiser and helped make a significant improvement in Walter and Alison’s lives!  Your contributions mean so much to the Native American families who are struggling each day to survive. Stay tuned to learn more about the other families who will receive solar heaters.

Interested in contributing to the building of Walter and Alison’s new home? Please click here to learn more about how you can help!

Click here to join the Solar Energy for Lakota Families cause on Facebook and help us spread the word about solar energy for Native American families living on tribal lands.

Photo of the Week: Volunteers Dig Deep at RCREC

Volunteers work hard to dig the foundation for a straw bale demonstration site at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The demo home will serve as a training site for sustainable housing design and construction.

Interested in helping? There are many ways you can get involved with bringing sustainable housing to Lakota families:

  1. DONATE to the straw bale fundraiser on Causes.com OR
  2. DONATE through our online donation portal (please write “straw bale home” in the comments section)
  3. Volunteer!! Click here to learn more about the FREE straw bale workshop at Pine Ridge.


Help Raise Funds for Straw Bale Homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation

The Pine Ridge Reservation, home to the Oglala Lakota, has a major housing crisis. It is common place to have Lakota families living in conditions of extreme overcrowding, with 3 to 4 families inhabiting one three-bedroom home. Many of the families have no electricity, telephone, running water, or sewage systems; and many use wood stoves to heat their homes, depleting limited wood resources. The Lakota people are living in third world conditions, right in our own backyard!

Straw bale Home + Solar Heat = Sustainability

In partnership with Henry Red Cloud, Pine Ridge resident and owner of Lakota Solar Enterprises, we are working to bring sustainable housing solutions to reservation communities and we need your help!  We will begin by constructing a straw bale demonstration site at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC), complete with solar heating and lighting. This demonstration site will be a place to conduct workshops, share knowledge, and pass on green building skills throughout Indian Country.  This will be the beginning of a long-term project to bring 600 straw bale houses to the Pine Ridge Reservation, providing families with dignified living conditions that every human being deserves.  Please join us in this effort and consider a donation to this important fundraiser.

How can you help? Make a donation, share this with a friend, donate your birthday (click here to learn how), join us for a FREE straw bale home workshop on Pine Ridge.

Donate Button

Straw Bale Construction Workshop — Aug. 8-12 — FREE

You are invited to a free training and volunteer opportunity to help build a demonstration straw bale home on our partner, Henry Red Cloud’s, property at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

What: Straw bale home construction training and volunteer trip
Where: Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, Pine Ridge, South Dakota
Arrive: Sunday evening/ afternoon, August 7 (you may wish to arrive in time for the Pine Ridge Pow Wow).
Work: Monday-Friday, Aug 8-12
Depart: Saturday, Aug 13
Why: Learn about straw bale construction and help Henry build this demonstration of efficient, affordable housing for Native Americans living on reservations.


  • All are invited to camp on Henry’s property at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. Please bring your own camping equipment.


  • In general, you will be responsible for your own transport to/ from Henry’s.
  • For those of you traveling from Fort Collins, CO on Sunday and returning on Saturday, I will be happy to facilitate carpools.


  • Our options for food will depend on the number of volunteers who sign-up.
  • For now, you should assume that you will be responsible for your own food and preparation.
  • TWP is happy to share its kitchen equipment including a stove and shelter. If there are 40 of us, you may be happy you brought your own camp stove…
  • There is a small convenience store about 9 miles from Henry’s.

To Reserve Your Spot:
Please email Lacey Gaechter at lacey@treeswaterpeople.org or call us at (970) 484-3678.

  • Let Lacey know when you plan to arrive/ depart.
  • Where you’ll be coming from.
  • If you’d like a ride or to offer a ride from Fort Collins.
  • Any questions that you have.

We hope you can join us in bringing sustainable housing options to the Lakota People!

Can’t attend but still want to help? Click here to donate to our straw bale fundraiser online!