Notes from the Field: Bountiful Harvests and Finishing Touches

by Teague Walsh-Felz, Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center Intern

Sacred Earth Lodge

We are in the countdown phase of finishing the Sacred Earth Lodge. In just the few months that I’ve been working with Trees, Water & People and Lakota Solar Enterprises the building has completely transformed. The walls are up, the furniture is in and now we are only making the finishing touches to what will be an amazing center for learning and growth. Since my last update I’ve been busy with both the garden and the Lodge. Both are coming together amazingly.

Pine Ridge vegetable giveawayBecause I am the Garden Coordinator, I guess I’ll start with the changes at Solar Warrior Farm. It’s still producing more than 100 pounds of cucumber a week. Last week I set up a free giveaway in front of the Tribal Office in downtown Pine Ridge. I had a lot of conversations with many different people about growing food and introduced quite a few to lemon cucumbers. Along with another giveaway earlier in the week, we handed out roughly 150 to 200 pounds of produce in one week.

The peppers have started to harvest and the corn is coming down in the next two weeks. Some of the corn is infected with corn smut. It is considered a disease throughout most of the United States but is eaten as a delicacy throughout Central America. I’ll have to try it. The squash is continuing to give a bountiful harvest and the tomatoes continue to be delicious and colorful. I recently transplanted some kale into a nice raised bed and I am crossing my fingers the first frost will not arrive too early.

Teague at Sacred Earth LodgeWe just put up the ceiling for the Sacred Earth Lodge. It was the biggest tarp I’ve ever seen and it really ties the entire building together. Lots of long days and a bit of blood and sweat have really created something amazing. We are putting the finishing touches on the lodge. I was on the roof painting another layer of sealant with Jeff as the septic tank was being delivered. The trees that were planted just a few weeks ago are staying healthy, and the plumbing is being hooked up. I’m looking forward to the opening, and the next projects that are already being planned.

Upcoming Training: Building with Compressed Earth Blocks

earth block building
Photo courtesy of EarthinBlock

Compressed Earth Blocks (CEB) are a sustainable construction option, using high pressure to create bricks from local soil and clay with only a tiny amount of cement. CEB eliminates the energy and pollution produced in the creation of bricks and cement blocks. In many areas CEB homes can replace wooden structures that are adding to the depletion of the world’s forests. Earth blocks are cheaper, greener and far more durable than concrete blocks or mud bricks. The stabilized blocks don’t melt in the rain so rebuilding isn’t necessary. 

Key components of this training include mixing ratios, the use of a compressed earth block machine to make bricks, and designing and constructing a naturally well-insulated and efficient earth block building.

earth block machine
The EarthinBlock machine is designed and manufactured in the U.S.A. by former NASA engineers. It weighs 2,000 pounds and can be towed. It can be easily moved around a building site or up the side of a mountain.

Hosted by Trees, Water & People, EarthinBlocks, and Lakota Solar Enterprises

Where: Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, Pine Ridge, South Dakota

When: October 18-26, 2013

Registration and scholarship applications are due October 1st!

You must complete a registration form or scholarship application to be considered for this training.

We are honored to be able to offer three scholarships to female students for this training.

Trees, Water & People Renewable Energy Program

Photo of the Week: Volunteers Build Sacred Earth Lodge from the Ground Up

Pine Ridge volunteers

About this photo

Mae DuMarce worked with TWP employees, Amanda Haggerty (left) and Heather Herrell (right), this past weekend to finish construction of the Sacred Earth Lodge. With the help of dedicated volunteers and staff, we have built the new Lodge from the ground up. This new building will be used as a training facility and dormitory for our Tribal Renewable Energy Program. Thanks to everyone who has helped make this project a success!

To learn about the October 11th Grand Opening of the Sacred Earth Lodge please

Notes from the Field: Native American Entrepreneurs Aspire to a Greener Future

native american business development training

by Lacey Gaechter, National Director

Today was the first day of our Native American Green Business Development Training – something that Trees, Water & People and I have been working toward for the last year. While the training is the continuation of a process we started in 2008 – giving Native American students the technical skills they need to enter the green job market – it is only the first step in our new Green Business Development Program. The next will be awarding one “Start-Up Assistance Scholarship” to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) student with the best application, which means we think he or she will have the best chance of succeeding in his or her environmental social enterprise. The fact that this training is only the start of us helping more Native Americans create livelihoods that benefit Mother Earth makes this week extremely special for me.

Yesterday we dove right into the training, going over the basics of a business plan, a mission statement, products and services, and the purpose of market research. It was so inspiring to hear of the students’ different aspirations for renewable energy, green building, and sustainable timber harvest businesses. Every single one of them focuses on the importance helping their people – creating jobs and improving lives through their businesses.

Henry Red Cloud
Henry Red Cloud shows students the solar PV system at RCREC.

We ended the day with a special guest lecture from one Mr. Henry Red Cloud, proprietor of Lakota Solar Enterprises. Henry talked to the students about what being a sole proprietor means to him and gave everyone an in-depth tour of the Red Cloud Renewable Energy, where there is plenty of fodder for the imagination, from solar panels to straw-bale houses and organic agriculture. After the tour, our long-time friend and frequent student Leo White Bear, had decided that he was going to build his own Compressed Earth Block machine, water his lawn with a passive-solar water pump, and sell solar water distillers as part of his business, Off the Grid. This is, of course in addition, to the 10 or so other products that Leo was already planning to offer.

One of my favorite moments of the day came when I asked Henry what the hardest part of being a business owner is, and he responded “bookkeeping!”  His favorite part about running Lakota Solar Enterprises: “Everything else!” I think he speaks for most of us!

Upcoming Volunteer Opportunity: Pine Ridge Reservation, July 25-28

Our amazing volunteers make anything possible!

Join us for a volunteer weekend at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center! This is a great opportunity for you to learn more about the Tribal Renewable Energy Program and experience the Lakota culture firsthand.

What: Volunteer Weekend
Where: Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, Pine Ridge Reservation, SD
When: Thursday, July 25 – Sunday, July 28
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: Meet new people and do great things!

Volunteers are invited to arrive anytime after 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 25. We will host full work days Friday and Saturday. Projects will end by 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, and volunteers are welcome to head home Saturday evening or on Sunday morning. The primary focus of this trip will be working in and around our new training annex, now officially named Sacred Earth Lodge. Projects will include painting, sheet rocking, taping, trim carpentry, minor electric, and landscaping. Additional needs may arise between now and our trip so flexibility is a must!


  • TWP will provide food to volunteers during their time at Pine Ridge.
  • Breakfast and lunch foods purchased by TWP will be vegan (no animal products). Feel free to bring your own food if you desire.
  • Dinners will be prepared for you by a local Lakota family member and will include meat products.
  • TWP cooking equipment and utensils will be available for use.
  • Volunteers will be responsible for preparing all their own breakfast and lunch (provided by TWP), and cleaning up after themselves.


  • All volunteers are responsible for their own transportation and related costs getting to Pine Ridge.
  • We 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.


  • Volunteers are encouraged to camp on the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center’s campus and must bring their own camping equipment to do so. Weather will be unpredictable, so only those comfortable in the outdoors should camp.
  • Bunks will also be available for up to 14 volunteers, who will share a room with up to 6 other individuals (co-ed).

To volunteer, please email the following information to Claire Burnett, National Program Assistant, at

  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 Claire has confirmed your spot, you will receive an email with directions to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center and additional details about the trip.

We hope you can join us!

Name Selected for New Building at RCREC!

sacred earth lodge

Thank you to everyone who submitted name ideas for TWP’s new building at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC)! The new building will be called Sacred Earth Lodge. This name reflects the importance of culture, community, knowledge sharing, and Mother Earth. Stay tuned for updates as we finish the building and open it up to trainees. Was-te!

Trees, Water & People Renewable Energy Program

Notes from the Field: Solar PV Training Brings More Renewable Energy to Pine Ridge

by Claire Burnett, National Program Assistant

solar PV training at Pine Ridge

Our new solar electric array at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center is now installed! Trainees from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe recently joined local Lakota trainees for three days of in-class instruction at our Solar Electric Training, followed by a hands-on installation, learning the ins and outs of solar electric design and installation.

Jeff Tobe with Solar Energy International (SEI) joined us for a second time as a guest instructor, and we received generous equipment donations from SEI, Advanced Energy, and Bella Energy. The install is an addition to our existing solar array, and a precursor to a larger array that will be installed on our new Red Cloud Training Annex early  this summer.

In addition, the training follows a historical coal mine protest on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation that we attended with our fellow trainees and friends, and we had a film crew on site for a documentary focusing on clean sources of energy on tribal lands.

Thank you to everyone who was involved in this training – what a success!

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TWP National Director Awarded Fellowship

IMG_8432 copy
Lacey Gaechter (center) with trainees at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Congratulations to Lacey Gaechter, TWP’s National Director, for being awarded a fellowship to the Center for Collaborative Conservation at Colorado State University!

Through this fellowship, Lacey is helping create “green” livelihoods on Native American reservations in the United States, where there is often little hope for other employment options, especially those that honor Mother Earth.

With the help of Colorado State University’s College of Business, Lacey will expand this idea of developing tribal businesses to include creating a format and foundation for Trees, Water & People to act as an incubator for livelihoods in energy conservation.

Learn more about the Center for Collaborative Conservation >>

Photo of the Week: Solar Warriors in Training

solar energy trainees

About this photo

Solar Warriors in training graduate from the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) with certificates in grid-tied PV systems and a new set of green job skills. Congrats to the new graduates!

To learn more about the Tribal Renewable Energy Program please visit our website.


Upcoming Training: Installing Solar PV Systems (Spots still available!)

solar pv training

Join us for a 6-day Solar Electric Training, March 24-29, and learn how to install a grid-tied photovoltaic system! The training includes instruction in the installation of photovoltaic panels tied into the electricity grid. Classroom instruction takes place at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and students will have the opportunity to conduct a hands-on installation at our new Red Cloud Training Annex.

To attend, please complete this registration form. We are also very happy to be able to offer two scholarships for this training to Native Veterans. If you are a Native Veteran interested in attending, please complete this scholarship application form.