Grounding Our Work Across Cultures: Indigenous Perspectives

by Eriq Acosta
Personally, I feel really sensitive and protective of our tribal communities. Although I am not a direct descendant of the Lakota I still feel responsible for keeping our communities safe.
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Solar Training in 2017
One can attempt to understand my hesitancy of bringing strangers to the reservations who want to “come see the native folks and their culture”; the thought of doing this didn’t sit well with me at first. The world, obviously not all, has historically held very skewed perspectives of Indigenous people. On one side of the spectrum, we are described as these glorious people who ate all of the buffalo and roam the plains, moving our teepees from here to there, and living off of the land. On the opposite side of this are descriptors like drunkards, poor, sickly and “without”.
The truth is not all of us live in teepees and eat buffalo. When traveling throughout the United States, one will find many differences and similarities between life on or off the reservation: poverty, disease, or corruption as some examples. These are not exclusive to the reservations, it is everywhere. Being an urban Mexican-Indian myself and having lived with people from urban settings and on reservations, I have seen so much beauty. Beauty in the people, the culture, and the land – it’s all around.
It’s not that I choose to turn my head to the struggles, rather I choose to fuel myself with all of that beauty so that I can continue to do the hard work that needs to be done. In Leonard Peltier’s words, “What you believe and what you do are the same thing. In Indian way, if you see your people suffering, helping them becomes absolutely necessary. It’s not a social act of charity or welfare assistance, it’s a spiritual act, a holy deed.” 
With that said, I was hesitant to host TWP tour groups to Pine Ridge Reservation. However, this is the second year I have hosted the folks from Lansing Michigan Catholic High School and the second year that I have been overly impressed. Volunteers were asked to provide an evaluation of the most recent trip and one person wrote:
“It definitely made a mark on me. Being able to help people who are definitely in need and not only being welcomed like we were but also being able to partake in their amazing culture was an experience of great significance”.
They came to Pine Ridge to learn, to be of service, to enjoy the plains, and most importantly learn the story of Indigenous people from Indigenous people! I am honored to call them friends and family of the human race!
Thank you to all who came and offered their time and energy. Your efforts are much appreciated and we look forward to more opportunities like this in the future.
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Setting sun over rolling hills of Pine Ridge

 

Learn more about our U.S. Tribal programs and how you can help here.

Community Voices: Rodrigo Santos

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

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Rodrigo Santos studies by the light of a solar lamp at his home in La Paz, Honduras.

Rural Central America has always been a magical escape for me.  You see and experience life at its most basic levels, and while the people are often of little economic means, they are proud, hardworking and tremendously generous.  The air is clean, smiles abound, and everyone is generally busy with something, but will never deny an opportunity to lend you a hand.

On my most recent trip to Honduras, I met Rodrigo Santos, an inspiring young man who reminded me of the importance of education and innovation, no matter where you are in the world.

Rechargeable RadioRodrigo amazed us in the field, as he is a college student that lives in a very rural community with no access to electricity.  He attends university classes 1.5 hours from where he lives. Not only was he one of the first in the area to purchase one of our solar products, but because of his electrical engineering skills and tinkering interests, he has become the go-to solar entrepreneur and maintenance man in his community.

People like Rodrigo make me want to continue working each and every day to bring sustainable energy solutions to Central America, solutions that improve people’s livelihoods and protect the environment.

To learn more about our expanding Solar Energy Program please visit our website.

Rodrigo Santos with his family in La Paz, Honduras.
Rodrigo Santos and his family in La Paz, Honduras.