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Announcing the 2018 MIT Solve Fellowship with the Oceti Sakowin

MIT Solve


In July 2017, Phyllis Young, Joseph White Eyes, Jasilyn Charger, and LaDonna Bravebull Allard accepted the MIT Media Lab’s Disobedience Finalist Award on behalf of Standing Rock Water Protectors. MIT’s Disobedience Award acknowledges those who effectively harness responsible, ethical disobedience.

As Phyllis accepted the award, she issued a direct call to action for MIT: “We appreciate the award, but we also know MIT is the brassring of technology, and what our people really need is partnership.” A number of MIT faculty and staff in the audience were listening. Some of the group joined Phyllis, LaDonna, Pearl Means, and others for an impromptu dinner, facilitated by MIT Corporation Members Megan Smith and Vanu Bose and sponsored by shift7, to explore how colleagues and resources from MIT and Solve, an initiative of the President of MIT with a mission to find solution makers and support solutions to global challenges, could serve Standing Rock and the Oceti Sakowin innovators.

Solve staff had the honor of visiting Standing Rock in January together with shift7 and Megan Smith to meet community members and leaders from Pine Ridge, Standing Rock, Flandreau, and Rosebud. We visited current and future sites of solar, geothermal, and wind energy. As part of that visit, we also attended the Inaugural Oceti Sakowin Energy Summit, hosted by Sitting Bull College and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe at the Prairie Knights Casino January 12-13, 2018. Topics and conversations focused on the need for and barriers to having enough heat, electricity, food, and clean water on the reservations, as well as existing projects that use traditional ancestral ways to create geothermal energy, food sovereignty, and solar farms.

Oceti Sakowin | Solve Fellowship

The Oceti Sakowin lived on sustainable energy sources generations ago, and the Oceti community continues to hold an invaluable amount of knowledge and innovation in this space. To honor this, we would like to announce an inaugural 2018 MIT Solve Fellowship with the Oceti Sakowin. This Fellowship will support outstanding members of the Oceti community who have tested projects that bring renewable energy, food, and/or water to the community and contribute to economic prosperity and sovereignty. Through this Fellowship, we hope to support these community members to expand and accelerate their projects and their impact, building a strong foundation for the Oceti Sakowin community from within the Oceti Sakowin community.

Innovators come in many different forms—applicants do not need to have a formal business or nonprofit organization to apply. The Fellowship is open to anyone with a tested project—and may be as simple as a prototype. However, applicants must have more than an idea. We are focused on those who take initiative for the betterment of their community and have good solutions to the challenges of renewable energy, food and/or water sovereignty, and equitable access.

Fellowship Components

Each Fellow will be welcomed as our guest for an all-expenses-paid trip to MIT in Cambridge, MA from May 14 to 18, 2018. There will be a dedicated program to help support their project and to attend MIT Solve’s annual flagship event, Solve at MIT, and find partners among the 350+ attendees from the corporate, foundation, non-profit, and academic sectors. This will also be an opportunity to meet with MIT faculty, staff, and students. Together, Fellows will craft a plan of action to support their project, and MIT Solve will leverage relationships within MIT and outside to broker partnerships and find resources to uplift the Fellows’ projects. In August 2018, we will reconvene in Standing Rock to learn about the progress and potential of the Oceti Fellows’ projects.

Fellowship Information & Outreach

For any questions about the application process, Solve will also answer emails to

Once applications are submitted, a group of leaders from Oceti Sakowin will review them and a panel of expert judges from MIT will select the Fellows, to be announced in early April.

Fellow Applicant Qualifications

MIT Solve is seeking applications for the Oceti Sakowin | Solve Fellows program. We are specifically looking for diversity of projects and people, and encourage applications from all ages (13+), genders, and scopes of project within the following parameters:

Fellow applicants should:

  • Be a member of the Oceti Sakowin

  • Live and/or work on the reservation; be part of the community

  • Have a tested or existing project based in and serving the surrounding community focused on renewable energy, food, or water

  • Include some aspect of technology in their project (both high tech and low tech will be considered)

  • Be available and interested in coming to Boston for the Solve at MIT event May 14-18, 2018 (travel expenses covered by MIT) and a Summit in Standing Rock in August 2018 (exact dates subject to change).

Photo: A solar panel in the Oceti Sakowin community (Photo by MIT Solve).

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