A new way to honor the old way
Over the last 150 years, tribes across the Great Plains have had their land taken from them, as well as our ability to hunt, fish and gather, which allowed us to feed and heal our families. Our reservations were put on land nobody else wanted because it was too hot, cold or windy.
We have been beaten for speaking our languages and had our children taken away from us and our ceremonies were ridiculed and banned.
And yet we persisted.
For we stayed true to our beliefs and listened to the heartbeat of Mother Earth that echoed in our drums and we honored her in our songs and ceremonies.
Today, Mother Earth is under an unprecedented attack by the forces of greed and our land and water and our very survival is again threatened and Native people are rising up to meet this challenge.
We have found that the harsh land we were put on has a power that was originally unknown. Today it is known as solar power and wind power and it is giving us a way forward and the strength we need in these difficult times.
For two decades I have been training Native Americans on renewable energy approaches. I created one of the only 100% owned renewable energy companies - Lakota Solar Enterprises. I also developed the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on the Pine Ridge reservation and have led scores of renewable energy workshops for Native Americans.
Last year I visited the Oceti Sakowin camps at Standing Rock seven times and provided them with 11 Off-Grid Solar Furnaces, two mobile solar power stations and many solar lights. During each visit, my team and I conducted training workshops for hundreds of water protectors.
These great twenty-first century warriors showed us a peaceful, prayerful way to stand up to big oil. They showed us a way to stand together - Natives and non-Natives in a good way, in a new way that honors the old ways - that gained the respect of the world.
And I intend to support the new Keystone and other pipeline camps with the renewable energy applications they need to carry forth the Spirit of Standing Rock. Solar power trailers to power their construction and radio stations. Highly mobile handcart power stations to charge phones and computers. Solar lights in a bucket and solar furnaces for the schools, medical facilities and elderly housing.
These warriors stand up for all of us and they deserve our respect and support, and we need to find a way to fund this crucial solar equipment.
At the new camps, we will educate our people about the power that we now have. We will train them about renewable energy and how they can bring it back to their tribes to help all our people wean themselves off of fossil fuels. We will support their education with training at their reservations and at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center.
And we will persist until we have reached energy independence.
Where our project is located:Pine Ridge, SD, USA
The topic our project addresses:
What makes our project innovative:
While solar power is not new, our four applications serve several unique niches.
First, they serve to educate Native Americans about different inexpensive ways they can use solar power (i.e generating electricity, powering lights and creating heat)
They also have a powerful social value in that they provide energy in a natural way at water protector camps, which are usually in off-grid locations.
Finally, the project is designed to have trainees take back this knowledge to their individual tribes, while having access to further training in a wide array of renewable energy applications. There are 562 federally recognized tribes!
How we use technology in our project:
The Mni Wiconi camps taught us a lot about the energy needs of off-grid camps.
Our mobile power stations generate electricity at two different levels. The 5' X 8' trailer creates approximately one kilowatt of solar power, while the handcart sized unit creates several hundred watts.
The electric lights are a simple solar panel and LED system that comfortably fit in a 5 gallon bucket. Lights can be easily color coded for use in the camps (i.e. green for medical, blue for security etc)
The Off-Grid Solar Furnaces supply up to 30% of a small home's heat.
Our project goals over the next 12 months:
With adequate funding, we will provide four types of solar equipment to three Keystone pipeline camps and at least one Enbridge Line Three camp. It is impossible to tell how many additional camps will sprout up over the hundreds of miles of planned construction.
We will also provide training and work with solar champions who want to bring renewable energy applications back to their tribes. Our goal is to utilize the camp's unique ability to attract diverse tribal members to spread solar technology and training to many more than the 40+ tribes we have worked with so far.
Our vision over the next three to five years to grow and scale our project to affect the lives of more people:
Working with camps gives us a unique opportunity to train members from more tribes. Beyond this solar equipment, Red Cloud Renewable has been expanding its solar electric installation capability (e.g. 20 kW on Kili Radio and 15 kW on the Pine Ridge Girl's School).
We anticipate that we will continue to install solar furnaces for tribal families, but that we will increasingly develop larger solar electric projects and mini-grids with the tribes themselves.
These parallel paths will expand our work with more camps, save families money on their heating and help tribes move towards energy independence.
Highlights from our project:
I was honored by the Red Cloud family to carry the pipe smoked at the 1868 Laramie Treaty by my great grandfather, Mahpiya Luta (Chief Red Cloud) into the headsmen council at the Oceti Sakowin camp and speak on his behalf. In 2014, I was selected by the White House as a Champion of Change for Solar Deployment and received the 2014 Berea College Service Award and the Oglala Lakota Service Award. The American Solar Energy Society honored me with the 2013 Charles Greeley Abbot Award and in 2012, I received the World Energy Globe Award in Vienna
Second city:Pine Ridge, SD, USA
How our project will be accessible and affordable to our community:
Red Cloud Renewable, is our 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization and is constantly looking for funding to cover the costs of our equipment, training and installations. We also have a long and positive partnership with the nonprofit organization, Trees, Water & People and a variety of other non-profits and individuals.
But the need is much greater than the available funding, so we are very open to new ideas, new partners and ways to generate income. Native Americans are some of the poorest and greatest people in the country and they certainly deserve and will always have my support.
How many people we are currently serving with our project:
We have had scores of workshops and trainings at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center and many hundreds of Native American students. We have additionally conducted almost as many workshops on different reservations all across the Great Plains and beyond. At the Oceti Sakowin camps, hundreds more tribal members attended our seven workshops. I have given talks in front of thousands of people here in the U.S. and in five countries and recently received an E-Achievement Award that will soon be broadcast to more than 30 countries
All in all, we have worked with more than 40 tribes.
How many people we will be serving with our project in the 12 months and the next 3 years:
It is time to use the power of determined and peaceful people and to utilize traditional Native Wisdom to return to a positive and healthy relationship with Mother Earth.
Ultimately, we will serve as many people as we have funding to do so and that depends on our supporters.
The interest among tribal people is certainly extremely high and we can surely serve many thousands of Native Americans and provide them with the skills and confidence they need to get good green renewable energy jobs!
Let us work together and make it so.
How our project team is organized:Non-Profit
How many people work on our project team:9
How many years we have been working on our project:10+ years
Our revenue model:
I have a business operation (Lakota Solar Enterprises - LSE) and a nonprofit organization (Red Cloud Renewable - RCR), which gives more flexibility in how we structure projects. LSE is particularly poised to take on larger and more lucrative solar electric projects. RCR is relatively new and we believe our more energetic support of the camps will attract more people who want to help stand up to big oil.
We also have many solar friends and supporters, who provide huge amounts of volunteer labor and donated materials. We believe these supporters will only increase in numbers and level of giving.
Why we are applying to Solve:
Many people in the U.S. have a deep guilt about how Native Americans have been treated and are still being treated. This can makes them...avoid dealing with Native American issues and problems.
So, the direct funding will help.
I also believe the relationship between Natives and non-Natives was considerably altered through the Oceti Sakowin protest movement. Both groups had the opportunity to work together in common cause without much of the historical guilt and anger.
I believe now non-Natives want to work with Native people like never before and I look forward to presenting in front of your SOLVE attendees.
The key barriers for our project:
Many Native and non-Native people believe Native American problems are unfixable and that cooperation is not possible. But the fight against fossil fuels and climate change is everyone's problem.
By directly supporting the camps AND providing their solar champions with ongoing support and training, we address our common problem and build up our alliance, while also strengthening renewable energy skills among Native people and moving Native communities towards energy independence.
Among your SOLVE attendees are those who can help this happen.
Our way of living with the earth is also capable of providing Non-Natives with a strength they greatly seek.
The types of connections and partnerships we would be most interested in if we became Fellows:
- Henry Red Cloud Executive Director, Red Cloud Renewable