Trees Water & People

Trees, Water & People is committed to improving people's lives by helping communities to protect, conserve and manage the natural resources upon which their long-term well-being depends. We believe that natural resources are best protected when local people play an active role in their care and management.
Nov 18, 2014

Project Update: Change of Seasons

Solar Warrior Farm
Solar Warrior Farm

After the last rush of fall harvest and saving seeds it is time to start turning inward and sharing stories around the circle once again. And, it is definitely time to start planning for next season! This fall, Solar Warrior Farm (SWF) hosted two workshops on food preparation, nutrition and preserving the harvest in the local community. In 2015, our goal is to host a more involved mid-season, 4-day workshop on food sovereignty and indigenous foodways. We have changed our wishlist to reflect this new opportunity. If you want to sponsor a student, tuition includes instruction, materials, lodging at the Sacred Earth Lodge, and food for the duration of the workshop.

Why did we change our focus for the training? In many Native communities, including Pine Ridge, almost all food produced on the reservation is sent elsewhere, while nearly all food consumed locally is brought in from outside the community. This sets up a cycle of poor diet and a lack of access to fresh produce - commonly known as a "food desert". By reclaiming both indigenous knowledge of foods and control over how, when, and what food is available for families, Native people can break that historical cycle and have more choices. It is an exciting move forward as we will be calling upon the expertise of some great Native leaders in the food sovereignty movement to inform our work in this area. More on that in the next update!

Meanwhile, we are making plans to diversify the activities at the Farm by laying the groundwork for covered, raised beds, and networking with other Native programs that collect and share seeds. We will be looking at our successes and failures to improve selection and harvest.

Having a full-time intern at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center will help us keep continuity across the seasons. Dan Hartman-Strawn has already proven that he is both a great planner and doer! Thanks to him, the greenhouse will soon have a new roof, which will be an important asset to extend growing season and protect equipment. He will also be working with us to create more opportunities to volunteer on local projects and visit the Black Hills area at the Sacred Earth Lodge. Let us know if you are interested. We will have at least two SWF related projects in 2015.

As we set a new course for the next year, we are very grateful for your continued support! With your contributions, we can go even further. Yakoke - many thanks!!

Farm fresh veggies!
Farm fresh veggies!
Celebrating a productive season at SWF!
Celebrating a productive season at SWF!
Oct 21, 2014

Sacred Earth Lodge: 2014 Highlights

SEL
SEL's new Solar PV system + CEB office

There have been a lot of firsts for the Sacred Earth Lodge (SEL) this year, and many great opportunities to develop its potential as a training center and guest lodge in the heart of Indian Country. In many ways, it was a good thing to have the winter and spring to get the lodge ready for the busy training season of May-September.  We truly appreciated your support in helping us open the Lodge to students, volunteers, and visitors. What a great first year!

Welcomed over 250 guests and volunteers

We were honored to welcome over 250 guests and volunteers to the Sacred Earth Lodge this year. These friends came from all over the country to support the Tribal Renewable Energy Program. Guests volunteered at the Solar Warrior Farm, came from the Pine Ridge community to share their knowledge and to learn new skills, relaxed and learned about the Lakota culture, and some came to work on the various earth-based demonstration buildings at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) campus.

We’ve had a lot of feedback about what people enjoyed and what they thought we could improve at the Lodge. SEL is hosting the last groups of the season this week, so now it is time to gather in the last of the harvest at Solar Warrior Farm and begin planning for next year.

Hosted four major workshops at SEL

As is often the case, when something is being installed at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC), we use that opportunity to share the experience and knowledge in a workshop format. January’s solar hot water heater was an essential feature of the Sacred Earth Lodge and our first training on this technology.

Another first was the Compressed Earth Block (CEB) Workshop that took advantage of brand new technology in the field of earth-based building materials. Once the walls were up, the summer was spent putting on a roof, front door and windows, blowing in cellulose insulation (another natural material), and putting a beautiful, rustic red lime plaster. In another first, TWP and LSE partnered with GRID Alternatives to install a solar electric (PV) system that provides power for the office and supplements power for the Lodge. A great way to reduce the carbon footprint for both buildings at one time!

Our Green Business Development in Indian Country training was also well attended and came at just the right time with the installation of WiFi at the Lodge. We are so thankful for the hard work and the continuing support needed to expand infrastructure for the Lodge and our partner, Lakota Solar Enterprises' office. Throughout the summer's workshops, the Lodge proved to be an excellent base for the programs and activities we want to continue within tribal communities.

Next Steps: Parking and Handicap Access 

One of the last major projects at the Sacred Earth Lodge is to build in parking facilities and to create handicap access thoughout the building, including a handicap access ramp for the SEL as well as an extra bathroom on the first floor. We also want to create better access for elders and those who may have trouble navigating the natural landscape around RCREC. These projects will require a lot of work, but we know with your support we can make the lodge an even better place for everyone to enjoy. Thank you!

A beautiful day at SEL
A beautiful day at SEL
Students learn Solar PV inside the SEL classroom
Students learn Solar PV inside the SEL classroom
Learning to install Solar PV at SEL
Learning to install Solar PV at SEL
Sep 11, 2014

Green Business in Indian Country is really on a roll!

Native Business Development Graduates!
Native Business Development Graduates!

Trees, Water & People's Green Business Development in Indian Country training graduated five students in July, and we are now in the process of accepting business start-up applications for the Green Business in Indian Country Start-Up Award.

Aspiring Native entrepreneurs came to the 7-day training from four different tribal communities. Led by former Trees, Water & People (TWP) National Director Lacey Gaechter, students went through the process of researching their potential business resources, creating a vision statement and discovering what it takes to start your own business. Lacey used the Indianprenuership curriculum developed by ONABEN. 

The week also included some inspiring and expert advice from those who have created their own green businesses. We called upon local Lakota business owners Bernard Cuny of Cuny Tree Farm and Henry Red Cloud of Lakota Solar Enterprises to share their stories and answer questions about the work they do. TWP Executive Director Richard Fox, a highly experienced entrepreneur in his own right, also lent his expertise to the mix.

Jeff King, a student from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, said “I have been interested in renewable energy for a long time, but my interest has been magnified in recent years due to more awareness of global climate change and also from working in an industry (coal) that frowns upon the mere mention of renewables. That attitude has made me even more eager to learn and push on behalf of the world.” Your donations are helping students like Jeff take the next big step towards becoming a buiness owner!

This training was just the beginning, and we have already received several applications for the Green Business in Indian Country Start-Up Award. It is exciting to see not only young Native people, but also those who have been in the workforce for years, making that leap to start their own enterprises. The winner will be announced later this fall, so stay tuned!

We want to take the opportunity to thank you all for your continuing support of this exciting venture. New entrepreneurs mean new jobs and renewed inspiration in tribal communities. You are helping create opportunities and empower Native people for years to come. We still have a ways to go until we reach our fundraising goal, so please consider making a donation today. Yakoke! 

Jeff King presents his business plan
Jeff King presents his business plan
Congrats to Chas!
Congrats to Chas!
Students tour the RCREC campus
Students tour the RCREC campus

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