The Eastern Shoshone Tribe’s "477 Employment and Training Program" sent three Solar Warriors to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center at the end of October to be trained on building and installing solar heaters.
As part of their training, Trees, Water & People, with the help of donors like you, paid for three new heaters, installed on the homes of families living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota as part of the hands-on training portion of the course. Each heater will keep over 27 metric tons out of the atmosphere over its 20 year lifespan in addition to saving a low-income Lakota family in Kyle, SD precious utility money.
The Eastern Shoshone tribe also purchased 25 solar air heaters from our partner, Lakota Solar Enterprises. The mission of the tribe's 477 Program is to help unemployed tribal members find work that benefits the entire community. In this case, the tribe is not only employing these three new Solar Warriors, but also providing clean, free heat for 25 elderly and disabled Eastern Shoshone living on the Wind River Reservation. Congrats, Solar Warriors!
In addition, Henry Red Cloud, Trees, Water & People’s partner in operating the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, spent last week in Fort Washakie, WY, conducting site visits with the students. I arrived to the reservation just in time to shake the hands of these new green job recipients, Chris Tiger, Richard Bearing, and Michael Timbana. Michael told me that he wants to start his own solar business to help his tribe, and I hope we can help him do that! Richard, who is actually a Northern Arapaho, married to an Eastern Shoshone woman, was unemployed and says of his time with Henry, “It has had a great impact [on my life]. I learned a lot and met some new people that I now call friends. I also have a new job.”
Thanks to the 477 Program for creating these opportunities on your beautiful and historic reservation and congrats to the new Trainees for all they have accomplished.
And, most importantly, thank you to every person that has donated to this project, bringing us one step closer to reaching our goal of building 10 solar heaters for Native American families in need of heat.
Rachel Blomberg is a Cornell University student who raised over $2,000 for Trees, Water & People to install solar heaters on the homes of Lakota families living on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Last month, she flew to the reservation to help install the solar heaters.
We combined the funds she raised- thinking she would just install one heater - with carbon offset funds to pay for heater panels, and GlobalGiving donations to help pay for additional parts and labor. But, instead of installing just one heater, she helped to install three heaters on the homes of Native American families!
She details her experience below. We would like to share her report with you, our generous donors who's contributions made this project a reality:
"My project could not have unfolded more perfectly. As soon as I stepped off the plane in Rapid City, South Dakota, Darrell Red Cloud and another volunteer, Rachael Maddox, were there to pick me up and drive me out to Lakota Solar Enterprises on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. On the way, we stopped at the Oglala Sioux Tribe's Home Improvement Program (HIP) office to speak with the inspector administration assistant, Clarence Yellow Hawk Sr., who chose the homes for this installation.
Upon booking my flights to return to Pine Ridge, I was unsure if we would be able to accomplish more than one installation. However, once I got to the home of Henry Red Cloud at Lakota Solar Enterprises, I became aware that we would be doing not just one, but three solar panel installations that week. This was possible because of the generosity of donors to Trees, Water & People’s Global Giving and carbon offset fundraisers.
The very next day after I arrived, Henry Red Cloud, me, and six other crew members associated with this solar air heater installation project loaded up the Solar Warrior Wagon with all our supplies and drove to the home of Gillard Good Voice Flute, who lives with three other elderly men. Gillard and his family, or "tiospaye", are one of the lucky ones to receive a new HIP home from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Oglala Sioux Tribe, one of only about 10-14 homes built per year for families in need of housing. This made his home ideal for a solar air heater installation, as these homes are moderately insulated and powered by electricity, not propane.
While Henry instructed everyone on how to properly install the heating system, we all worked together to get the solar panel in place, the duct work run below the floors of the home, the air vents positioned in the floors, and the thermostat installed in the inside of the home. After a full day of work, we accomplished our goal of giving the gift of heat. However, we like to tell the home owners, “You just got solared!” instead.
After working on the home of Gillard, the next day we accomplished another installation at the home of Wanda and Darrell Walking, and the following day we installed one more at the home of Mike Merrival. All three of these solar air heaters will heat homes for families with elderly and children, and will help a family’s heating and electricity bill decline by 30% a month. As long as the sun is shining, as it does for 300 days a year out at Pine Ridge, these families will have free heat running through their homes, even when the temperatures drop below -40 degrees Fahrenheit. These solar air heating systems not only provide some relief for families living at life-or-death poverty rates, they also reduce negative environmental impacts caused by heating a home with electricity or propane while helping this nation's Native peoples become energy independent.
One of the most important things that happened this week was spreading the word about my project to others. The first day I was there, a separate group from Massachusetts was helping build straw bale homes at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. When they heard about what I had accomplished with my project, they decided that they would also try to complete the same goals and bring more solar air heaters to Pine Ridge."
Thank you to Rachel for all her hard work and dedication to the Lakota people! You can have the same impact that Rachel did by donating to this project, directly supporting Trees, Water & People’s Tribal Renewable Energy Program.
This spring, the Tribal Renewable Energy Program realized a long-term hope of bringing solar heating to the Navajo (Diné) Nation.
In late February, I traveled with Henry Red Cloud, our Tribal Program partner and proprietor of Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE), two members of his crew, Silas Red Cloud and Leo White Bear, and one of our most amazing Trees, Water & People (TWP) interns, Christy Proulx, to Shiprock, New Mexico. I have known that it has long been an aspiration of Henry’s to take his life-changing technology South, but it wasn’t until a few unexpected photo opportunities that it occurred to me that this trip was a real treat for Henry.
Of course, the real purpose of our trip was to bring our simple and replicable solar air heaters to the Diné people, and we received an inspiring, warm welcome. Claudia Jackson of Navajo Green Jobs arranged our demonstration installation for Pete and Eva Stokely, retired Diné teachers from Shiprock and respected elders in the community.
We also met Melton Martinez for the first time, for whom we installed a second demonstration solar heater, in the hopes that these two are just the first of hundreds for the Navajo Nation. Working with off-grid clients through Eagle Energy, Melton works to save Navajo families money on expensive Kerosene lanterns. The thing that affected me most about his work, however, was his dedication to eliminating the use of harmful fossil fuels. Even though Melton has electricity, he has a solar-powered night light by his bed in his south-facing bedroom. He told me, “Every time I use the solar light, it’s one less lump of coal that gets mined from our mountain and burned.” To Melton, reducing fossil fuel use is not just about having a tiny impact on the huge issue of climate change; it’s about fewer friends dying in coal mines, fewer children with asthma, and a better life for his people.
It was only because of our TWP donors that we were able to take this trip, bringing a little extra light into Henry’s life and a lot of warmth to the Stokelys and Melton. The next step in bringing solar air heaters to the Diné is to host a training with local champions like Claudia and Melton. Please support our growing relationship with the Navajo!
Please help us reach our goal of donating 10 solar heaters to Lakota Families and make a donation on GlobalGiving's Bonus Day - March 14, 2012! Each of our heaters bring free, clean heat to Native American families in need, and they reduce the use of fossil fuels while stimulating tribal economies.
There are a lot of exciting new developments from Trees, Water & People's Tribal Renewable Energy Program that I wanted to share with you:
Thank you for supporting the Tribal Renewable Energy Program one heater at a time! These simple, efficient units are the core of our Tribal Renewable Energy Program and your support makes this program a success. We hope you will take the chance to make your donation go even further and donate to our project on Wednesday, March 14th, Bonus Day!
In collaboration with Navajo Green Jobs’ Green Awareness Day on Monday, February 28, Trees, Water & People and Lakota Solar Enterprises will travel to Shiprock, New Mexico for a demonstration solar air heater installation. This will be our first trip to the Navajo Nation, and we are very excited to bring the simple and economic technology of solar air heaters to a new tribe and a new part of the country. “It’s particularly appropriate that we will get to show the heaters off to Diné folks who are already interested in green jobs,” remarks Lacey Gaechter, TWP’s National Director, alluding to the fact that the largest part of the Trees, Water & People’s Tribal Renewable Energy Program consists of providing renewable energy trainings to Native Americans. We hope this trip will be just one of many that we make to the Four Corners area as we grow partnerships with tribes in this new region. Heaters and trainings for all!
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