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!
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