Nov 20, 2018

Continued Success, Broadening Our Horizons

Henry Red Cloud teaching the basics
Henry Red Cloud teaching the basics

With your support, this year has opened up new opportunities for Trees, Water & People (TWP) to provide more context and transparency to our long-standing tree planting project on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Primarily, your sustained support for this project has enabled us to implement proper training with a developed curriculum for volunteers and local indigenous people who help us plant trees across the reservation. We have learned, once again, that the importance of participation from local tribal members, before and during the process, is crucial for the survival and overall health of trees planted. Of course, we would be remiss not to mention the importance of the natural environment and a healthy dose of rain, which was very kind to us this year, as part of our success as well.

Nevertheless, in 2018 TWP planted 35,000 trees on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation and surrounding communities, as well as Bear Butte, located in South Dakota, in partnership with the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. Last year we had an estimated 49% survival rate. This year the goal of our National Director, Eriq Acosta, focused more heavily on transparency in data collection and follow-up as well as the importance of holistic, ecological education of ourselves and the well-being of the planet. We focused on burn sites and beautification of surrounding communities at schools, homes, and community centers not only for the sake of reaching our numerical goals but also to intentionally give back to the Earth after so much continues to be taken from it on a daily basis.

One day, an older woman at Wounded Knee approached me and asked what we were doing and I said, "Planting trees", to which she replied, "I have been praying to God for trees". We most definitely planted trees on her property, and with the help of our friend Dave Bartecchi at Village Earth, we recently learned that our survival rate for trees planted in 2018 is 94%! This gives me hope that our continued effort to heal ourselves in the process of healing the land is providing greater fruits than we once imagined.

The success of this year has also been heavily favored due to the cooperation of our local indigenous partners and their willingness to take the time to learn about the importance of the tree and of tree planting for our future generations. We also want to send a huge thank you to all of the volunteers that supported us on this project. We would not have completed it without their generous support and willingness to travel a great distance to learn and be a part of these indigenous communities. One of our goals here at TWP is to help be a bridge for all communities, so we are honored to have witnessed so much amazing collaboration through this last year of tree planting!

With all this in mind and heart, we are already in the process of broadening our reach to other reservations across the United States to help educate more people on the purpose of trees and tree planting, as well as continuing the tradition of replanting burn sites. We are looking forward to a budding partnership with the Pueblo of Santo Domingo in New Mexico to put 10,000 trees in their surrounding lands at a burn site.

This is just a start, but our hope is to continue expanding on the number of trees planted in Pine Ridge in future years and other surrounding communities, so please stay tuned and we can not emphasize our gratitude enough to all of you who are making this possible. 

Baa ahééh nisin, díidí. (About it I feel grateful, this here.)

Carefully preparing tree seedling to be planted
Carefully preparing tree seedling to be planted
Jul 3, 2018

Tree Planting on Tribal Lands Nearly Complete

30,000 trees in the greenhouse before planting!
30,000 trees in the greenhouse before planting!

From May 18 – 20, I had the privilege to be a part of Trees, Water & People and Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center's (RCREC) campaign to plant 30,000 pine trees on Tribal Lands in areas most deeply affected by forest fires. I stayed at the Sacred Earth Lodge in Pine Ridge along with good and new friends who volunteered for this project. We all enjoyed breakfast and coffee together in the morning before heading off to locations on the Oglala side of Pine Ridge as well as at Wounded Knee. In the beginning, I felt nervous about plunging a large sharp blade into the ground to create a home for the baby trees – I’m not a particularly strong person, and I don’t pride myself on my manual labor skills. But, Avery and Silas Red Cloud taught us how to properly create a hole, plant the tree, get rid of any air bubbles, and create a nice bed. By the end of the first day, I was a tree planting master.

One of the most memorable moments for me occurred on the last day of tree planting. Henry Red Cloud, one of the founders of RCR, spoke to our group of 25 volunteers as we began to plant. He told us about his beliefs for the mission, how we as humans seem to have lost touch with nature, and we treat it as a machine instead of as something alive. It is true, we take and take, and give little back. Henry told us, this is a way to give back, and these trees will continue to give oxygen and life for generations after us. We planted over 2,500 trees that day alone.

I struggle with finding the right words to describe the powerful lessons I’ve learned from my experiences and relationships built in Pine Ridge. While this project has helped to heal the landscape within the Reservation, there is still much healing to be done. I feel a great love for the Natives we worked with on this project, who invited us as volunteers to come back and continue to learn about their culture and how to be an advocate. I plan to accept their invitation, as well as continue my relationship with Trees, Water & People, and the good friends I’ve made who share similar goals.

A note from TWP's National Director, Eriq Acosta: 

Thanks to the incredible donors, volunteers, residents of Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and Cheyenne River Reservations, we are 95% complete with our third season of tree planting on Tribal Lands! Although tree planting season takes hard work and dedication, there is nothing more rewarding than being able to put a tree into the ground, and sharing the experience with like-minded people in the fight for a more just and sustainable planet. 

To stay up to date about TWP news, please sign up for our eNewsletter.

Apr 10, 2018

Volunteer to plant trees on Pine Ridge this May!

Volunteer to plant trees on Pine Ridge!
Volunteer to plant trees on Pine Ridge!

Trees, Water & People is excited to announce that we will be opening up our tree planting this year to volunteers! Our goal will be to plant 35,000 Ponderosa Pine seedlings on the Pine Ridge Reservation and Bear Butte State Park that were grown from South Dakota seed in the Colorado State Forest Service Tree Nursery in Fort Collins, Colorado. The day-to-day management of the project will be provided by Henry Red Cloud, who owns the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) along with the TWP Tribal program. 

Where we need your volunteer support is in the field and potentially at our home base site on Pine Ridge, the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. Volunteers will be trained and supervised by Henry Red Cloud and his assigned crew leaders.

Tree Planters - Job Description

1.) Ground Prep

2.) Tree Planters

3.) Food Prep Cooks

4.) Tree Deliverers to planters

5.) Water crew

6.) Maintenance and clean up at Red Cloud Renewable

In order to successfully plant the seedlings, we need to first recruit individuals who have the ability to walk and work hard outside all day for AT LEAST A 3 DAY MINIMUM, in rough terrain and varying weather conditions. They must be able to able to work cooperatively, with hand tools, and be able to carry at least 25 pounds across irregular and variously sloping ground. Tree planting will start on Monday, May 7, 2018, and end May 23th. All training will take place at Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) and at the tree planting site. 

RCREC and/or TWP will provide the tools and training necessary to successfully plant the seedlings.  Crew members are required to plant trees according to the specific quality standards needed to best assure the long-term survival of the seedlings. 


Lodging accommodations: The Sacred Earth Lodge sleeps 23 people in dormitory/hostel-style accommodations and has women and men showers a large kitchen and dining area. There is also plenty of ground for tent camping on site. Prairie Wind Casino is about 22 miles down the road. For this lodging, payment, and travel to site will be at your discretion. Crew transportation will be provided from RCREC to and from the job site by Henry Red Cloud, TWP and potential volunteers with larger vehicles. The planting site is approximately 13 miles north and west of Pine Ridge Village. With that said you are responsible to get to Pine Ridge, but once there pick up and drop off times to the tree planting site will be determined by the agreed upon drivers. There is a potential for folks to carpool if leaving from the same place. We can let folks know that are signed up how to get ahold of each other.

Elements: With the weather being so unpredictable these days come prepared for Heat, Rain and maybe even snow.  All tree planting crew members must have adequate footwear to work outdoors.

Food: RCREC and/or TWP will provide water, snacks, a light breakfast a sack lunch and a warm Dinner on-site to all crew members. Crew members with food allergies or other dietary restrictions may be required to bring their own food.

Dates: May 7th through May 23rd. TWP and RCREC will be planting through these dates. May has proven to be the best month to plant and the rain can sometimes make it difficult to get to these sites which could put off and delay tree planting sometimes. With that said though we are looking for volunteers to help on those dates. If you are interested in Volunteering or have more questions take a look at the jobs below and choose some dates that are best for you and e-mail the National Director, Eriq Acosta, at as soon as possible so that he can get logistics squared away.

If you are interested, please let Eriq Acosta, our Nation know your dates, the job you would like, and if you would like to stay at the Sacred Earth Lodge on the Red Cloud property. We are limited in tools for tree planting so 40-50 volunteers is max, but know that if you are interested in volunteering there is much work needed to be done at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center and we are more than happy for you to come up and volunteer your time and expertise, just let Eriq know your interest and we can get you set up!



Eric Acosta

National Director

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