On the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Oglala Lakota, over 40 percent of residents live without access to electricity. On Native American Reservations across the U.S., the Energy Information Administration estimates that 14 percent of households have no access to electricity, 10 times higher than the national average. Many tribes are looking to renewable energy as a way to provide reliable, clean energy to their tribal members.
Tribal reservation lands occupy some of harshest landscapes in the United States. Temperatures can range from over 110º F in the summer to -60º F in the winter. Much of the area is covered by tree-less plains, constantly scoured by the strongest winds in the country. Heating homes in this climate is difficult and expensive even under the best circumstances. For tribal families living in poorly built homes, it can be an insurmountable challenge. Despite the scarcity of trees, wood stoves are often used to heat homes. Other choices – propane, kerosene, electricity or natural gas – are often prohibitively expensive or non-existent. They also pollute and deplete the natural environment, directly conflicting with traditional tribal culture, which has always promoted responsible stewardship of the Earth as a way of life.
There is a very real and evolving need for better energy solutions on reservations, as desperately poor families struggle to fulfill even their most basic requirements for adequate shelter and heat. We believe that renewable energy is a sustainable, economical, and environmentally friendly solution to many of the energy issues facing tribal communities today.