Pine Ridge

Training the Next Generation of Solar Warriors

Students received hands-on training in Solar PV from a variety of renewable energy experts, including Henry Red Cloud, owner of Lakota Solar Enterprises.

Students received hands-on training in Solar PV from a variety of renewable energy experts, including Henry Red Cloud, owner of Lakota Solar Enterprises.

At the end of July, Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE) owner Henry Red Cloud had the honor of teaching a Solar Energy Workshop that brought Native Americans from around the country to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The workshop explored basics of solar energy and culminated in a hands-on installation at the KILI Radio station, Voice of the Lakota Nation, where students expanded an already existing solar PV array.

Trent Williams (left), a member of the Tule River Tribe, gains hands-on experience with installing solar energy with one the pioneers of the field, Johnny Weiss (right).

Trent Williams (left), a member of the Tule River Tribe, gains hands-on experience with installing solar energy with one the pioneers of the field, Johnny Weiss (right).

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.

Jeff Tobe shares his extensive solar energy knowledge with student Hazen Lamere, a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Tribe.

Jeff Tobe shares his extensive solar energy knowledge with student Hazen Lamere, a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Tribe.

LSE works with environmental nonprofit Trees, Water & People to help facilitate this transition to clean, renewable energy on tribal lands. By teaching Native Americans about alternative energy, such as solar PV, we are fostering a new generation of Solar Warriors that will be at the forefront of the tribal energy sovereignty movement. Power to the people!

To learn more about our work with Trees, Water & People please visit www.solarwarriors.org.

10,000 Tree Reforestation Project at Pine Ridge

pine ridge reservation reforestation

Over the 125 years that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has managed the Pine Ridge Reservation, they have provided almost zero management of the tribe’s forest resources. As a result, the pine forest has shrunk considerably and in many places there are no longer enough trees to guarantee sustainability of the forest. Through discussions with Oglala Lakota leadership and representatives of several local Pine Ridge organizations, serious concerns have been expressed about the condition and viability of the remaining forests.

TWP and LSE Staff look out over the area that will soon be reforested with ponderosa pines.

TWP and LSE Staff look out over the area that will soon be reforested with ponderosa pines.

Our partners at Trees, Water & People (TWP) have a long history and much success growing and planting tree seedlings around the world. In fact, they have grown and planted over 5.6 million trees since 1998! They were asked to develop a tree planting project on the Pine Ridge Reservation and we are happy to help with the planting! This new endeavor aims to replant the legendary pine ridges, while also engaging Native American youth in the restoration efforts.

To initiate this effort, we established a partnership with the Colorado State Forest Service, who used seeds from South Dakota to grow 10,000 ponderosa pine seedlings in their greenhouses. Over the winter, we worked with TWP and our local partners at Pine Ridge to identify and select specific tribal lands for our first reforestation project (about 17.5 acres in total). We also worked with these partners to recruit members of the tribe who will work with us on this project.

10,000 ponderosa pine seedlings wait to be planted in their new soils at Pine Ridge.

10,000 ponderosa pine seedlings wait to be planted in their new soils at Pine Ridge.

A few weeks back, TWP staff drove the seedlings from the Colorado State Forest Service tree nursery in Fort Collins to our greenhouse at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. This was a long journey for the small seedlings, but they all made it safe and sound!

Over the past couple of weeks, LSE staff, volunteers and tribal members have planted 6,000 of the 10,000 trees – the start of an important reforestation program for the Oglala Lakota Tribe! In the coming weeks, tribal members will finish planting the remaining pine trees, participating directly in the conservation and management of their local forests. More updates to come as these little ponderosa pines mature and become an integral part of the Pine Ridge ecosystem!