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Indigenized Energy Initiative
Robert Blake, Cody Two Bears, Chief Henry Red Cloud and Otto Braided Hair, Jr., of Indigenized Energy Initiative

Clean Power

Native-Led Indigenized Energy Initiative Seeks To Decolonize Renewable Energy

In a bid to eliminate the “crippling” effects of energy poverty on Indigenous communities, specifically Native Americans, a native-led nonprofit is relaunching and rebranding its efforts in order to better fulfill its mission of using renewable energy technologies to restore “sovereignty, vitality, and a sense of hope.”

What was formerly known as Covenant Tribal Solar Initiative is now the Indigenized Energy Initiative, and is bringing together some of the ‘heavy hitters’ in Indigenous solar, namely Chief Henry Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe (founder of Red Cloud Renewable and Lakota Solar Enterprises) Otto Braided Hair, tribal member and traditional leader of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe (co-founder of IEI and ecoCheyenne), Robert Blake, tribal citizen of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe (founder of Solar Bear and Native Sun Community Power Development), and Cody Two Bears, Standing Rock Sioux tribal member.

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years (decades? centuries?), you might be forgiven for not knowing that the energy industry, even upstarts such as solar and wind power companies, has been overwhelmingly populated by white, male, and moneyed individuals, and that access to clean, renewable, and affordable energy has some major barriers for not just the “average Joe” and working class individuals, but especially for minorities — the marginalized, the colonized, the underserved, and the financially oppressed (read: poor).

While we’ve seen some fairly big acknowledgements and media coverage about these issues, ranging from lack of recognition, lack of diversity in almost every area of concern, and the incredibly difficult legal and financial challenges faced by some of the most vulnerable groups, individuals, and communities in the US (and globally), getting to a sea-change in all the various systems at play will take some time (and money and effort), but it’s apparent that incremental progress leads to step-changes, which can then support systems-wide changes, and so this latest news from Standing Rock is well worth celebrating and supporting.

“Through the work of Indigenized Energy Initiative, we are indigenizing — decolonizing — the deployment of renewable energy to address the social, economic, spiritual, and environmental concerns of Native people. Our new name better reflects our mission — Native people are taking back the power.” Cody Two Bears, co-founder of IEI

“Indigenized Energy Initiative leverages solar energy as a tool to transform entire economic, ecological, and social systems in some of the most marginalized and disadvantaged communities in the country while upholding our commitments to protect and preserve the Earth. This is the new way of honoring the old ways.” — Chief Henry Red Cloud

“Energy is a trillion-dollar industry. Renewable energy development represents a pathway out of poverty for Native American tribes that is in line with our cultural values. Tribal communities can lead the charge on the just transition principles through the development of tribal utility commissions that work directly with public utility commissions to generate power from renewable energy — both for our own tribal communities and to sell on the grid. Instead of divisive pipelines like DAPL, Line 3 and coal mining destroying our homelands, tribal utilities can offer a positive, Native-led path forward. We have a chance to help build the future rather than continuing the methods of the past.” — Bob Blake, advisory board member of Indigenized Energy Initiative

According to the press release, Indigenized Energy Initiative “provides technical assistance and equips tribes with the resources, knowledge, and skills” to:

  • Design, build, operate, and maintain tribal- and tribal-member-owned energy systems
  • Develop residential-, commercial-, and utility-scale solar projects
  • Train tribal members for well-paying jobs building and maintaining solar systems
  • Secure equitable loans and grants for the development of clean energy and energy storage
  • Engage with strategic partners to reduce costs
  • Establish tribal utilities

Covenant Tribal Solar Initiative, now Indigenized Energy Initiative, was originally founded in 2016 by Chéri Smith, a descendant of the Mi’Kmaq Tribe, and is a project of Earth Island Institute.

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Written By

Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!


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