Lakota Solar and Henry Red Cloud

Today we had the honor of visiting Lakota Solar Enterprises, a company started by Henry Red Cloud. Lakota Enterprises is a native-owned solar company that produces solar heating units and provides green job training to help the community attain energy sovereignty.

Mr. Red Cloud led us around Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC), “where Native Americans from around the country come to receive hands-on training in renewable energy applications from fellow Native American trainers. RCREC’s facilities also include demonstration solar air furnaces, a solar electric system, straw bale home demonstration sites, a wind turbine, green houses and garden, buffalo from the Red Cloud herd, and wind break and shade trees. In addition to educating about the benefits of renewable energy, RCREC’s workshops are creating green jobs for residents of Pine Ridge, as well as visiting trainees from other tribes. As tribal leaders learn how to incorporate sustainable technology into housing plans, employment training, and energy strategies, the impact will increase exponentially.” (from Lakota Enterprises)

We toured his workshop, sustainable farm, a straw bale house, and a portable solar trailer that he brought to the Standing Rock protests. Mr. Red Cloud is a passionate, kindred soul. His deep care for his community and for the land we live on is obvious in how he speaks. He discussed with us current affairs, the rights of Native Americans, and the inherent responsibility of all to take care of our earth. On the day we met Mr. Red Cloud he had spent the day planting thousands of pine seedlings. He is truly a pioneer and icon in his field.

From Lakota Enterprises

“For more than a decade, Henry has devoted himself to developing his expertise with renewable energy applications that are environmentally sound, economically beneficial, and culturally appropriate. Today, Henry is a twenty-first century Lakota Warrior, bringing green technology and employment to Native American communities. He reminds tribes that they can live sustainably and shows them that by embracing clean, renewable energy applications there is a way to get back to a traditional relationship with Mother Earth. As Henry says, “This is a new way to honor the old ways.””

 

 

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Roof Team May 30th Robin Tutchton

 

 

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Standing there with a line attached to my back and an harness that was too tight in the wrong places,  I watched as a man I had just met demonstrated pulling up shingles and sliding in a metal plate with a silver rectangle with a hole in the top into the shingles. The metal plate, called flashing, would be bolted into the rafters and serve as a reliable mount for the solar panels. 

My first thought was “oh please don’t make me do that I won’t be able to.”

But then I realized they needed help measuring out the area of the array. I volunteered to help measure out 48 inches between each chalk dot and 24 inches for the last distance. I nailed it, measuring perfectly and handling the tape measure with such elegance that it made the birds stop and stare.

But ruining my “on Top of the world” feeling we were called to lunch. Furiously I swallowed my mustard, ham and cheese sandwich and soon enough was standing back at the top of the ladder waiting to be clipped into my child safety leash.

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We spent the next hours pulling up shingles and flashing them, once that was done, we’d install the brackets and bolt it into place and put on a washer and rubber stopper on top.  Next I descended from my perch up above and began to help assemble rails that the solar panels would rest on. We then took the rails and carried them up to the roof. We then bolted in the rails and began to attach the inverters. First we wired up the rails by placing a cord and nailing it to the metal. Then we took  inverters and screwed them in above the cord, and then at last we plugged them into the wire. Once that was done we looked around and saw that two arrays had been completed, this startled me because I was in such a trance of work. After feeling successful with being able to do the task I drove us back to camp – where we all slept gloriously.

 

Ground Team May 30th Riley Weeks

Hey again! It’s Riley (If you don’t know who I am, check out my other blog posts towards the bottom of this page)! As I write this, I am sitting in the car with the door open and the breeze blowing through, listening to the sounds of cranking wrenches and steady drills on the roof of Mr.Conquering Bear’s and his family’s home. So far (its only 12:39 as a write this), it has been an awe-inspiring, productive work-day, which sounds far-fetched, but is honestly the truth! Let me back up though, I am getting ahead of myself. Yesterday, after our cultural meeting with Mr.Doyle, we drove down, following Mr. Boyce’s incredibly green and hippie-screaming Westfalia van, to the property where we were to spend the next three days installing solar panels. Honestly, I was clueless. Not just about the difference between AC disconnect and junction boxes, or where and how to saw conduit, but also what the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation was like and how the community works together to find solutions to energy issues.

 

But, in both these fields, I was learning, and fast. I was not expecting to do much work on the first day, as we didn’t start until 11:30ish after our cultural training. However, I figured out that we would be doing a lot. There was work to do just on the ground, not even related to the solar modules on the roof. I volunteered to drill holes, screw bolts, place conduit, and even go underneath the house in the crawl space to ensure that all of the wiring that we would eventually complete would have a secure place to go without the risk damage to the wires through water runoff or friction from other things near it. At the beginning of the day, I was afraid to ask questions of the trained professionals I was working with through GRID Alternatives. I figured they had a lot on their plates, worrying about where and when to place the solar panels as well as all of the other components to make the system work. But, I eventually understood that these trained professionals wanted to teach us about what they were doing, and wanted us to be as hands on as possible. It was incredible to be able to ask all the questions I wanted and after a while, I was able to really understand what we were doing throughout the day, and what the end result was bound to look like. When the sun had just begun to sink over the rolling hills in the distance of the Reservation, the only clear work that I had completed was a metal pole on the side of the house, with a box sticking out the end of it. To some, it might have been just that: a box on a pole, but to me, it signified the beginning of an amazing solar install to help an amazing veteran and his family live in their home with reliable, sustainable, and affordable electricity. For me, Day One on the ground was a job well done.

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Day 2 The Work Begins!

IMG_1527Hi all! Lina Krueck here, reporting from Pine Ridge, South Dakota and Chadron, Nebraska bringing you more exciting coverage of the Pine Ridge Eco Action Solar Panel Install Trip! Day One was just the beginning to an even more exciting Day TWO! Tuesday was the day the real adventure began in Pine Ridge, starting with the Cultural Orientation led by Mr. Doyle at the Oglala Lakota Housing Authority office just at the southern end of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

That morning, the 7 of us kids who slept in the large tent woke up around 8 to the lovely sound of birds chirping. When we emerged from the tent, we began preparing for the day. Tooth brushes, socks, sweatshirts, and water bottles were all being used, changed, and filled throughout the campsite, while water boiled on the stove. We had coffee and oatmeal for our “healthy and balanced” camping breakfast. Finally, we hit the road towards Pine Ridge around 8:45.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on our way to the reservation. I was nervous. Being a Native American who grew up in middle class Denver, Colorado where I never had to worry about not having a house or food on the table made me feel guilty. I have lived such a comfortable and sheltered life and I’ve never had to go through what many Natives have while living on the reservation. As we drove further and further into the reservation, I saw run down houses and cars. People were walking down the streets smoking. Dogs were running around covered in ticks. I felt a surge of anger rush over me because people shouldn’t have to live like this.

The good news is that people like us who partner with the people at companies like GRID Alternatives (who are absolutely wonderful, by the way) are striving to make a difference for Native people. I hope that some day clean energy is the number one way that reservations like Pine Ridge power their lives.

When I first saw the house we would be installing on, I was definitely surprised. It looked slightly newer than most other houses in the area. Mr. Doyle talked about how the housing authority is working to build new houses, so it made me happy to see that the house wasn’t run down and old.

Everyone I’ve talked to so far about our project and solar has been very excited about it! I think a lot of people here have a great mindset, they think positively and know that clean energy is the way to go, and that’s why we’re here. To lower the cost of their bills, while also helping the planet!

I’m proud that the tribe is doing everything they can to try to live better lives, thanks to the work of the people at the housing authority and our help with GRID. I had a good feeling as we began to install that cleaner energy is going to make its way through Pine Ridge to benefit many people, and hopefully we can share our knowledge of solar with many others so that the world can be a greener place

The Journey to South Dakota. Just kidding, Nebraska.

Monday May 29, 2017 Allan

My name is Allan Chen. I am a recent graduate of Cherry Creek High School and a proud member of the Pine Ridge Eco Action Solar Panel install team!  We met in the morning at the King Soopers with Boyce, Conley, Stella, and Claire driving in Boyce’s hippie van and Abbie driving Robin’s “Blueberry” with Robin, Lina, Riley, and me. We took the fast route and lost them a little which resulted in a quick “what part of follow me don’t you understand.”

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Lunch break from looking for a campsite (Lina and Stella)

With our journey under way it became time for stories and sing-a-longs. Catchphrase and Disney songs made the supposedly 5 hour drive fly by until we stopped at a gas station near the first, but not last, world famous Taco John’s. When we finally arrived at our campsite in Hot Springs, South Dakota, we discovered that the week’s campground would cost us nearly $200, simply outrageous! We then drove around for hours to RV parks and open fields, trying to find a nice, affordable campsite. Just when all hope seemed lost we stumbled upon the beautiful but quaint Walgren Lake, which happened to be a few cranky hours away in Nebraska.

The lake shore was nice and sandy, but had some questionable foam and dead fish parts. We were excited to set up camp and quickly got to work setting up our two tents and Boyce’s portable camping kitchen. We collected firewood, played Frisbee in the fields, lounged in the hammock, and enjoyed the peacefulness of the location.

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Sunset from our campsite

 

Dinner was cooked to perfection by Chef Allan, who some might call a culinary master. The platters arranged with remarkably exquisite quesadillas and an elegant but simple side of chips and salsa filled the stomachs of all our hungry campers.

We spent the rest of the night by the campfire, telling jokes, stories, and relaxing, knowing that we had a hard day’s work ahead of us in the morning. This tranquility was only interrupted by the sun making its descent over the lake, casting glowing red, orange, and purple hues all over the sky. We later made S’mores, and many of us had some more later, until the stars emerged. Using Abbie and Robin’s “sky scanners” we named all the stars and constellations. Finally, as the fire died down we headed to our tent; each snuggled in our own warm sleeping bags, and prepared ourselves for the chilly night and early morning ahead of us.

 

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Chowing down on quesadillas

Walk for Pine Ridge West Middle School

Thank you for visiting Ecological Action’s site, click HERE to donate to the Pine Ridge Solar Project!

Hello! My Name is Robin Tutchton, I’m a student at Cherry Creek High School and a participant of the club – EcoAction. This week, I was one of the presenters that talked about to students at West Middle School about raising money for an important cause!

This summer, with West Middle School’s help, EcoAction is installing solar panels on the home of Mr. Conquering Bear, a disabled veteran who lives on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. This individual lives in a very impoverished community and often has trouble making ends meet because his electricity bill is so expensive.

In Greenwood Village all of Wests’ students typicaly have access to electricity. Yet just 5 hours away, 40% of residents of Pine Ridge live without it. We discussed with students how not being able to turn lights on at night would affect our ability to do homework, not being able to charge our phones would inhibit our communication, and not being able to keep food in the refrigerator would cause us to have trouble preserving our food. Electricity is a fundamental human right.

A team of EcoAction members is traveling to Mr.Conquering Bear’s house in June and installing solar panels on his roof. Solar energy, once implemented, is not only an environmentally sustainable alternative to coal or natural gas, it is cheap and reliable. Solar panels will lower Mr.Conquering Bear’s electricity bill and will ensure he has consistent access to electricity.

Now, as us “Eco-Actionites” have grown up we have realized something that all our parents have been telling us  – things in this world cost money.

Every year the students of 7th grade organize a fundraising walk.  We are so happy to sponsor the fundraising walk, this year for solar for Mr. Conquering Bear.

All money we raise will go directly to purchasing the solar panels for Mr Conquering Bear.

Every contribution helps.

Students of West can donate either through a check to made out to Ecological Action at CCHS, by giving cash to a SSR Teacher, or online by clicking HERE

Thank you so much!

Please scroll through our blog to read about past projects!

Many of us presenting were former West Middle School students and it was a blast to catch up with our old teachers and walk throughout the building remembering our middle school years. The kids were engaging and very knowledgeable about green living and the use of solar energy and were full of wonderful questions about solar panels, Pine Ridge, and Eco Action. All of us had so much fun talking to the students of 7th grade!

-Robin Tutchton

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Katya Zabelski, Robin Tutchton, Abbie Weeks, and Allan Chen present to West Middle School’s 7th Grade.

 

 

Patxi’s Pizza Fundraiser

Greetings, Pizza lovers! Yes, I did say pizza! Ecological Action is having a fundraiser! Come eat with us on Wednesday, April 19th at Patxi’s Pizza on University and Hampden. 10% of the proceeds will go to purchase solar panels for a Veteran on the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation (learn more about this solar installation by reading the blog post below).

If you have already joined us for Pizza, or are enjoying a slice right now, we really appreciate it! Thank you for taking the time to look at our website to see what we are up to. Looking to donate more than 10% of your bill? Click on the link below to help!

Click HERE to Donate

Continue to check this blog and share it with your friends and family to see what Eco Action is up to and how the solar panel installment goes this summer! But for now, enjoy that pizza! Yum!

 

Peace and Love,

Riley (EcoAction Club Member)