There are 562 federally recognized Indian Nations in the United States, located within 34 different states. Land is crucial to tribal communities, both spiritually and culturally, as many tribes still rely on the land for fishing, hunting, and gathering. Today, Indian land comprises more than 50 million acres, or 2% of the United States. The majority of this land is located in arid and dry regions.
Since 2007, Trees, Water & People has worked with more than 30 tribes throughout the American West and Great Plains regions, helping Native American communities gain access to renewable energy and green job skills.
Tribal Nations will likely be one of the most heavily impacted populations in North America by Climate Change due to several factors including an intimate, long-standing relationship with the land, limited and relatively non-diverse economies, poor energy security and transportation options, and the practice of subsistence activities in many communities.
Tribal communities face a wide-range of environmental challenges, exacerbated by a rapidly changing climate, lands rights issues, and poverty. However, tribes across the country are leading the way in developing adaptation and mitigation strategies to prepare for the impacts of climate change. TWP is actively working with tribal organizations, businesses, governments, and community members to create conservation projects that not only protect natural resources but also improve livelihoods for Native Americans.
Since 2002, we have worked on tribal lands of the United States to help bring economically beneficial and culturally appropriate energy solutions to Native Americans. Trees, Water & People along with our partners help reduce excessive heating costs by providing supplemental solar air heating systems - manufactured and installed by Native Americans - for tribal families battling bitterly cold winters. Our solar heating systems save families 20-25% on their heating bills every year for up to twenty years.
In addition, TWP co-founded the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) on the Pine Ridge Reservation, where tribal members come from all over the country to receive intensive, hands-on training in renewable energy applications from fellow Native American instructors. Our Tribal Renewable Energy Program is at the forefront of the Native Energy Movement, bringing capital, knowledge, and technology to families and community groups on reservations.
Another project TWP is working on is the Solar Suitcase, a miniturized, fully functional, solar energy kit that can be fully assembled, disassembled, modified, expanded, and deployed by young people. In 2015, through a grant from the U.S. EPA, we were given the opportunity to provide this training to a new audience - middle-school students. Native Americans are the most underrepresented population in STEM professions. We help demystify solar technology for Native youth, building their confidence to enter tech-based career paths. We are now working with Tribal schools in South Dakota, California, and New Mexico to integrate this curriculum into Native students' science courses.
This is a time of great change and opportunity for our country's First Peoples. We believe it is important that these changes truly benefit Native American tribes, making them less energy dependent while, at the same time, providing more skills and green jobs. At Trees, Water & People, we are committed to changing the tribal energy approach by creating new ways to honor the old ways.