A solar panel in the Oceti Sakowin community. Photo by MIT Solve

Native Sun News Today: Oceti Sakowin Fellows aim to help their communities

MIT announces $60,000 to first-ever Oceti Sakowin fellows

By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health & Environment Editor

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Six social entrepreneurs of the Oceti Sakowin will receive $10,000 each to strengthen renewable energy, food and water initiatives through the Solve Fellowships that the applicants earned in recent competition, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced April 25.

Fellowships culminate on Aug. 12-13, when participants are set to gather for what administrators call “a celebration of the impactful sustainability work in Indian Country.”

Slated to take place at Standing Rock, the celebration is designed as a public exposition on project progress and potential in this first-ever “Fellowship to Support Innovation in the Oceti Sakowin Community,” which is part of the 4-year-old MIT Solve marketplace program, carried out in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab.

Winners will receive “tailored support from MIT to advance renewable energy, food, and water projects,” administrators said in the announcement of a total $60,000 connected with the partnership process.

The winners are: Kimberlynn Cameron, for Sustainable Community Development on Standing Rock; Henry Red Cloud, for Bringing Energy Independence to Tribal Camps and Communities; Rose Fraser, for Medicine Root Garden Program; Joseph McNeil, for Rock Solar Community Offset Project; Chance Renville, for Thunder Valley Energy; and Phyllis Young, for Energy Efficiency/Solar for Tribal Buildings at Standing Rock.

Dakota Access Pipeline water protectors’ camps, pitched to support tribal litigation against construction, “taught us a lot about the energy needs of off-grid camps,” said fellowship recipient Henry Red Cloud, whose mobile power system is shown here at a Standing Rock camp in North Dakota. Photo by Talli Nauman / Native Sun News Today

Young and LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, as finalists in MIT’s Disobedience Awards contest earlier this year, were instrumental in attracting the technology match, according to Rachael Drew, who oversees the unprecedented grant opportunity.

Solve’s Executive Director Alex Amouyel said her team is “excited to embark on this mutual exchange with native communities,” which is “leveraging the existing talent and ingenuity of local innovators, while engaging MIT students, faculty, and staff as well as the Solve community to support their projects.”

Cameron’s project is to create a culturally appropriate home-and-garden community-building prototype on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, using renewable energy to advance food self-sufficiency.

“Having grown up on Standing Rock, I understand the importance and need for adequate housing that is culturally-appropriate, affordable, and healthy,” said Cameron, who is a South Dakota School of Mines & Technology student.

“I also understand the current need to develop innovative business opportunities that will not only be successful, but also align with the cultural values, belief system, and traditional way of life,” she said in her project proposal.

“This project not only provides a bridge from our world to the world we see from our reservation boundaries, it also allows for utilizing renewable energy to power a greenhouse operation to provide year-round growing seasons with environmentally conscious ideals in conjunction with a business mindset, infrastructure growth and educational development, and a multifaceted solution to creating a self-sustaining, truly sovereign and independent community,” she said.

Red Cloud aims to make available four types of solar equipment providing off-grid energy and heat to at least three Keystone XL Pipeline construction resistance camps and at least one Enbridge Line Three camp.

“It is impossible to tell how many additional camps will sprout up over the hundreds of miles of planned construction,” he said in his proposal. Water protectors’ camps that previously were pitched to support tribal litigation against construction “taught us a lot about the energy needs of off-grid camps,” he said.

His proposal offers mobile power stations, consisting of 5' x 8' trailers generating approximately one kilowatt of solar power and handcart sized units putting out several hundred watts. It provides electric lighting with a simple solar panel and LED system that comfortably fit in a 5-gallon bucket. Off-grid solar furnaces will supply up to 30 percent of a small dwelling's heat.

“We will also provide training and work with solar champions who want to bring renewable energy applications back to their tribes,” he said. “Our goal is to utilize the camps' unique ability to attract diverse tribal members to spread solar technology and training to many more than the 40-plus tribes we have worked with so far.”

Red Cloud has trained Native Americans to build and install renewable energy for 20 years through his Lakota Solar Enterprises and his Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.


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(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

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