Nonprofit Covenant Tribal Solar Initiative receives nearly $800,000 MacArthur grant for solar projects

Covenant Tribal Solar Initiative, a Native-led nonprofit that empowers American Indian tribes to replace extractive energy systems with clean, regenerative energy, has received a $775,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for her work supporting Native American tribes as they strive for energy sovereignty and a return to self-determination.

“The MacArthur Foundation is investing significantly in the fight against climate change and is putting a new emphasis on its impact on BIPOC communities,” said Chéri Smith, founder of Covenant Tribal Solar Initiative. “We are honored that the Foundation has recognized the importance and urgency of our mission to empower Native American tribes to develop and use renewable energy to restore their self-reliance. Like the MacArthur Foundation, we are committed to supporting the reinvention of systems that promote just, equitable and resilient indigenous communities. Replacing extractive energy systems with clean, regenerative energy is a transformational solution to a pressing problem,” Smith said.

“As we emerge from this moment of crisis, we have an opportunity to improve the critical systems that people and places need to thrive. Our systems and structures need to be rebuilt,” said John Palfrey, president of the MacArthur Foundation. “We are committed to ensuring that our response to the pandemic is focused on supporting the reimagining of systems that create a fairer, fairer and more resilient world.”

Disproportionately high electricity rates and discriminatory utilities exacerbate the deep poverty and hardship often experienced in American Indian reservations. Globally, solar energy has the potential for significant positive effects on economic, social and environmental systems. In Native American communities – where a smaller electric bill means more money for food, medicine and other necessities – solar energy has an exponentially greater impact and aligns with indigenous belief systems.

“For eons, my people were self-reliant. The earth provided for all our needs. The devastating effects of colonization, western expansion, apparent fate and the deliberate extermination of the buffalo by settlers have robbed us of our ability to fend for ourselves, leaving us dependent on outsiders for survival,” said Otto Braided Hair, Northern Cheyenne tribal member. and co-founder and executive director of Covenant Tribal Solar Initiative. “This funding supports critical efforts to ensure that the regenerative results of solar deployment will bring about a systemic change in the economic and social conditions in our indigenous communities, leading to a restoration of our self-reliance and hope. When we get out of a pandemic, this is more important than ever.”

Leveraging funding, philanthropy and impact investments from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Covenant Tribal Solar Initiative’s scope over the next 12 months includes the development of residential, commercial and utility projects totaling more than three megawatts on the northern Cheyenne reservation, and more about the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. As more money comes in, the work of the Covenant Tribal Solar Initiative will expand to other tribes.

News item from Covenant Tribal Solar Initiative

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