On Saturday, the South Dakota Democratic Party nominated renewable energy entrepreneur Henry Red Cloud for the Public Utilities Commission.
Red Cloud lives and works on the Pine Ridge Reservation, where 40% of residents live without access to electricity. Red Cloud founded Lakota Solar Enterprises to produce passive solar heating units; he advertises an off-grid solar furnace as cutting electricity consumption by up to 25%. Red Cloud also established the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center to teach his neighbors about the benefits of renewable energy and train people for green energy jobs. The RCREC includes “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.”
Red Cloud will face the seemingly formidable but surprisingly beatable incumbent Chris Nelson, who joined the PUC in 2011 on the appointment of Dennis Daugaard after losing the 2010 Republican U.S. House primary to upstartish Kristi Noem. Nelson has the advantage of incumbency, but Red Cloud’s family has a history of beating the odds. He is a fifth-generation descendant of Maȟpíya Lúta, Chief Red Cloud, who defeated the U.S. Army and held the Powder River Country in the 1860s before signing the Fort Laramie Treaty.
Henry Red Cloud won’t be taking up bows and rifles to kick us off the land we took from his ancestors, but he says his people can enhance their culture and sovereignty with modern energy technology:
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” [biography, Lakota Solar Enterprises, downloaded 2016.06.26].
Our PUC campaign will thus see renewable energy and tribal power brought to the fore, an unexpected tandem of issues that we can hope will bring more attention to the Public Utilities Commission contest.