Henry Red Cloud Challenges Chris Nelson for PUC Seat

On Saturday, the South Dakota Democratic Party nominated renewable energy entrepreneur Henry Red Cloud for the Public Utilities Commission.

Henry Red Cloud (back row, third from right), Democratic nominee for PUC, with family, friends, and SDDP delegates, Democratic state convention, Sioux Falls, SD, 2016.06.25.
Henry Red Cloud (back row, third from right), following his nomination as candidate for PUC, with family, friends, and SDDP delegates, Democratic state convention, Sioux Falls, SD, 2016.06.25.

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.

19 Responses to Henry Red Cloud Challenges Chris Nelson for PUC Seat

  1. Paul Seamans

    Is it coincidence that this announcement was made on the day that 140 years ago Henry’s forefathers were able to stave off an attack of his people at the Greasy Grass. I personally like Chris Nelson but his decision to approve the certification of the Keystone XL permit when the presidential permit was denied tells me that we need new blood in the PUC.

  2. mike from iowa


    Those poor,pitiful Canadian investors get the widdle feelers hurt. At least the US didn’t go into Canada and take their land away from them.

  3. We have much to learn about living with nature from our Native American brothers and sisters.

  4. Paul, I vote coincidence. But don’t let coincidence stop our pursuit of meaning. :-)

    Red Cloud has helped keep KILI Radio on the air with solar power:


  5. Naomi Klein featured Red Cloud as an exemplar of renewable energy practices in her book This Changes Everything, in which Klein reports that Red Cloud tells his students there are times to take small steps and times to “run like a buffalo.” To beat Chris Nelson and other Republicans in Pierre, we need to run hard like buffalo.

  6. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr.

    The Democrats in 2016 have fielded an impressive slate for South Dakota. The South Dakota Democratic Party offers to the people of South Dakota this year a computer scientist for the US Senate, a female educator for the US House, and a descendant of the great Chief Red Cloud and a leader in the solar energy movement for the PUC.

    While the Grand Old Party in South Dakota rehashes a basketball player, the same thing once again but with a new hairdo, and a perennial partisan hack for the voters of South Dakota….

  7. Thank you, John KC! The party should pick that marketing line.

  8. I know Mr. Red Cloud. You will not find a more genuine, hard working, positive and patient person on this planet. His work ethic is amazing. He gets his hands dirty building things yet has time to make impacts locally, regionally and worldwide. I also agree with John KC. But I would add the Democrats are also fielding a brilliant, bike riding, door knocking young teacher from Aberdeen. ..as well as Mr. Winegar et al.

  9. There’s another endorsement for Red Cloud! He’s on a roll! Who else likes him?

    (Thanks for including Mark and me in your positive evaluation, Spike! We’ll be happy to support a Commissioner Red Cloud with good legislation!)

  10. mike from iowa

    Slightly OT,but, what a piece of Americana it would be to trace this gentleman’s family history back to the beginning. Wow, just wow!

    Got a ? for Spike, if you don’t mind. I read somewhere that Lakota and their relatives don’t like to be addressed as Sioux because it is considered an insult. What gives?


    dems need a place on the commission so badly, though it’ll often be a 2-1 vote agaist us, liberal progressive environmentalist Native voice at the table at every state decision is crucuial to turn this red state around. it’ll take a few years, but Red Cloud can build this into a seriously powerful position in state government. Denny will have to listen!!

    way to go Red Cloud!!
    You will earn every penny of that $100k paycheck. good on yah

  12. Is it possible that young Dr. Bosworth will run for this seat as an independent, drawing most of her votes from Mr. Red Cloud’s supporting base and fracturing this seeming certain Democrat win for the PUC?

  13. not drinking conservatively this weekend, eh grudz?

  14. Paul Seamans

    mfi, if I may share my thoughts on your question to Spike. What most people think of as “The Great Sioux Nation” prefers to be known as the “Oceti Sakowin”. This includes the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota. Generally the Lakota are west of the Missouri River, the Nakota in Minnesota, and the Dakota in between. I try not to use the word Sioux but instead am trying to use Oceti Sakowin out of respect. Spike, please correct me or expand on this if you would.

  15. “Sioux” was derived from several words… “nadouessioux” was a french and Ojibwa combined word meaning “little snakes” . Shortened to sioux in english. Never what the Oceti Sakowin called themselves but evolved into various sioux tribes as they were forced onto reservations.. the Oceti Sakowin (7 council fires) was a complex group of seven nations. Those seven nations spoke 3 dialects- Lakota, Nakota and Dakota. Which commonly mean – friend or ally.

    The seven nations were made up of 7 various bands. They were a powerful group roaming and controlling the great plains in the 1800’s.

    The Oglalas were part of the Teton band and became called the Pine Ridge Sioux but now call themselves the Oglala. The Sicangu were part of the Teton band and are now the Rosebud Sioux but prefer the name Sicangu. Each band and sub bands have their story.

    It is a complex history. Not quite wiped out at gunpoint over our holdings when the demand for land outweighed the rights these bands held to their territory. So by gunpoint and broken treaty the people were forced into reservations in a survival mode. Resulting in a mixing of the various sub groups within the bands. N now we have what we do today.

    We are not terribly offended to be called Sioux, but recognize natives as Lakota Nakota or Dakota (or members of other tribes such as Cheyenne, Navajo, Ojibwa, Comanche, etc) or as a Sicangu, Oglala, Yanktoni, Sisseton, etc and you will gain their respect and friendship. And they are also proud Americans. Many of Red Clouds direct decendents and band members are US Military veterans who defended this country when needed. And died for it too.

    Red Clouds war was fought in the powder River Country in northern Wyoming. 1866 to 1868. It was the Lakota defending their Powder River homelands (that had been reserved for them in the 1858 treaty with the US) against encroaching US Military. This war resulted in the 1868 treaty. The natives continued to get the best of the U.S. in the Treaty negotiations so after 1868 Congress just passed laws to take more treaty lands and force the Oceti Sakowin onto diminished reservations. …at gunpoint. ……

    Vote for the Solar Warrior. He will make this state a better place for all.


  16. A budding leaf of hope for this good earth! I support Red Cloud!

  17. mike from iowa

    Not sure where I can get better history lessons about Native Americans. Thanks very much, Spike.

  18. I have personally know Henry Red Cloud for over 20 years .and i can say no man every worked
    harder for his tribe for his life time or loves solar power so much. he be a great man for the job
    for Public Utilities Commissioner in south dakota
    Medicine Turtle Cherokee nation