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  • Writer's pictureLucas Nava

Granholm: "Tribal engagement isn’t a box to be checked — it's a partnership to be forged"

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The U.S. Department of Energy, alongside the National Conference of State Legislatures, concluded its seventh Tribal Clean Energy Summit on Oct. 5.

Across two days, the conference saw 350 participants and more than 60 Tribal leaders discuss Tribal energy concerns, according to an Oct. 6 news release. DOE leaders, including Department Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm and DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy Programs Director Wahleah Johns, met with participants to discuss such topics.

“For the Biden-Harris administration, Tribal engagement isn’t a box to be checked — it's a partnership to be forged,” Granholm said in the release. “It was an honor to sit with Tribal leaders and hear how the Department can better align our resources with their vision for a clean energy future — to chart a path forward — together — that advances Tribal energy sovereignty, strengthens energy independence, and addresses the climate crisis.”

During the summit, Tribal leaders also took part in a high-level overview of key DOE programs, a moderated Tribal leader-focused caucus discussion, and a roundtable talk regarding Tribal energy sovereignty with Granholm, the release reported.

“We know that progress takes commitment, and the Department of Energy is committed to strengthening Tribal energy sovereignty," Johns said in the release. "This means ensuring that Tribal communities have access to the historic funding opportunities available and being a partner to Tribal Nations’ goals of a cleaner, safer, and more prosperous energy future. The future is bright for Indian Country, and we know that when Tribes succeed, the United States energy security is strengthened.”

“What a great conference! Good job DOE! I was able to spend some quality time with DOE staff, along with other Tribal Leaders,” said Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer, according to the release. “The Navajo Nation looks very much forward to continuing collaboration with DOE. Thank you and great job to Director Johns — Ahéhee!”

Oklahoma Caddo Nation Principal Executive Officer and Chairman Bobby Gonzalez noted it is a benefit to see the DOE acknowledge the potential of Tribal lands to produce energy, the release reported.

“As the United States moves towards a cleaner future, it’s so important to continue these government-to-government conversations with Tribal nations to ensure that we strike an equitable balance on energy resources that preserves our ability to maintain our Tribal sovereignty and protects our natural and cultural resources,” Gonzalez said in the release.

“Coming to Washington D.C. from Southeast Alaska is quite a journey for meetings. Our unique needs in my community are not normally understood or considered. I feel that this summit was very successful, and I feel heard for my community,” said Metlakatla Indian Community Councilman Keolani K. Booth, according to the release. “I am bringing home a great wealth of information and new relationships that I think put my Tribe and Indian Country in a better place than ever before.”

In the release, Southern Ute Indian Tribe Chairman Melvin J. Baker commented on how nice it was to learn about the different opportunities available to Indian Country and Alaska.

"Every tribe is different as well as their needs for their homelands," Baker said in the release. "I look forward to the next summit!"

"We thank the Congress and the White House on enactment and implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act and deeply appreciate the historic investments in renewable energy infrastructure that will enable us to achieve energy self-reliance and self-determination,” said Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Fort Hall Business Council Vice Chair Donna Thompson, the release reported. “We appreciate the efforts of the Department of Energy to work closely with us to help ensure that the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes can fully utilize available federal resources under these laws to meet the energy needs of future generations.”

Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation Chairman Mark Fox noted he previously met Granholm and commended her efforts in working with Tribal Nations, according to the release. He also expressed hope that those efforts continue.

“As an energy-producing Tribe, we have much experience in regulation and responsible development," Fox said in the release. "As we further develop our renewable energy projects, we look forward to a streamlined funding process."

“The Tribal Clean Energy Summit was valuable to build relationships with DOE, especially with Pueblos, because Tribes are at all different stages in the journey toward energy sovereignty,” said Jemez Pueblo Director of Natural Resources Clarice Madalena, the release reported.

“Climate impacts to resources that Tribal people require for life has reached catastrophic levels. As a Tribal Independent Power Producer, Energy Keepers Inc. was excited to participate in this year’s Tribal Clean Energy Summit as we look forward to partnering with DOE to bring additional renewable energy to the country and begin addressing these impacts," Energy Keepers Inc. CEO Brian Lipscomb said in the release.

He said recent legislation offered a new opportunity for Tribes to contribute to "the country's energy transition and reinvest in Tribal communities," according to the release. Energy Keepers is a wholly owned corporation of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

"This year’s summit did a great job of launching meaningful opportunities for Tribes to benefit from the new programs created by the legislation,” Lipscomb said in the release.

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