Nourish by MN350

A Healing Path

May 25, 2021 MN350 Season 2 Episode 4
A Healing Path
Nourish by MN350
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Nourish by MN350
A Healing Path
May 25, 2021 Season 2 Episode 4

This week on Nourish by MN350, volunteer host and architect of the Headwaters Community Food & Water Bill (HF1332/SF1580), Marita Bujold, welcomes two members of the Red Lake Nation, Robert Blake and David Manuel. 

Robert is the founder and director of Solar Bear and Native Sun Community Power.*

David Manuel co-directs the tribe’s food sovereignty initiative. 

Together with their community, they are pursuing local energy and food sovereignty as a pathway to climate resiliency and freedom from the extractive fossil fuel and industrial food economies imposed by colonization.

Armed with a fierce commitment to care for Turtle Island (earth) and guided by traditional native wisdom, this community is collaborating with other tribal communities to create a promising, healing and enduring future.

Our listeners cannot fail to be inspired by the courageous leadership and transformative, local energy and food economy being shaped by Robert, David and our brothers and sisters of the Red Lake Nation. 

*Solar Bear is the first native-owned solar installation company. Native Sun Community Power

is a native run, non-profit organized to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency and a just transition through education, workforce training and demonstration.

Learn how the economy created by the Headwaters Community Food & Water Bill. (HF1332/SF1580) will yield abundant sources of food, clean water, capture carbon and nurture the health and well being of all communities.

Take heart. By following the proven leaders, our communities can create the resilient food economy we need for living sustainably.

Read a one page description of the economic resiliency program

CTA join MN350 Action’s campaign

Listen to MN350 Nourish podcast

Show Notes Transcript

This week on Nourish by MN350, volunteer host and architect of the Headwaters Community Food & Water Bill (HF1332/SF1580), Marita Bujold, welcomes two members of the Red Lake Nation, Robert Blake and David Manuel. 

Robert is the founder and director of Solar Bear and Native Sun Community Power.*

David Manuel co-directs the tribe’s food sovereignty initiative. 

Together with their community, they are pursuing local energy and food sovereignty as a pathway to climate resiliency and freedom from the extractive fossil fuel and industrial food economies imposed by colonization.

Armed with a fierce commitment to care for Turtle Island (earth) and guided by traditional native wisdom, this community is collaborating with other tribal communities to create a promising, healing and enduring future.

Our listeners cannot fail to be inspired by the courageous leadership and transformative, local energy and food economy being shaped by Robert, David and our brothers and sisters of the Red Lake Nation. 

*Solar Bear is the first native-owned solar installation company. Native Sun Community Power

is a native run, non-profit organized to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency and a just transition through education, workforce training and demonstration.

Learn how the economy created by the Headwaters Community Food & Water Bill. (HF1332/SF1580) will yield abundant sources of food, clean water, capture carbon and nurture the health and well being of all communities.

Take heart. By following the proven leaders, our communities can create the resilient food economy we need for living sustainably.

Read a one page description of the economic resiliency program

CTA join MN350 Action’s campaign

Listen to MN350 Nourish podcast

 Marita 01:21

Well, hello, and welcome to nourish. I'm your host, Marita Bujold. We are coming to you from the original homeland of the Dakota and Anishinaabe peoples, or what is known today as Minnesota.

And today, we welcome to community leaders from the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe Indians, Robert Blake, who is the owner of Solar Bear and the director of native sun community power development, and David Manuel, farm incubator coordinator for the food sovereignty program at Red Lake. So welcome to both of you. Very excited to have you on the program today.

So, we really want to hear today, stories from your community. both of you have have taken on some fairly significant initiatives that clearly are about caring for your community and, and driving a different story, a different narrative in communities that that have been, for a long time, driven by other outside concerns, outside forces.

So it's really exciting to consider how food sovereignty and energy sovereignty, these two goals can change what happens in communities. So that's what we'd like to talk about today. I think I'm going to begin with you, Robert, because you have two really amazing projects that you worked on over a number of years now, in addition to all of your education that you've been pursuing. So I'd love to hear about how you got started with Solar Bear, and then how how the native sun project emerged from your dedication to renewable and efficient energy sources for your community. So perhaps you could start by telling us about Solar Bear.

Robert 03:16

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, Marita, for having me. And this is really cool that you had a podcast. It's been incredible. I created a business plan for Solar Bear about 10 years ago. And I read a book from Van Jones the Green Revolution book  I lent my copy out, and I never got it back.

But I read that book and saw there was just this opportunity for, that I've never seen in my lifetime. Just this incredible transition that I thought that the world was going to be going through. And little did I know that there was going to be a pandemic to like, really give all of us this opportunity to really think about our choices and where we are, and how we want to see a new future. And so, everything is timing, right. And we had some conversations and Red Lake around renewable energy, solar in particular. And wind, hydro, you know, you name it, there's been different studies that have been done. the forces or the the powers that be wanted to create an opportunity for the tribe to to get off of fossil fuel.

And, it was the walleye population that we saw that was having a lot of mercury content and the walleye. The walleye is really important to Red Lake, and we really have this opportunity here to start transitioning to renewable energy future. And we know that fossil fuels are, you know, with the mercury coming down from the clouds, you know, we know that we had to do this, so they're creating an opportunity that we could create jobs, create businesses, and here we are. So you're 10 years later, so to speak.

And we're building it. And so this has been really exciting. To be a part of this. I was thinking about, like, my grandma telling me that one of the greatest, things that a person could do is be of service to their community. And, and that just makes me think about, like, you know, just the stuff that we're doing is, is really important to the community. And, obviously, being of service to the community is one way of doing this round up with Solar Bear and, of course, renewable energy. So yeah, that's basically how solar got started. so I hope that there's other job opportunities, I hope there's other companies that spring off of this, and that's the idea. So creating a power source in the community, I think if we go back to the beginning of time, how energy has always propelled human human beings forward.

 You look at what fire did for our diets, you look at what, you know, the Industrial Revolution done for society as a whole, I believe we're in that another transition right now. And this is what renewable energy is going to do for mankind now, and it's pushed us forward. And I really feel like tribal nations can really be at the forefront of all this, and really be leading the way, I will say, a lot of my talks that it was native peoples responsibility to take care of Turtle Island before anybody ever got here. And it's going to be our responsibility to take care of this place once everybody leaves. And so, you know, it's always been native peoples responsibility to take care of this place. And that's why we have to really lead and, you know, in the last administration, when we were doing all this work, I was said to that, there's 573 tribal nations that are here on Turtle Island.

 And I said, what if, what if all these tribal nations decided to, to sign on to the Paris Climate treaty accord? And, what would that look like if your United States is backing out? And all of his tribes are backing in right? Would that save the world and, and I always thought to myself that you know, we can't take back the land physically.You know, we can't create an army and fight the United States again, but we could take it back morally and the time is now and so that's why all this work around renewable energy is so important, especially to to tribal nations, and to native people.

And I also want to say Marita, that you know, I think that's how come you're seeing so many like native people run for office right now. Because there is this awakening there is this like conscience that is happening around the country around Turtle Island. And you see all these native people running because we know that we're hurting our mother we know that we're hurting the planet we know that we're hurting the environment. and you see a lot of people running for office because we know that policy is where we have to change and and you know, and get off this colonial capitalism kind of mindset and start being at one with the planet and be at peace with the environment instead of at war with it and so there's just so many connections here. And Solar Bear was really sprung out of this need that we wanted to create a carbon free future for our tribe. And so that's, that's how Solar Bear got started.


Marita Bujold : 09:50

Well, you identified some really key themes of course, between, just in general how humans are going to organize themselves on the planet in order to take care of it, because this is our home, right? And then how that relates to food sovereignty as well. So I, I'd like to have a chance to learn a bit more from David about what's happening food sovereignty and the that Leadership Initiative, and then come back again to some of your comments, Robert. So, David, I know, you're working with Cherilyn Spears, also at the Red Lake community. So there's leadership for a food sovereignty, movement, really, in the community. And, from what I read it, it's very much grounded in planning that's been going on, it sounds like planning that Robert referred to as well, in the tribal community, to understand, what is going to really benefit our community here. And it's so exciting to think about the promising aspects of having a local food system based on the principles of food sovereignty, and the culture, the traditional culture of the Ojibwe people. So could you tell us a bit about what you're doing with that program in the community and how it's influencing the young people and the foods and diets of the the community?

David 11:41

Back in about 2015, we elected a new chairman. And his name is Darrell Seki. And he took it upon himself to have community meetings around the reservation. And he asked tribal members, you know, what is important to you? so many topics were discussed. we all of course, want to talk about education and crime, economic development.

But one thing that kept resurfacing was growing our own food, having gardens. And I was actually at that council meeting. And it was good to see Cherilyn Spears, she's been at this from the very beginning. Along with Sharon James, who also works for the Red Lake community as executive director of for directions development, nonprofit that I actually partner with as an employee of economic development and planning.

So Cherilyn and Sharon, under the auspices of economic development, and planning back in 2015, developed this plan. And they started off with a couple of small grants. One from the Notah Begay III Foundation, who is a Native American golfer, real cool guy, has a foundation wants to combat diabetes, obesity, childhood obesity. And that's how we began, we began because we seen a need to address diet related health disparities in our diets here, in Red Lake.

A lot of it, you know, we live in a food desert, up hear in Red Lake. And that's what we are really trying to address from a number of angles we live in the 21st century. I’m 21st century Anishinaabe. I've come from a long line of people who lived here since the 16th century, maybe earlier. So I'll have I have a deep connection to this land and so did my ancestors and they were actually very self sufficient. They do not rely on any government for their foods.

Today is a different story. We live in a global economy, and I think we're starting to see the cracks and the imperfections of this so called great capitalistic system. I know I do, and so does Cherilyn. And so we, you know, we're at 40% unemployment, okay?

I don't want to get on a rant of between haves and have nots, we, I think, just want enough to be able to enjoy our life. We love our Lake, we love our land. And we don't want to give it up. It's never been partitioned like other reservations, and it's going to stay that way. we are control, we decide what's best for us.

And along with what Robert is thinking, you know, you know, being energy dependent. I mean, look what happened in Texas, Oh, my gosh, you know, we don't want that to happen to Red Lake.

So both these initiatives, you know, starting to think about addressing our own food needs, and our energy needs is a way of a nation needs to think, then that's how we are thinking.

I train tribal members, if you want to get down to the nuts and bolts of what I do. I'm on my way to sugar bush camp two miles north here, up in Ponemah. When I train tribal members how to extract a living from the land. That was put there was a gift from the creator for us. And we historically have harvested those that sugar and not only do we keep some for ourselves, but we trade it is for other things as well with first with other tribes, and then with the French, and then the English and then eventually the Americans.

So that's just one example. You know, we can talk about going fruits and vegetables. You know, Cherilyn's wonderful project out there of the buffalo project, we currently have, I believe seven, actually, bison, mashkode-bizhiki, how you say it in Ojibwe. And she's also opening up another eight acres out there for vegetable production. So what I'm hoping is that people I train will go out there and work. And then that way we've created jobs, and those vegetables will come back and surplus will be sold to external markets for to create revenue streams coming in.

And then people can out here  on the reservation can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables without a completely artificially large carbon footprint that our food does now. So we're addressing a lot of things here. And so as soon as Mr. Blake, my brother, Mr. Blake, oh, I don't know, I think I I want to just put that in a nutshell, and that we are a team, you know, when there's a lot of people that are not getting mentioned here, but, you know, they are hardworking, you know, dedicated and believe in on this mission.


Marita 18:29

So what I'm hearing is that this really began as a community conversation, and community members identified the values of their community and the needs that were not yet being met. And then a plan was created from that. And it sounds as though you're really creating a pathway forward for your community that's about a local food system that can be maintained long term. 


And this and this plan created the job I have now for the last five years. And I am grateful and we feel our hard work throughout the years as past five years, we've created probably about four or five, six jobs as we keep growing. So it's definitely worth our time.


And, and the other thing you identified, which I think is so key, especially, especially now, I mean you refer to the pandemic, and  that incident in Texas with the storm where the energy system broke down. And and then you also identified the fact that what you're doing actually means that your carbon footprint is being reduced by actually growing food locally. 


David 20:00

And also you mentioned was the pandemic. And that further cemented our belief in that we were on the right track. And being, you know, Bemidji businesses, they want us to be dependent on them for their goods and services. The entire movement we're involved in, involves creating goods and services produced right here further creates jobs and opportunities, and I actually will strengthen Bemidji and Beltrami. So everyone wins in this, in this plan. The entire region.


Marita 20:43

It's, it's a really exciting and promising story. I mean, I read also about what you're doing, Robert, with the energy generation through solar power, and how that ends up bringing those local dollars and keeping those local dollars in your community. Obviously, what there's a real connection there to the the food sovereignty work as well. So maybe you could tell us a bit more about how the, the work that you're doing will help the community generate the energy that they need, and then what that means going forward. For your community, especially through the lens of the work you're doing with the Native Sun Economic Development.


Robert 21:37

Yeah, so you know, the the project total is about 20 megawatts of solar, that we've got planned for the community. And the idea here is to create a travel utility. And with that travel utility will also create jobs, right.

And the concept behind all of this kind of, kind of David alluded to it to was, you know, for us, you know, this extractive colonial capitalist system is always preying on our community. And so what we want to do is turn the table, and we want to be able to set the rules as far as how we deal with the outside. And, and that's the idea behind this project, right. And so, you know, my thought is, if I can get the entire community moving in one direction. So that means that if I'm working with the kids, if I'm, if I'm working with the youth, if I'm working with the adults around workforce development, working with the youth around education, creating the employment opportunities through the utility, that what I'm going to see, and what I'm hoping to see is that I'm going to see the disparities that are plaguing this community fall to the wayside. That's my hope. Right. So, you know, can renewable energy help cure human health crisis, like I believe, is taking place a native country right now, because our value system isn't aligned with the outsides value system? And that's that, like I said, that colonial capitalism extractive kind of mindset, and so, you know, we native people have a problem with that. And, you know, that's why when you hear David talk about, you know, how we want to grow our own food, how do we want to be reliant on the system?, I think, maybe five years ago, when everybody was hearing me talk about when I was screaming all this around renewable energy, and why it's important to create micro grids and distributed energy resources, and, you know, these utilities and stuff like that, I think I must have sounded crazy. But now, I think, a lot of tribal nations are teetering on bankruptcy, becausethe casinos are teetering on bankruptcy, because of the pandemic. And I don't look so crazy anymore,they looking at me, like,, oh, he's talking some sense now. And what I was telling people is, the gaming industry is a billion dollar industry. While the energy industry is a trillion dollar industry, we're in the wrong business, and so what we're creating there is really going to be helping everyone, because, you see, Native people are the only people with this unique relationship with the government. We have our own government inside this government. And when our government, our federal, or state governments, you know, fail to stand up for us like in the case of line three, in these pipelines, when they're when they don't stand up for the people. They're not representing the people anymore.

They’re representing the corporations and tribal nations, such as Red Lake have a responsibility, to human beings to mankind, right. Like, we know, this, our responsibility is much deeper than our federal and state governments. And our relationship, our obligation is to the people. And you see that when Red Lake, stands up to Enbridge and turns down $60 million, you know how far $60 million can go in my community? We have an average income up there in Red Lake of $10,000 a year. You know what $60 million can do for that community? So, you know, when they turn down that kind of money, that really speaks to the resolve that, Red Lake has, and to what native people have, right, and the responsibility they have to this Turtle Island to this planet, Mother Earth. And they do it by their actions, right. And so that's why I say, like, you know, this is this is much bigger than just a solar project, this is much bigger than just food sovereignty, what we're trying to do is prepare the rest of this country in the world for what's going to be happening with climate change. Climate change is no joke. And it's going to come at us very quickly. And we need to start preparing for it right now. We call the Midwest, the breadbasket of the world, right? We just had a hurricane come through Iowa last year. Okay, we have flooding, like we've never seen it before. We have fires, like we've never seen it before. We've got natural disasters happening left and right, this is going to disrupt our systems, people are going to die. and we need to start addressing these issues right now. And so what we're doing in Red Lake is really trying to experiment and show people that we can do this as a community, right. And then let's take these lessons and use them in Fifth Ward, Houston. Use them in Liberty City, Florida using them in Compton, California, use them in Brainerd, Minnesota, like this is the only way that politicians are going to listen, if they see the quantitative and qualitative data that we're able to show from this project, right, and able to show what we're doing, then they're gonna sit there and say, “Well, if it can work in Red Lake for a bunch of Indians, than then it can probably work over here for a bunch of us, other people,” you see what I'm saying? And so that's the thing that we're, that's what I believe, that we're trying to do here is show the other people that there's a different way. And the problem is, is that we have corporations that won't allow us to do this, they're in the hands of these politicians. And these politicians listen to the money. And so that's what's guiding them. They're clouded right now. They're not representing the people. And so that's why when Red Lake stands up the way it does, especially to the to this to this foreign company like Enbridge, you know, it really shows them that, listen, we can't be bought, that this is more than just, money, it's about the earth, it's about our future generations. You know, it's about thinking seven generations ahead. David was talking before about our chairman, Chairman Seki, about Darrell, and that is one thing, I've really appreciated from him and how supportive he's been of, of just, you know, what I've had to say, and he's in, in, in, in this work that I've been talking about, and how he's just supported it. And, you know, that's the kind of leadership we need on all levels, federal, state, and tribal: people that think seven generations ahead. And because it's this four quarter mentality, that's first second, second quarter, third quarter, fourth quarter business mentality that has got us into this mess. And if we continue to think that way,we're going to create eco suicide. We're dying, you know.

And so, that is the whole premise behind why I created Native Sun. I created Native Sun, as a nonprofit was because I was getting all these questions and all these people were asking me to do all these different things. And I couldn't do it through Solar Bear. I needed a nonprofit to do it. And so I needed that vehicle. And that's why I created native sun. And the premise here is to show what we can do here with Red Lake and then spread it out to the rest of native country. And incidentally, I'm getting so many calls. I mean, talk I've been getting calls from Oklahoma, New Mexico, Washington, Florida. Native people from all over Turtle Island, every calling me talking to me picking my brain, and it feels so good. And I'm even helping a guy out in Rocky Boy Montana start his solar company, he started it.

Another person down at Leech Lake is starting theirs. And it just, it just feels so good that Solar Bear and Native Sun could inspire some people to do this kind of work. So that was the whole premise and behind Native Sun, what, why we started. 


So it really all begins with Mother Earth, it begins with your traditional values to really care for her. And to do what's right, by caring for her. 


Yeah, and Marita, I want to say to like native people, like we're born with this responsibility, this is our birthright to take care of the planet to take care of the environment. You know, we're not on the NBA slam dunking balls, we're, we're not on Hollywood, on the movie screens, we're not, , up in Washington What, what it is, and this is what I want our kids to understand, is you were born with this, right? You are born with this responsibility to take care of the environment, to look out for Mother Earth, that's what native people are about, and to me, that is the greatest responsibility that I believe one could have. And I'm very proud of that. When I see,, other people or the native people struggling, with, like, where's my place in society or what not. Then I was thinking to myself, man, you're given this gift, like, we're given this gift, like, it's, it's like, we're born with it, and it just feels so. So right. It's feels so right to be involved in this space to be working in this space. I've never had a job in my life where everything I felt came together, like what I do now, this just feels like this is where I'm supposed to be. And and I wouldn't want to do anything else for the rest of my life.


Marita 32:35

What I'm hearing you say is that this is both a birthright and responsibility, but also a great honor to, to be a leader, to help your community see the potential and then create the economic conditions to make this work. This is the way of living as native peoples that and you're also showing the rest of the world. really how it can, how it can work, how important it is. I'd love to go back to what David had said too, about the pandemic revealing the the cracks in the system, you both have talked about that. How  we cannot continue to do the things that we've been doing within industrial food system with energy companies that refuse to to do what is needed in order for us to live sustainably. David, perhaps you could tell us more about what the stories you hear from the people that you work with in the food sovereignty group. How that has impacted them?


David 33:55

Well, I think it's really about education. And we've only been in existence five years and yes, we had people come through our program, go on to do their gardens and teach. Another thing that happened is that it rekindled elders, because there's a big gap. I mean, we're talking a large, chronological gap between when our commodities came and people stopped growing gardens and stopped sugar bushing, not everybody but just about everybody. There used to be a continuous five mile garden of corns and potatoes and other plants as well between Redby and Red Lake.

Prior to the 1900s and slowly development, commodities and canned food and whatnot. And also last succession, you know, the treaties and agreements that were forced upon us took away our, what we call indigenous food path. Those are seasonal journeys. You know, we are here in Red Lake, okay. But in fact, our territory one as far north as Rainy River and far south as Leech Lake and, and as far west as Bismarck. We hunted buffalo on horses we claim that territory and then eventually we ceded it. And this can be researched, we as worldly nation needed that large amount of land in order to survive.

And we were healthy. And we were prosperous, and through our trade and being able to harvest our own foods, and we were just fine. And we want to get back to that. And I also kind of want to touch on, Robert was talking about atmospheric mercury. Yes, we have a great water specialist team near Shane Bowe being one of them. They are continuously testing our lake’s water from different sources and points to keep track of that atmospheric mercury that is deposited in everybody's drinking water and lakes, most of it actually comes from China, but we generate a lot of atmospheric Mercury, also, through coal fired electrical plants. I believe there's one out by Fergus Falls or somewhere out west here Minnesota and we have as Minnesotans, have a responsibility to speak out and talk.

I also want to mention that you know, the program dollars that we spend are about purchasing organic seeds and doing things organic, and not putting money into, you know, fertilizers, ammonia, nitrus, you know, that's produced with petroleum products. It's, it's an incredible polluter greenhouse gases, that industry killer and of itself. So we essentially divest our precious dollars that we have, and eventually, even though we're buying organically certified seeds, now, eventually we'll create our own through seed saving.

I mean, there's a lot of things that we need to address, to re-educate. Again, our elders, they remember their grandparents doing what I did. So there's a, I mean, there's a big gap based on the trauma that was put upon us. So we got a lot of work to do. And establishing ourselves as,creating our own energy and growing our own food is a beginning. A very good one.


Marita 38:36

So it's a it's a very healing path that you're creating with this. 

David 38:47 

I hope so. It's also you know, just a good way of living. It seems like everyone is behind a computer now our children are growing up on games. I don't know I got I can address all that. You know, I'm just saying that we're providing an alternative. Okay. And we know I like it. It serves me well. 59 years old, I’m out there humping buckets of sap/ Healthy, Wealthy and Wise, because of it.


Marita 39:23

So you've identified some really key things and Bob mentioned them to the dependence on an industrial food system on on an electric grid that's owned by somebody else. And that is essentially publicly funded. When this is this is where our public dollars are invested.

You’re,really challenging that by creating a system that is locally based that is based on your own values and and is intended to create health and well being in your communities. this is where the promise lies. 


You know, I believe that local, the local food movement is growing and healthy in all localities across our nation, and in Native communities as well. And, and that's what we do a lot of, you know, we collaborate, like those indigenous seed savers network we work with, and we're all you know, collaborating with one another, to, you know, in response to, you know, we're not, we're not challenging anything, we just see the failure, or the shortcomings of this other system. And we feel that maybe we can create our own based on our values, and what we want to accomplish and what we want to leave behind for future generations.

I like to take the romanticism out of it, I like to look at the practicality. I mean, you really had to elicit, you know, the fact that that these are our values, and that's what we really don't speak about them, because it's just so ingrained in us we just assuming that everyone else thinks the same way. And you know, of course, we love them, you know, Mother Earth, and yes, Water is life, it goes without saying. Just don't buy a polyester t shirt that says water is life. Okay, I mean, you don't have to parade around your beliefs by buying bumper stickers and, and t shirts. Just live your life, be an example.


Marita 41:53

So when I said that you were challenging it, I was thinking that simply by demonstrating what it is that's possible and necessary. It is in a, in a sense a challenge to the story that's being suggested on the other side, that's really been told for a long time by industry, that they're the ones that can feed the world. They're the ones that we need to count on to lead. And it's just a false narrative, from all the evidence that's being shown around the world about who really is capable of growing food. 


Who really profits from feeding poor people commodities, so they can continue having more babies who are impoverished. Who profits from that?


Marita 42:48

Exactly. Again, this industry is publicly funded, which I think is one of the things that we need to begin to talk about seriously. It's one of the reasons that we're doing this podcast, of MN350 as a leader for climate solutions, but also, specifically, having a podcast to talk about how local food systems can sustain us is because MN350 has supported the Headwaters Community Food water bill, as a climate solution. And what we see you doing in your community by promoting and really advancing local food system and an energy system that sustainable is completely aligned with that. And so we want to be able to to help community see what's happening out in the world, these real world examples of visionary leadership. And clearly what you're doing is, in line with that, it's helping us see what's possible. 

Robert, you talked about that, especially in your comments about creating a truly sustainable energy grid is helping people see really what's possible. Now you're getting these calls from all over the country. I think both of you pointed to the what the pandemic has shown what these weather events shown these catastrophic weather events has shown how it's really essential that we do the work that you're doing to create a grid that is local and benefits the local people.


Robert 44:46

When you know when I was running for city council here in St. Paul, I was talking about, what you know, kind of rain is going to be dumped on the city and how that’s gonna bust the pipes and our infrastructure is not prepared for it. And this is all these things I was talking about around the environment, and we need to create, you know, gardens around this around the city here to, act as like air conditioners, because just the heat is going to just be incredibly hot, you know. And I had, I had one of the, one of the one of the people that voted for me reached out to me later out and said, I was incredible, because like, we had some pipes bursting in Minneapolis, because of the water, the water runoff. He was telling me how I was spot on with what I was saying, and it's happening quicker and faster than our smartest people can get their heads wrapped around. And I thought a lot of the stuff was going to be happening in 10 years, but we here are, you know, we've got to deal with it now. It really is, you know, something that, you know, we've got to address and Red Lake and and the work that we're doing up there, around just local food and, you know, local energy is just one of the things that I think that could help us move to, a new a new economy, right, a new way of thinking, and that that's what I'm really hoping that all this does. But for selfish reasons. I guess I'm just also hoping that this will just also, you know, have a good impact on our community and Red Lake too. That's the reason why I do this work. 

Marita: 46:49

Well, in the leadership that you're offering in the model that you create, is clearly resonating with other communities too. And in the partnerships that have been created, that David referred to, you know, we here, I live in the Twin Cities. So I've learned a little bit about what's happening with Dream of Wild Health, for instance, they're doing a really amazing seed saving project, in addition to all the work they do with youth. And they're just one of so many examples of native efforts to really revitalize native ways of caring for the earth and caring for communities that people are starting to wake up to, that is the key.


Robert 47:45

You're absolutely correct, because, you know, that's another thing too. And David, David mentioned it about working with the other tribes in this in the, you know, in the in around this, and Cody Two Bears when he had me out United Tribes Technical College to do the solar class. You know, he's out at Standing Rock, and we were just talking about how, you know, in the old days, our people would trade with each other, and how, when they had something good, they would share it with one another. And it was called good medicine, right? Like, we've got some good medicine to share with you to help to help, you know, you guys out, you know, and vice versa. And it was reciprocal. And I said, this is what we're doing. Again, this is what we have to do, again, we have to open up these lines of communication, again, we have to share our good medicine with one another. I felt like, that's what we were doing. the government, you know, the United States government basically had our tribes fight for these grants and for this money and made this competition mindset, that's the whole, you know, capitalism mindset of competing with one another, and, we got to get out of that mindset, and we've got to work with one another together, we can go farther, you know, by ourselves, we can go far we can go far. But if we work together, we can go farther. And, and that's really what I see happening, with this work that's happening, and that's what I'm, that's what really excites me, right? The sharing of the seeds, the sharing of the knowledge, the the working with one another.

Whenever I get a chance to speak to native people, or just people in general, you know, I jumped at it because everyone needs to hear this message. we're not gonna survive climate change if we don't work together. Like this is the greatest existential threat that our people are ever going to face,we have to come together.

And if we don't, then you know, we're gonna perish. And this is real, and it's happening quicker and faster than anyone could have ever imagined it. And so that's why this is so important. And that's why I'm so passionate about the work that I'm doing in Red Lake. Because if I can show a model, if I could show you the data, then then you can't argue with it. You can't argue with the science because it works. You know what I mean, and, our elders, and the people before us knew this. They had the knowledge, they got the knowledge. And so we just got to redo it, we just have to redo it for a new century for a new time. And, and it's all possible. I believe that we can do this, we have the technology, and we and we have the ability to face what's coming our way head on and we we can succeed.


Marita 51:00

You know, when I hear you talk about that concept of trade as good medicine, and that cooperative approach, I hear the echoes of Vandana Shiva, who is a leader in India. a leader of food sovereignty. She talks about how for hundreds of years, really 1000s of years, the communities of Southeast Asia treated in much the same way that you're talking about these indigenous communities all across those regions, who generated this wealth of diversity of foods and seeds. And they they traded it fairly with each other. And and saw it as you know, the bounty of their ecosystems was part of an economy developed specifically to make sure that everything got cared for, and, and that they share that knowledge between each other and then to the the younger generation so that they could then pass it on as well. It's what you're describing is, is just, it's what we need to do. It's what we've always needed to do. I think the sooner that communities, look at what you're doing, and say, that's where we want our public money invested, is that approach, the sooner we're on the path to being climate ready, and also healing our communities.


Robert 52:32

Yeah, and remember Marita, there's no big secret here. These corporations fund our colleges, they fund our businesses, they fund our high schools, they fund our school districts, they're there to be able to, you know, market, right, you know, Nike and McDonald's and teach our kids at a very young age that this is what you depend on, in order to live. And we've got to get our kids and our youth out of that. I've created the solar, the Solar Cub program, and it's a, it's a, it's education program around steam, that we're going to implement in the Red Lake school district this fall. And, you know, it's all about, you know, teaching the kids around, you know, science, technology, engineering, arts and math, and getting them connected to the earth. And once again, you know, we have a, we have a program with the kids where they're going to garden, right when they're young. and what that's going to do is it's going to connect them to the earth, and it's going to make them realize that this is very important to them, and, and give them the tools that they're going to need to, deal with, with climate change and the climate crisis as it comes. Because, you know, I, I feel so passionate about this program, because, you know, they're the future. And if we don't give them the tools that they're going to need to what's going to be what they're going to be facing, I'm afraid that they're gonna put their heads in the sand. And so, you know, like David said, it's all about education. It's so important. And that's why the solar cub program I think, is just going to be huge. And they're going to be teaching Ojibwe, the bears are going to be speaking Ojibwe, and they're going to be teaching culture and language. And when when I was talking about this at an event, I had some people come up to me who were from the lower Sioux and someone from HoChuck and I say, Well, can the bear speak Dakota are going to bear speak HoChunk. And I said, the bears can speak whatever you want them to speak. And so that's what I'm really excited about this too, is that the bears are going to be able to speak languages, you know, that that aren't only Ojibwe, but they can speak Spanish they can speak Hmong, you know, they It doesn't matter. But the point being is that they get the message across that, you know, we have to give our youth the tools that they're going to need to deal with climate change and make the best decisions for the future government.

Give them what they're going to need to really fight this crisis. I wanted to put that in there. Because,, David really struck out about education, and that that's just so important. 


And it sounds like too, by really focusing on the language, you can also focus on the cultural values, because the language and the culture are so interconnected. I'm thinking about what David said about the elders having that memory of a previous time. And how valuable that is, in helping young people understand that their experience is, is not the only experience, it's been changed because of what's been forced on Native peoples, as opposed to what had been the way that native peoples had lived on the land, many, many decades ago. So there's such promise then to in, in having language be at the center of this so that you can revisit those cultural values that are so key. I love that idea. David, did you want to comment any more about what what your program is working on?


David 56:24

Well, our focus of the program I work for is training tribal members in agricultural ideas, specifically, fruit and vegetable production. But it also encompasses foraging our own resources here as well, like the sugar bush. We don't have a whole lot of wild rice here on our reservation, but there are other things that we can develop. we're thinking about developing maybe some hazelnuts, maybe an orchard for that, but I think the important thing we're getting, reestablishing our food sovereignty is getting people back into food production. And the only way it's going to happen is to provide training. And it encompasses you know, the three sisters, that's kind of an pan-Indian thing. It's not specifically Ojibwe. But of course, we get it, because we've been going through forever, you know, as every culture has, we just have done it here. And, again,I want to come back to this. This is Headwaters Bill, think the citizens of Minnesota and and certainly people of the tribal nations and for sure that people at Red Lake we want a just and equitable food system, and energy system as well. This bill here, I believe that you authored is incredible. It's visionary, and practical.

That to me, I mean, if something is practical, and fits with creating a healthy picture of the future, we need to buy in and invest and make that happen. I, that's what I do. Here in Red Lake. I do this every day. We do have beliefs that need to be re energized and ways of thinking that need to happen again. It's easy to be lethargic, to be apathetic to turn a blind eye to society's problems. Because it's sometimes it's overwhelming. The media I wonder about that, too, you know? So I'm thinking that if we all just kind of buckle down in our own little community, and brainstorm together, how can you make a brighter future, a healthy future? That will happen. And that's what we're doing.


Marita 1:00:25

You're definitely showing us how it needs to happen. And this is, this is why we want to talk with you. Because it's so important for us, as communities to say, local food systems that are based on indigenous values are the key, as Bob said, to managing climate, making sure that we have the food that we need in our communities, but also that, that health and well being that has been really damaged by a food system that is unsustainable, and, and what we're all invested in, so it's so encouraging to hear your comments, both of you and your insights, I think that our listeners are really going to hear what you have to say, and they're going to go back and listen again and be feel encouraged by it. Like, these are things we can say out loud. And then we can actually say, wait a minute, what are my values? Where do they fit in this story? And I think they're going to agree with you that we need this kind of leadership that you're offering. And hopefully make that decision to stand by it, you know, and stand for it. That's what you said, David, I think is really important. Easy to sit back. But and this is about all of us, right? I'm, this has been such a great, great conversation, I really appreciate what you've had to say.


Marita 1:02:13

I'm wondering, you know, one of the things we do in this in this podcast is we want to make sure that we offer our guests a chance to tell us how we can support your work. 


What you can do is contact your representative and have them support this bill. That is what's what's the what's it called? 


It's a Headwaters to Headwaters community food and water bill. 


Support that bill. That's how you can support the work I'm doing. Needed the act, pick up the phone. Write an email, send it. And just, you know, buy local, you know, buy, you know, and support your local farmers support your local CSA, community supported agriculture, support your local farmers market.


Marita 1:04:03

And Robert, could you have to help us understand how we can help the work that you're doing our listeners? How can they help Native Sun Community Power Development. Tell us how our listeners can help you. 


Yeah, absolutely. Um, you can go ahead go to Otherwise, you can go to But I also do want to say for the listeners support the Headwaters community food and water bill. I've been talking with Marita about this for a couple three, four years now, we've been on this mission. So yeah, you can go to my websites and and support me through that way. And yeah, this is just, this has just been really great to be a part of this. Thank you for having me, Marita. 


You're very welcome. And I should acknowledge that you were our first unqualified supporter of the Headwaters Community Food and Water Bill. 


And that's why I say like, the work is just so important. And just so just so proud of this bill, like, this is like what needs to happen, like David is so correct, like, this is just what needs to happen. And we can do it, I don't want every I don't want people to, to lose hope I don't want that. Like we can, it seems bleak right now I know it does. But you know, we got to fight, people, and Solar Bears gonna keep on installing solar and Native Suns gonna keep on doing all these really cool things. And,, I just believe that we, we got to keep the faith and keep moving forward. And, you know, that's what I want to do.

Marita 1:06:42

And for our listeners, I do want to encourage you to to look at the work that Solar Bear and native sun community power development is doing, because we only touched the surface in this broadcast about all the wonderful things that that you're working on.

Robert 1:07:02

Yeah, absolutely. There's so much more workforce development, there's education, there's just, there's just a lot more of the things that we bet that we're doing. But that's what it takes, right? Like, there's so much that the systems are all connected, and we have to like, you know, dismantle it to like, you know, make it more equitable for everyone. And so everyone can participate, because we're all a part of the solution. And, and let's also we're to remember, Marita, like, you know, that's how we met to, like, vote for the right people, like you supported my candidacy. I think that's just so important, like, we have to get the right people in there to, to represent us, you know, and don't forget to vote and, and and i think that's also important. 


I agree. Well, thank you so much, Robert, I'm really glad that you were agreed to do this. 


Miigwetch everyone. Thank you so much, Marita Thank you.



Marita 1:09:22

Nourish by MN350 is a production of the MN50 Food Systems team. We are changing the way people think about food production, distribution and consumption practices in the context of rapidly changing climate. This series is made possible by the hard work and passion of a group of dedicated volunteers. Our executive producer is Elizabeth Crain. This episode was produced by Ben Herrera and Zobeida Chaffee-Valdes, and written by Marita Bujold, the sound editor for this episode is Ian buck. Our logo was designed by Fizz Design Collective, and the music is by Ecuador Manta. You can learn more at