February 16, 2018
Learn About the Native Athletes in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics
Every two years, countries converge on the selected host city and Olympians compete for the gold. The 2018 Winter Olympics are currently being hosted in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Although preliminary research indicates there are no Native American athletes representing the USA this year, there are several First Nations members representing Canada in the 2018 games, and even as these athletes prepare to compete against the best in the world, other athletes are hard at work training for their chance in the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympics, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
This Native Tribe is Reviving Oklahoma's Rural Economy
Jason Reeves knows what a good cut of steak looks like before it hits your dinner plate. Standing in the middle of a 50-foot-wide cooler, he points out different parts of a freshly slaughtered cow hanging from the hooks while a fan roars in the background.
"That's the kidney heart. Fat on the inside. You're probably looking at a 2.0 [on a meat-grading scale between 1 and 5, with 1 being the best]. ... You can tell it's good cattle."
Reeves is showing me around a new meat-processing facility owned and operated by the Quapaw Tribe in northeastern Oklahoma. It's about 5 miles outside the town of Miami, off a two-lane road that's surrounded by fields of hay and an open, blue sky. This is the first beef-processing plant owned and operated by a Native American tribe, according to information from the state's secretary of agriculture, and Reeves has become the first Native American USDA-certified meat grader. He's been around cattle his whole life, working alongside his father as a ranch hand and on feedlots. So, he's not just making up that "2.0" meat grade. For him, the USDA training has been intense, but good.
The Quapaw Cattle Company is the latest in a string of tribally owned and operated businesses that provide jobs to both tribal and nontribal citizens in Oklahoma. The Quapaw's meat-processing plant is also part of the tribe's larger strategy to raise their own cattle, grow their own vegetables, and move away from the unhealthy diet that's plagued Indian country for decades. Located on the grounds of the casino is a row of greenhouses, a small herd of goats (to take care of weeds), and an apiary. The food they grow goes straight to the casino as well as the tribally run day care. They also sell the honey inside the casino gift shop.
Solar Microgrid Brings Resilliency
With this year’s major storms cutting power for millions of Americans for days—and in the case of Puerto Rico, months on end—the question of how we make our electrical grid and our communities more resilient is on a lot of people’s minds. But for people who live in remote communities where electricity has always been unreliable, or even nonexistent, resiliency is a way of life. And the solutions they are developing might just hold the key for the rest of us.
The Chemehuevi Indian Reservation comprises 30,000 acres at the edge of California's Mohave Desert, just west of the Colorado River as it flows into Lake Havasu. A branch of the Southern Paiute, the Chemehuevi have inhabited this region for thousands of years, weathering extreme heat, powerful winds, and the torrential rains of the monsoon season. Today, just around 350 people live on the reservation, in scattered ranch-style homes that dot the otherwise open landscape.
Several years ago, the tribe started looking into solar power, both as a low-cost clean energy resource and an economic opportunity for its members. Taking advantage of a state program for low-income households, the tribe partnered with nonprofit GRID Alternatives to put solar power on 80 homes on the reservation and train 20 tribal members in solar installation. The installations were a boon for residents, lowering energy costs by an average of 50 percent, but the grid-tied systems didn't solve one big problem: frequent power outages caused by weather and bird strikes.
Giving Mountains Back Their Names
Last September, a 29-year-old Navajo climber named Len Necefer posted a photo of a young woman named Monserrat A Matehuala standing on the summit of Longs Peak, one of Colorado’s best known 14ers. What was significant was not that she summited—hundreds do each year. It was the location in the geotag that accompanied the post: Neníisótoyóú’u, the mountain’s Arapaho name.
The post was just one salvo in a quiet campaign waged by Necefer, a member of the Navajo Nation who now lives in Colorado. He earned his PhD in engineering from Carnegie Mellon, and then began working for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs. In March 2017, Necefer also founded Natives Outdoors. While it began as a social media effort to advocate for public lands and diversify the outdoor industry, it soon became something much larger. Today, Natives Outdoors makes gear (trucker hats, shirts) and works with athletes, brands, and organizations to spread its message.