Change doesn’t happen on its own. It’s led by dedicated and passionate people who are committed to empowering Indian Country to energize future generations. Leading the Charge is a regular feature spotlighting the movers and shakers in energy on tribal lands. This issue we had the opportunity to speak with Chairman Charlie Vig of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (MN).
What is your motivation for championing energy development in your community?
We should consider every viable opportunity to conserve energy and be more energy efficient. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) is working to make consistent progress each year to be more mindful of our energy use. We owe that to the generations that will come after us.
What’s the most important thing you learned from Chairman Stanley Crooks?
The late Chairman Crooks and I share the belief that the SMSC has a responsibility to be a good neighbor to other Tribes. We need to help others and give back. Sometimes that means making a donation, and other times it involves giving our time or providing leadership on an important issue. Being a good neighbor is critical to helping all of Indian Country make progress.
What do you see as the greatest opportunities for Indian Country?
Sustainable energy is one of the greatest opportunities in Indian Country. Prospects differ from one Tribe to the next, but solar and wind energy are two good examples. Energy crops are also an exciting opportunity for Tribes that have a significant land base that is suitable for agriculture.
What are the biggest challenges?
Two of the biggest threats relate to education and nutrition. As education dollars are cut, I want to make sure Native American students aren’t left behind. Our children need to have access to the learning and leadership opportunities that will help them succeed in life and keep their Tribes moving forward. They also need access to nutritious foods—regardless of their family income—so that we can reverse the health problems that plague Indian Country.
What would you like your legacy to be?
As Chairman and a member of the SMSC Business Council, my job is to plan far enough ahead so that the decisions we make today will set the Tribe up for success well into the future. I want my legacy to be progress.
For more news on actions to accelerate energy development and address climate change in Indian Country, read the full Fall/Winter 2014 issue of the DOE Office of Indian Energy newsletter, Indian Energy Beat.