Northwest Tribes Provide Electricity, Prove Power to Lead

Northwest Tribes Provide Electricity, Prove Power to Lead

Wayne Shammel/General Counsel for Cow Creek
Tribe of Umpqua Indians: Weíre not shareholders and investors, or
random regional users of power; our identity is tied to our place on the earth. Debora Whitefoot/Yakama Nation Tribal Member:
And water is a big thing, as Native Americans. Margie Schaff/Partner Schaff & Clark-Deschene,
LLC The hydroelectric system benefited everyone, Debora:
Everyone needs electricity. Margie:
but it really had a negative impact on the tribes, on their cultures and on their livelihoods. Debora:
Weíre getting back some of what was taken away from us. Roger Taylor/Tribal Program Manager, National
Renewable Energy Laboratory: Of the 565 tribes around the country, there
are only a handful of tribal utilities. Margie:
I think itís so important for the tribes, whether they form a utility or they donít
form a utility to have the right and the opportunity to do it. Wayne:
We ëcaní do this. Deborah:
This is part of everyoneís step to heal. CELEBRATING TRIBAL UTILITIES: POWER TO LEAD In 1998, the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians
and the Yakama Nation went to the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians with a dream that
they could serve the electricity needs of their peoples. Both tribes signed power sales agreements
with the Bonneville Power Administration in 2000 and became the agencyís first tribal
utilities, which marked a turning point for BPA and for the tribes. COW CREEK BAND OF UMPQUA INDIANS
It seems incredible that October of 2001 this utility flipped its first switch. Dan Courtney/Cow Creek Tribal Chairman:
It was a significant moment when that actually happened. Wayne:
Costs of electricity were so key to the tribeís economic development function which is really
right at the heart of where Cow Creek was I would say 15 years ago. Wayne:
Tribes can form utilities and take themselves rapidly into a hole doing it. Margie:
We did a good cost comparison and determined that it was a cost effective thing to do. Wayne:
As long as we can aggregate the capital and the knowledge Margie:
Because the tribe currently owned most of the facilities necessary we only had to go
out and buy a few facilities. Wayne:
Weíve since been able to take our utility that was formed around getting the BPA power,
and expand its role to telecommunications and water and sewer and gas. Brian Boswell, P.E., UIUC Operations Manager:
When I started back in 2003 this wastewater lagoon was the first part of the utility that
was built. Ron:
This tribe has ownership of about six or seven businessÖ one of course, obviously is the
casino: Boomer/General Manager, Seven Feathers Casino:
Welcome to Seven Feathers Casino Resort. First casino established in Oregon; for the last
ten years we have not had a rate increase in ten years. Ron:
Ö an RV resort, a truck and travel center, a fairly significant broadband and telecommunications
company: Mark Bilton-Smith, President, RIO Networks:
That will be the 5000 square foot high density data center facility Ron:
The savings that weíve realized in terms of power pricing has allowed this tribe the
capability of moving the projects forward. Wayne:
So itís been a very powerful organizational expansion for the tribe. Ron:
I think itís really just the beginning; Margie:
Itís gone by so fast. Ron:
Itís surprising that these ten years has happened so quickly. CONFEDERATED TRIBES AND BANDS OF THE YAKAMA
MARCH, 2006 Ray Wiseman/General Manager, Yakama Power:
Youíve had 80 years of electrical service here on the reservation yet youíve never
enjoyed any of the benefits of the employment or having the ability to have lower rates,
or direct control. Deborah:
Now Yakama Power is here, which is going to benefit our children and their children. Shirley Criqui/Yakama Nation Tribal Elder:
Itís a change in our life as a Yakama Nation. Jerry Martin/Lead Lineman, Yakama Power:
I grew up on this reservation, grew up in one of the very first housing projects this
place ever had. When I first heard about Yakama Power I was a saw filer for the tribe at one
of the two saw mills, uh, I was kind of old.. Haha for one, I believe I was forty or so
when I started. Coming back as a Native American linemanÖ thereís not that manyÖ anywhere. Ray:
I watch the crews put up power lines tear down poles, replace infrastructure, and I
think that two years ago, I didnít even have this capability. We didnít have a crew, and
now we have an all native crew able to go out and do the construction. Deborah:
Business is a competition. Jerry:
There are a couple of other utilities that are on this reservation that are serving customers
here. Weíve been told that we didnít know what we were doing; we were going to get people
killed. Lon:
Iím very proud to live in the reservation. These fields out here, the field behind me
is drip irrigated asparagus. One of my utilities wanted 20 grand to hook up and so Yakama Power
hooked me up at no charge, and theyíve done a great job. Ray: We know that weíre having a big impact
on the valley floor down here, so the guys take it really seriously. Athena Pebbles Sanchey/Executive Secretary
for Yakama Tribal Council: Theyíre a family, and knowing that the electricity
always has to stay on; and theyíre always there and ready to make sure it stays on for
our community. Shirley:
Itís a great opportunity for the young people of our nation to get involved in the electrical
companies. Lon:
Some of the guys who work for Yakama Power when they were kids used to work on our sweet
corn packing line ñ now heís out there hooking up a fiber optic cable you know! Theyíre
my neighbors. Shirley:
I understand that weíre going to be provided online services through Yakama Power and Iím
anxious for that. Lon Inaba/Farmer, Yakama Power Customer:
Iím happy to see competition to the utilities that are used to having no competition. Athena:
Weíre ready for the growth and the challenges along the way. Ray:
This new substation here served 86 homes. So we are looking to expand to about 400 homes
here in the next 12 ñ 16 months, and that will be a 600 to 800 percent increase to where
we were at. Our goal is to get to 16 MW as fast as possible. Shirley:
Living in todayís world, you know, everything is technology and moves so fast. Changes happen
over night. Deborah:
The people that came before us–our ancestors–took care of us in certain ways, that we benefit
today. Jerry:
They were fearless. They were fearless; they did their jobs. Shirley:
Itís a sign that time doesnít stand still. Deborah:
Itís also going to provide stability for future generations to come. Ray:
And thatís what sovereign control is all about, the ability to serve yourself. Shirley:
Yes, thereís not anything that we canít do. CONFEDERATED SALSIH AND KOOTENAI TRIBES OF
SINCE 1988 Ralph Goode/General Manager, Mission Valley
Power: 3002 The tribeís a minority here; this was
opened to homesteading in 1910. Ralph:
Weíve been successful at running the Mission Valley Power since 1988. Shawn:
This is my tribe; this is where Iím from. Ralph:
Welcome to Mission Valley Power. It is an agreement between the Bureau of Indian
Affairs and the Confederated Salish Kootnai Tribe on a 638 Contract. Shawn:
I just hope it keeps going. Ralph
The United States Government through the BIA approves our budget, approves our rate changes.
Of our 83 employees we have about 66 that are tribal members. Shawn:
The jobís been great for my family. The end of October will be the end of my 16th year. Ralph:
We have about 18,000 customers. Most of the people thought that the tribes
couldnít run this. Shawn:
If you wanna do it, just go do it, I mean if you want something, go get it, itís yours. Ralph:
Iíve been told many times that our reliability has really improved over the years. Shawn:
Thatís my hope: it always stays under tribal control. Donít let anybody throw your dreams
away. Ralph:
The tribe has taken our success and shown that when the tribe managed something, the
difference it has made here. Conclusion Margie:
The tribes have done a really good job being full managers, with the addition of their
culture and their understanding of the history of these resources that dates way back. Wayne:
Every new generation of business people and tribal leaders has to relearn all of this
anyway; and I think thatís part of what this project is about so that we can pass this
down through time. Roger Taylor/Tribal Program Manager, National
Renewable Energy Laboratory:: The biggest hurdle is making the decision
to say yes. Wayne:
This is right, and itís ok. Ray:
Look to the future and say this is what we want, whether itís serving the entire reservation
or just a small piece. Lizana Pierce/Project Manager, Department
of Energy Tribal Energy Program: Whether it is reducing energy consumption
through weatherization, developing their indigenous renewable resources, Roger:
Or taking over somebody elseís grid. Lizana:
Energy enables economic development. Roger:
It also puts the tribes in lead. Margie:
Opening some of these doors have given these tribes a new way of stepping in and being
part of all the negotiations that are related to the hydro electric system. Wayne;
Think about it: itís raw and physical, tied to the rivers, so visceral and so important
because of the fish and wildlife issues but also enduring: The tribe is going to be here for how long:

One thought on “Northwest Tribes Provide Electricity, Prove Power to Lead

  1. in many ways it is progress, but it is progress tied to an overall system(financial nad cultural ones) that has proven to the world it does not work. I am saddened that the native americans do not see the ultimate sustainable beauty and power in using decentralized power… creating personal energy in closed loop systems producing food… clean water and which does not contribute to the systems of dominion which clearly do not work and only and ultimately destroy thru capitalizing.

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