Henry Red Cloud
“Metake Oyasin” say the Red Clouds when they crowd together with their friends and neighbors in the darkness of the sweat lodge on the Pine Ridge Reservation. “Metake Oyasin” is the greeting as the water evaporates on the red hot lava rocks and the ancient purification ritual of the Great Plains begins. “Metake Oyasin” is the universal formula of the Lakota, the essence of their culture; it means “all my relatives”. To the Lakota, we are all related – the frog and the grass, man, the earth and the sun. Nowadays, biochemistry supports this philosophy or world view: frog, grass and human beings have a considerable portion of DNA in common, and they share minerals with our planet and the stars.
“Metake Oyasin” is the principle of Lakota education, underlaying both the decision of the Red Cloud Tiospaye (extended family) to raise a herd of bison and that of Henry Red Cloud to establish his own company, “Lakota Solar Enterprises.” His people had always venerated the sun, dedicating the sun dance ceremony to it at the summer solstice, so it made sense to him to turn this power source into a source of electricity. He started his small company in 2003, and by now he has put solar panels on 300 roofs, not just on Pine Ridge, but also on the nearby reservations Rosebud and Cheyenne River. By cooperating with organization such as “Honor the Earth” and “Village Earth”, he has extended his reach to four more reservations: Yankton in South Dakota, Fort Berthold in North Dakota, White Earth in Minnesota and Northern Cheyenne in Montana.
In 2008 Henry established the “Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center”, whose mission it is to train solar experts who can then take their know-how back to their tribal communities. The same approach is used at the Barefoot College in Tilonia in Rajastan in northwestern India, recipient of the Nuclear-Free Future Award in 2000.
To Henry Red Cloud tapping the power of the sun and raising bison are related endeavors. He wants to enable the Lakota, the Dakota and the Nakota (the nations we know under the colonial name Sioux) to live self-sufficiently – including food and energy. In the winter months, all too often people on reservations freeze to death in their poorly insulated homes due to lack of heating fuel. Getting rid of fossil fuels is a liberation in yet another sense: the Lakota are fully aware of the fact that oil drilling in South America takes place at the expense of the indigenous population.
The man who puts his money on bison and solar power is a direct descendant of the great Oglala Chief Red Cloud. When Henry Red Cloud steps up to the lectern in the Great Hall of Cooper Union, the spot from which Abraham Lincoln gave his famous “Might Makes Right” address, the circle will be completed: 140 years before him, his great-great-great-grandfather Chief Red Cloud gave a speech from the very same lectern.
– Wolfgang Heuss