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Published May 21, 2009 10:53 AM

Green Jobs & Investment in Indian Country

A groundswell of "green" investment and activity has been building on Native American Indian tribal lands around the country. Recent action at the tribal, state and federal levels, as well as in local communities and the private sector, bodes well for the future of these marginalized populations and lands. It also dovetails nicely with what we've come to associate and identify with in traditional American Indian culture and beliefs.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on April 25 announced that the Department's Indian Affairs office will offer federally guaranteed loans for businesses owned by American Indians under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a small part of some $3 billion the Department expects to invest among federally recognized Native American Indian tribal communities through President Obama's economic recovery plan.

Renewable energy and sustainable lifestyle practices have already sparked a good amount of interest and activity among Native American Indian tribes. Case in point is an eco-tourism project on the Ramona Indian Reservation near Anza in southern California where the Ramona Band of Cahuilla Mission Native Americans' resort is being built.

Never Mind the Ramones, It's the Ramonas

The Ramona Band eco-resort is being built in the Anza Valley on the Ramona Indian Reservation in Riverside County near San Diego. It's meant to offer a peaceful retreat for the public and corporate visitors, along with an educational experience to do with Native American culture, habitat, natural remedies and care of the environment through the use of renewable energy and sustainable green lifestyle practices, according to the Ramona Band.

Funding is being provided by the Ramona Band, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture and other Federal agencies.


Using a range of renewable energy resources and technology provided by Catalyx, Inc, the resort is designed to be completely off-grid and energy self-sufficient. Moreover, mirroring natural ecosystems, it is designed so that much of its own waste--food waste, biogas and sewage--is recycled.

"We want to create a truly natural retreat which mirrors our ancestral heritage of living in harmony with Mother Earth," John Gomez, Cultural Director for the Ramona Band, stated in a media release.

"When finished, this resort will not be a burden on the environment. All energy will be renewable and all waste and wastewater will be recycled. This resort will be a model for other tribes to generate revenues for themselves in a more appealing manner that is true to their heritage."

Such activity is bound to increase once the ARRA renewable energy project loan guarantee applications start coming in and the first loan guarantees are issued. The Obama administration and federal government's tribal lands investment program also entails providing recognized tribes with $500 million in funds for new school and housing construction, road and bridge improvements and workforce development projects.

"We can bridge the gap between making short-term repairs to creating lasting improvements in tribal communities by utilizing green design and renewable energy technology for new and existing homes and schools, correcting health and safety deficiencies in tribal detention facilities, training tribal youth and unskilled workers for lifetime employment, and expanding economic opportunity through loans to Indian businesses," Salazar stated after a meeting with leaders from five federally recognized tribes at the United Tribes Technical College in Bismark, North Dakota.

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