The American Indian tribes living on reservations in UTAH, Arizona, New Mexico are comprised of over 12 different tribes; Navajo, Cheyenne, Uintah and Ouray are just a few. Last week we went to the University of Utah and met with (American Indian Services) Meredith Lam and CEO Sylvia McMillan. AIS PREP is a free educational preparatory program for Native American youth provided by American Indian Services. Students will experience three summers of rigorous STEM instruction designed to prepare students for higher education. Solight’s founder Alice Min Soo Chun was the keynote speaker for this year's AIS PREP graduation (American Indian Services). We spoke to 200 middle school kids, from the Navajo to Cheyenne tribes.
History shows a long lineage of neglect by the US government. It’s a travesty that in 2021 there are still families that rely on kerosene for lighting at night in the United States. Well we want to change that.
Solight is working to help give more solar lanterns to the Navajo American Indian reservation in Utah. There are 150,000 Navajo residents, it is the poorest community in the country, where 60% do not have running water or electricity. Thanks to you and Navajo Strong 100+ families no longer have to use kerosene or diesel fuel to light their nights. Kids are safer as they do their homework with Solights. The elderly can see their way to the bathroom at night.
One 12 year old girl said:
“This light will be my light at night, I’m afraid of the dark because kids get taken, when it’s dark.”
Indian Reservations in the United States, are sovereign Native American territories that are managed by a tribal government in cooperation with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, a branch of the Department of the Interior, located in Washington, DC. There are 334 reservations in the United States today. totaling approximately 700,000 individuals.
Many American Indian communities are impoverished, with some tribes reporting unemployment as high as 85%.
Reservations vary drastically in their size, population, political economy, culture and traditions. Despite such variation, all reservations share similar histories of colonization, and face similar contemporary challenges. One of these challenges is poverty. In 2010, the poverty rate on US reservations was 28.4 percent, compared with 22 percent among all Native Americans (on and off reservations). The U.S. poverty rate among all groups is much lower, at 12.7 percent as of 2016. In addition to poverty rates, reservations are hindered by education levels significantly lower than the national average. Poor healthcare services, low employment, substandard housing, and deficient economic infrastructure are also persistent problems.
The school system had double edged sword of inadequately educating a generation of reservation youth while simultaneously fostering a resentment of formal education. Through the boarding school era, Westernized education was synonymous with cultural destruction. Reservation residents' high school graduation rate is half that of all American Indians in the United States. On reservations, more individuals have less than a ninth grade education than have a college diploma. More than 10 percent lack any high school education. It is not uncommon on reservations in California and New Mexico to have more than half the population with less than a ninth grade education. In North Dakota, Nevada, California, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming.
For employment, education, and financial opportunity, many residents are expected to leave the reservation. However, reservations were placed intentionally far from urban centers, and many of the roads serving these areas are substandard. Many key roads were never designed or built for vehicular traffic. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, only 15% of the nearly 28,000 miles of reservation roads are in acceptable conditions and pass current safety regulations.
Furthermore, almost a quarter of reservation households do not have access to a vehicle. However, barely one percent of reservation residents rely on any kind of public transportation. Although the federal government has made funds available to improve transportation on reservations, local transportation authorities have not taken advantage of these monies. The lack of safe roads and adequate transportation further isolates reservation communities and strengthens the neighborhood effects of concentrated poverty.
Education is a huge part of Solight Designs core values. In order for real change to occur it’s critical to do our part in education. Founder Alice Chun was a former Columbia University professor teaching in several Ivy league schools and now lectures to students in STEM all over, from Detroit to Dominica and recently to American Indians in UTAH. the world, spreading the knowledge and hope of healing our planet through solar technology, inventorship, and innovation. More importantly, we work to teach kids the powerful message that the Sun is the most powerful source of energy that comes to the earth every day, but the light of your imagination and the light in your hearts is more powerful than the Sun. If you fight with that light, it is the greatest weapon against injustice and poverty. YOU ARE LIGHT WARRIORS!
Solight continues to ask for your help in sharing our story and all the stories where energy poverty exists. We hope to empower you to share your light with the world. Unleash your power to make a difference in small acts of kindness to using a solar lantern instead of a light bulb. We continue to spread the message to believe in the power of small things making a huge Impact.
Love and Light
The Solight Team