Everything is Connected

My intentions never were to make this something I could profit from. I took a solar panel installation training this past April 2017 at Thunder Valley CDC in Porcupine, SD. It really opened my eyes to the possibilities yall. It was so simple and so affordable and as someone who comes from a place where the Fossil Fuel industry runs rampant... It was hope. I learned how to install hope at Thunder Valley CDC. (Lol) That's a weird way to put it but that's what it felt like. Being a part of that and the feeling I got afterward was just a great big spark. I felt like I could do this and bring it back to my communities.... my communities where we breathe concentrated methane and drink fracking juice polluted water.


A panel and some knowledge on wiring. That's all it took. That was hope. After doing that training, I just figured I could use this knowledge to help. I could just go around installing these beacons of hope throughout the South West and Turtle Island. It just sounded like something I needed to do. So, I asked a mentor and friend how I would go about doing just that. They pointed me in the direction of electrical apprenticeship and said that's where I can continue my journey of hope at. Get that knowledge and you can do it. 

I searched and searched for potential schools near me. I found the one I trusted and knew would train me well and eventually get me licensed. AE Tech Electrical Training Center in Rapid City, South Dakota had a fun and welcoming environment. As soon as I stepped in the door, I knew that I would find comfort in learning something new here. Their apprenticeship training program was a total of four months and got straight to the point with hands-on learning and their smaller class sizes ensured I would get the training I would need to take on the tasks I strived for. My training consists of 4 months total with a "block" being completed each month, so 4 "blocks" total. Blocks A, B, C, D need to be completed before I would be eligible to obtain my electrical apprenticeship license for the state of South Dakota. I will also receive my OSHA training and First Aid/CPR. They helped me get started with the process of getting tuition assistance through the South Dakota Dept. of Labor’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act program.

At the South Dakota Department of Labor(SDDOL) I met my case worker, Samantha, who made the process for tuition assistance easy and understandable. This process included a pre-test for the WorkKeys exam which is done by the ACT testing company and is a requirement to obtain my National Career Readiness Certificate, which was also a requirement for tuition assistance. The WorkKeys Exam tested me in three different areas most often needed in the workplace. The three areas tested are applied math, workplace documents, and graphic literacy. Minimum scores were required for the career of Electrical Work by the SDDOL-WIOA program. Well, I passed that exam with flying colors, platinum to be exact. A platinum level certificate was the highest level that could be obtained and ensured the WIOA program that I was willing and more than ready to do the work and become an electrical apprentice.
 

So, I got the tuition assistance which helped with half my total tuition needed for school! All that was left was another two blocks to cover and the cost of tools needed for my trade! Exciting, right? Yeah. I know. Well, I was wondering and wondering how I would come up with the rest of the funding I needed and spoke with close friends and colleagues. They suggested I start a crowd-funding campaign. They knew my words and intentions were pure and pointed out the support that I could potentially receive. And oh geez, were they right! I started the crowd-funding campaign, and wouldn’t you know, I had support from the get go! More and more people shared my story and my pursuit for knowledge and funding started coming in! I also have a super amazing partner that shared and spoke with so many different people and organizations and literally is the reason I got so much exposure and funding. She helped and supported me from the beginning and continued to do that with the help of this crowd-funding thing.

Many people asked me, to the point of almost scolding, why I hadn’t chosen to join a union and be funded through them.

Well…

I do not wish to become part of a labor union because I do not want to be tied to anyone in a way that prevents me from doing the tasks I first set out to accomplish. And also,

I should put out there that I am not doing this training for profit. It is not my intent to conform to this capitalistic society and expect to become rich off this trade. With that being said, it IS my intent to work independently through an all indigenous woman non-profit or even start my own indigenous women-led renewable energy entity that can function for relatives of Turtle Island and for Mother Earth instead of functioning for profit. I appreciated the suggestions for different unions and know those who did so, did so out of a caring heart and are just looking out for me. And to that, I thank y'all but I need this journey to incorporate my indigenous, two-spirit teachings and values that I choose to live my life by. I really, really need that. 

Our Grandmother Earth is very sick. Plain and simple. She needs help. And I intend to do just that with this training I receive. I am doing this for her. The life-giving love that she breathes in to us in the form of oxygen is wearing thin and becoming poisoned. She is becoming weak but not in a way that this world thinks. She is not dying, but instead the opposite. Her tolerance for humans is weakening. Her patience for humans is weakening. We see this in her quakes. The explosive power of her volcanoes. Her changing tides. She used to slumber peacefully when humans valued life and respected her life-giving abilities. But now, she is waking up. The constant drilling, extracting, and blatant disrespect to her and to the blessing that is life, has built up in her and she is to the point of intolerance.

She needs you to love her again. To value her again. To value yourselves again. The life you live would not be possible if not for her, respect that by respecting yourselves. There are many, many ways to live our electrical and digital lives without extracting and defacing her. Through recycling and repurposing, the plastic we’ve created is enough to sustain our future needs for building material and road structures. Through solar and wind energy, we can sustain our energy needs for this entire planet. We can create and maintain a peaceful and respectful relationship with our planet if we only tried. It’s possible. But everything is connected. This is connected to that and that is connected to this and things can only change when everything changes, because of this connectedness. This sustainable way of life is almost impossible in today’s global society because of the capitalistic paradigm that has infected us all. But this paradigm can be dismantled. It can be destroyed beyond repair and built back up and instead of giving a die-hard value to money, we can give a die-hard value to inclusivity for all, a die-hard value to life and most importantly we can give a die-hard value to the Earth, for all the sacredness that she is. It’s possible. Dream big, keep resisting and never stop until we get to this level of peace with each other and with her.

- Lauren Howland
Youth Organizer for Turtle Island
Seeding Sovereignty