By Shari Narine
Sweetgrass Contributing Editor
MONTANA FIRST NATION
October 6, 2016.
The Montana First Nation wants to share its solar energy expertise with other First Nations – and other Alberta communities as well.
It’s all part of doing what’s right for Mother Earth, says Chief Darrell Strongman, and supporting action undertaken by the provincial and federal governments.
“We’re excited about the plans we have as we move forward and so on as far as solar is concerned,” said Strongman. “We are always prepared to share our knowledge and expertise in the area of our solar.”
Strongman says his First Nation has been involved with solar energy since 2010.
The Montana First Nation is home to the largest hybrid solar/renewable energy system on a First Nation in western Canada with a 100kw commercial solar rooftop PV system installed on the band administration building. The water plant has 20 kw solar power installed.
Next on the agenda for solar panels, says Vickie Wetchie, CEO with Green Arrow-Akamihk, are the school and daycare.
“We’ve been a very progressive Nation going forward,” said Wetchie.
Green Arrow-Akamihk is Canada’s first Aboriginal renewable energy corporation and is owned by Montana First Nation. The company has trained Montana First Nation members on solar power installation.
“We have also invited and opened our doors to other Nations to come in on the training program,” said Wetchie. “There’s a lot of capacity that can be built out on the First Nation communities in regards to economic development and training capacity so we’re able to have jobs in our communities and build infrastructure and we’re very pleased to offer our services in consultation and installment and training your members to join the climate change and bring solar to your communities as well as other renewable energy options.”
Wetchie says there has been much interest expressed in what Montana First Nation has accomplished. She says they have been “inundated” with calls, have met with other First Nations around the province and have built partnerships with the federal and provincial governments, other First Nations, Metis settlements and Indigenous organizations.
Louis Bull Tribe turned to Montana First Nation for information on solar panels. While Louis Bull Tribe went in a different direction -- what Councillor Desmond Bull calls “public service driven” and not capital driven -- Montana First Nation’s expertise was appreciated.
Solar power is a common means by which many First Nations communities are embracing green energy, says Bull, as solar power is easier to maintain and easier to install and training can be done within a few months.
“I’m sure the Elders are very proud of us because over the years, even up to this point, the Elders have always told us to protect Mother Earth, do not poison Mother Earth. So we’re doing our part in the area of solar to listen to the Elders, to be very positive and to contribute to the matter as far as solar is concerned,” said Strongman.
Strongman says he would like to see all 150 homes on his First Nation fitted with solar panels. Presently three residences have solar energy, equipped as part of a pilot project.
“We have to keep encouraging our young people and all of us to understand that we have to do our part in terms of a climate and so on,” he said.
Indigenous Minister Richard Feehan, who was in Montana First Nation on Wednesday to announce two renewable energy pilot programs for Indigenous communities and Indigenous organizations, praised Strongman and his First Nation as “a community of leadership.”
Feehan announced his government will provide $2.5 million for First Nations and Metis settlements to undertake renewable energy projects and energy efficiency audits in their communities through the Alberta Indigenous Solar Program and the Alberta Indigenous Community Energy Program.
Green Arrow-Akamihk. solar panel installers at Montana First Nation. (Photo: mygreenarrow.com)