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Meskwaki Nation Looks to Wind Power for the Future

This year the Meskwaki Nation is going to be watching the wind. The hope is to join forces with this power to produce renewable energy in a manner that is friendly to Grandmother Earth. A monitoring tower installed Aug. 25 will confirm whether a wind farm can be built on the nation’s land in Iowa.

The tribe, also commonly known as the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, recently contracted with WPCS International, design-build engineering specialists for communications infrastructure.

“We put up a meteorological tower to measure the wind for the next year. We will analyze the data and after a year we will do a final report,” said James J. Heinz, executive vice president, with WPCS International Inc.’s St. Louis operations. The company is headquartered in Exton, Pa.

Equipment on the 250-foot tower will provide data on “what the true capacity of energy” the wind could provide, Heinz said. The data will determine the viability of installing wind turbines.

“We are now collecting data that will ultimately determine whether to put up one or more wind turbines. We know it’s in a good area; there are a lot of other meteorological towers in the area.

“We take that information to the wind turbine manufacturers, and the Meskwaki Nation decides what they want to do.” Heinz said. WPCS International would furnish, install and maintain the towers under a grant from the Department of Energy.

The minimum average wind speed to produce electricity is 7.9 miles per hour, or 3.5 meters per second. “What the wind speeds are has a direct correlation to how much energy is going to be produced,” Heinz explained.

The 1,300-member Meskwaki Nation purchased 80 acres of land in 1857 and has now grown to more than 7,000 acres. The Meskwaki Nation is the only resident tribe in the State of Iowa.

Christina Blackcloud-Garcia, executive director of the Meskwaki Nation, thanked the Department of Energy for the financial assistance that allows the tribe to conduct this wind energy site assessment.

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“As yet another initiative by our sovereign government, this monumental opportunity fosters the ideal of self-determination for the Meskwaki Nation.”

She said officials anticipate that wind energy generation in this area will prove feasible. After the one-year study, the Meskwaki Nation may move forward to develop and manage wind energy independently. Meskwaki GIS/Wind Energy Technician Tom Gearing, is overseeing this project.

“If the Meskwaki Nation energy movement continues, employment opportunities in this field may also arise. The Tribal Council supports conducting these alternative energy studies as an effort to expand resources for tribal members and to uphold tribal values by protecting the environment for future generations,” Blackcloud-Garcia said.

“Not only is it the Meskwaki philosophy, but also the philosophy of tribal nations in general, that our sense of responsibility must correlate with our beliefs: Natives are environmental stewards of Grandmother Earth. As the Meskwaki people continue modernizing with the 21st century through integrating renewable energy into our way of living in an efficient manner, and using our finite resources effectively, wind energy appears to be a practical effort.”

Meskwaki Historical Preservation Officer Johnathan Buffalo sees this effort as far less damaging than a continued reliance on oil and coal. In addition, the renewable wind energy method conforms with the Meskwaki teaching of taking only what the people need.

Tribal Council Liaison Donald Wanatee notes that in Vine Deloria’s understanding of the “meteorological phenomenon” in his 1995 book, “Red Earth, White Lies,” his observations recount that the natural force from above can be a friend.

“The Meskwaki people have known about this force for many generations and have continued Thunder scripts in their ceremonies of the Bear, Fox, Wolf, Eagle, Swan, Water and Thunder Clans. Our religious rituals have taught us to honor and pray to the Spirits of the Sky, the Ones-Who-Walk-The-Earth,” Wanatee said.

“The project we have undertaken is well underway, because the oral tradition is being taught and learned by the children. Many tribes are doing the same rites as before the settlement of the United States. We are accepting the technology that is available to everyone in the world to better serve our people. We have always accepted new ways of science and will make the best of scientific discoveries,” Blackcloud-Garcia said.

WPCS provides wireless communications systems for the Foxwoods Resort Casino of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, among other work for Indian nations, but Heinz, added that “this is our first Indian reservation where we are able to do a wind study, and we are very interested in doing this for other reservations. There is grant money available to Indian nations for renewable energy, and there are a lot of Indian tribes out there that got that.”