Native American Energy and Water Issues- A Lesson for Hawaiʻi


Thursday, May 23rd, 2024 at 9 – 10:30 a.m.

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Native Americans, like Native Hawaiians, suffer disproportionately from energy poverty and a lack of economic justice. In an effort to rectify this, Native American Scholars such as Dr. Davis insist that in the future the Native American peoples of the United States be part of the conversation when it comes to decisions made by government agencies over the energy policies that affect their land, waters, and well being. Due to their sovereign status, whether it is wind, solar, fossil fuel, geothermal, nuclear power, or coal, Tribes need to be included in the decision-making process of any future energy mix. Like the Maori in New Zealand, Native American tribal nations use a decision-making process based on science as well as ancient spiritual traditions and practices.

Idaho enjoys the third lowest average energy rate (10.35 cents/kWh) in the United States, largely because 45% of its energy is powered by hydroelectric power. 75% of the state’s energy is renewable; however, their energy mix and costs may change. Because of global warming, the ice pack in Idaho’s mountains is melting. In addition to there being less water flowing through the hydroelectric dams, Native Americans believe that some waters that had been forcibly diverted by state planners to the dams from Tribal Nation streams in the past- without their consent -should be “rematriated” – returned to the streams on their tribal lands. The Native American Tribal Nations are developing their own renewable energy projects such as the 770 panel solar farm the Nez Perce Tribe is building at Nimiipuu (We The People) Energy with Hawaii firm RevoluSun. These efforts are intended to provide new sources of energy, revenues, and jobs for tribal members.

Dr. Davis will be speaking about Native American perspectives toward renewable energy and how some of the lessons they have learned might have relevance for Hawaii. Please join us on May 23rd at 9 a.m. HST.


About Dr. Davis

Dr. Dawn Davis headshotDr. Dawn Davis holds a PhD from the University of Idaho and is a post-doctoral researcher in the Energy Systems Department at Idaho National Laboratory. She is presently doing research on water and power resilience and their impacts on marginalized and rural communities. Twice a recipient of National Science Foundation grants she has done groundbreaking research on the use of Peyote as a sentinel species and work in the Natural and Water Resources space around law, management, and policy in Idaho and across the Nation. She is a citizen of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and is the author of numerous publications.