The Indigenous People’s Green Jobs Coalition (IPGJC), whose goal is to launch a state-wide movement that involves Indigenous people in creating a more sustainable earth, has been gaining momentum. The grassroots organization, based in the Phillips neighborhood, just received its 501(c)(3) status and is actively holding community events to inform the Native community about sustainable living and opportunities available in the green economy. The coalation wants to make sure that the the Phillips community is represented when decisions are made regarding green jobs around the state.
The green economy is a fast growing new economic development based on renewable energy to substitute for fossil fuels and energy conservation, according to Wikipedia. The green economy holds promise of economic opportunities in the form of green jobs in such industries as wind and solar energy.
National legislation such as the Green Jobs Act of 2007 and The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 are just some examples of new funding sources for industries that support sustainability and provide career opportunities for people seeking work in renewable energy industries. The IPGJC wants Indigenous people to be a part of that movement.
IPGJC Executive Director Valerie Martinez said the coalition, which formed two years ago, is part of a value based movement of people and organizations coming together to see that the Indigenous community plays a role in renewable energy.
“This is something that Indigenous people have been doing forever,” Martinez said. “We have always honored the earth.” She said that while the main society looks for profit, Indigenous people “don’t want to make a profit out of the sun and the earth.”
The coalition is made up of diverse organizations including the American Indian OIC, Little Earth United Tribes, Wellstone Action, Honor the Earth, White Earth Land Recovery Project, Land Stewardship Project, Organizing Apprenticeship Project, the City of Minneapolis, Homegrown Minneapolis, Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota, Mille Lacs Urban Office, Multicultural Indigenous Academy, Women’s Environmental Institute, Afro- Eco and Fresh Energy.
One of the main goals of the coalition is to ensure that there is Indigenous representation involved in forming public policy related to the green economy.
IPGJC board member Daryl Sager, Weatherization Field Monitor for the Office of Energy Security in the State Department of Commerce said, “We want to make sure that the Indigenous Voice is at the legislative table.”
An example of pieces of legislation that the coalition has been involved with is their partnership with HIRE Minnesota. HIRE, with the help of many organizations including IPGJC, was successful in making sure that publicly funded green jobs and training opportunities would be available to low-income people and people of color. IPGJC has also been working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation with their efforts to hire from communities of color.
Recently the coalition has been advocating for legislation that would limit Xcel Energy’s ability to install power lines in the Phillips neighborhood. Martinez said the coalition hopes to make Xcel Energy provide a certificate of need before the power lines can be installed.
In its efforts to effect legislation, the coalition wants to ensure that as the country shifts toward a green economy, Indigenous voices are heard. “We want to make sure that the green economy benefits the Native communities and respects their culture,” said IPGJC board co-chair Dawn Paro.
In addition to advocating for a strong Indigenous voice in policy making at the state level, IPGJC also aims to engage Indigenous people in rebuilding healthier, sustainable communities through green jobs training and education. The organization will hold the First Annual Indigenous Peoples Green Jobs Coalition Pathways to Green Resource Fair on May 5 at the Minneapolis Indian Center. The focus of the fair is to connect those interested in green jobs with the kinds of employment that are available.
Besides its policy advocacy and activities surround educating the Indigenous community about opportunities in the green economy, the coalition hopes to work with Indigenous peoples in strengthening healthy, green lifestyles. For example, in March, they held a community screening of the film “Fresh” which is about sustainable living and healthy affordable foods.
They are also working in partnership with the Home Grown Minneapolis Taskforce to improve the Phillips community’s food system to create an Indigenous-friendly and affordable food market. The market would offer green job opportunities for the community, according to IPGJC board member Erick Boustead.
The organization is planning community listening sessions and an outreach program for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
For more information about the coalition, you can go to their facebook page, called Indigenous People’s Green Jobs Coalition. They also will soon have a website which can be found at www.greenjobsmn.org.