2022 Indigenous Communities Fellowship


Alliance for Tribal Clean Energy

Building the capacity of Native American tribes to pursue energy independence with renewable resources in a self-determined way, leading to a restoration of sovereignty and hope.

Team Lead

Cheri Smith

Solution Pitch

The Problem

In the United States, more than one million people reside on Indian reservations. Today, the Northern Cheyenne are among the most socially disadvantaged people in North America. For tribes like the Northern Cheyenne, the pressure to succumb to the lure of promised riches is constant. The reservation is hemmed in by a large coal-burning power plant and multiple open-cast coal mines. Witnessing the economic benefits that extraction can bring causes discord among tribal members and tribal leaders. The tribe remains resolute in its decision to forgo fossil fuels, but feels insecure about its energy and economic future.

The Solution

Alliance for Tribal Clean Energy is a Native-led nonprofit organization focused on leveraging the power of renewable energy as a means to diminish poverty, mitigate climate change, and promote restoration of self-determination and hope in Native American communities. The organization was originally founded as Covenant Solar Initiative in 2016. This was in response to the inspiring leadership of American Indian tribes resisting fossil fuels and their growing desire to realize the regenerative potential of renewable energy on tribal lands. After many years working alongside Native American leaders to deploy solar demonstration projects in their communities, Alliance for Tribal Clean Energy is now supporting multiple American Indian tribes in their self-determined efforts to develop energy master plans, deploy strategic clean energy projects, and create a workforce of tribal members to create the infrastructure necessary to support energy independence.


  • The solution is engaged with 10 Native American tribes, with over 67,000 tribal members residing on the associated reservations. 

  • It is currently being implemented in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Washington. 

Market Opportunity

Alliance for Tribal Clean Energy is offering this solution to the 574 federally-recognized tribes in the United States. The goal is to build up capacity to serve as many of them as possible, beginning with those for whom energy poverty is of critical concern. Being Native-led, Alliance for Tribal Clean Energy is well-suited to support this segment.

Organization Highlights

Native-led partners and collaborators:

  • Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center

  • Native Sun

  • Navajo Power

  • Native Americans in Philanthropy

  • Native American Finance Officers Association

  • NDN Collective

  • Indigenous Resiliency Consulting

Academic Partners:

  • Chief Dull Knife College

  • Menominee Sustainable Development Institute, College of Menominee Nation

  • Yale University

  • Arizona State University

  • UC Berkeley

Governmental Partners:

  • U.S. Department of Energy

  • U.S. Department of the Interior

  • National Renewable Energy Laboratories

  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

NGO Partners:

  • Rocky Mountain Institute

  • The Sierra Club

  • Empowered by Light

  • Solar Energy Industries Association

Industry Partners:

  • Protogen

  • Solar Bear

  • Power Engineering

  • 10Power

  • Freedom Forever

  • Storz Power

  • Adidas

Foundation Partners:

  • MacArthur Foundation

  • Pazala Foundation

  • Tides Foundation

  • The Energy Foundation

  • Christensen Fund

  • Perkins Family Foundation

Individual Donors:

  • Our success is dependent on the generosity of numerous individuals and families who support our work with contributions.

Partnership Goals

Alliance for Tribal Clean Energy seeks:

  • Indigenous technical, finance, and legal expertise

  • Expertise on human resources and hiring strategy

Organization Type: Nonprofit

Headquarters: Lame Deer, MT

Stage: Growth

Working In: United States

Current Employees: 16

Solution Website: www.indigenized.energy

Solution Team:

  • Ms. Cheri Smith MIT Solver & 2022 Indigenous Communities Fellow | President & CEO, Founder, Alliance for Tribal Clean Energy

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