Duluth News Tribune

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RED LAKE, Minn. — Red Lake Nation will receive $600,000 in federal funding to connect tribal homes to clean electricity, including homes previously not connected to electricity at all.

The announcement came on Wednesday from U.S. Sens. Tina Smith, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and Amy Klobuchar, both D-Minn.

Additionally, Minnesota's Bois Forte Band will receive $295,000 and Prairie Island Indian Community will receive $500,000. The grants are made possible by President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which Smith and Klobuchar both supported, the release explained.

"For generations, Native American communities have been hurt by underinvestment and underfunding of basic infrastructure. Our transition to a clean energy economy can’t leave Indian Country behind,” Smith said in the release. “This funding gets us closer to ensuring every household in Minnesota, including on tribal lands, have access to clean electricity.”

Klobuchar added that the federal grant will deliver critical clean energy infrastructure improvements.

“Investments into clean electricity are vital for securing the power grid in tribal communities and bolstering the transition to renewable energy,” she said.

According to Red Lake Tribal Chairman Darrell Seki Sr., the funds from the Tribal Electrification Program will help the Red Lake community develop a robust planning process to coordinate energy improvements over the next five years.

This includes the following priorities:

Increasing the reliability of the electric power grid on the reservation.

Reducing the environmental footprint of the community through clean energy deployment.

Reducing the cost of clean energy, especially for families who are most vulnerable to power shutoffs and energy poverty.

Growing a core group of clean power and energy conservation practitioners in the community.

"Native American households lack access to electricity at far higher rates than the national average," the release said. "Understanding the unique challenges tribal nations face, the Tribal Electrification Program provides not only financial assistance to tribes for clean energy projects but also technical assistance in applying for funding."

The Tribal Electrification Program also advances the Biden-Harris administration’s Justice40 Initiative, which set the goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that have been marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution, including federally-recognized tribal nations.