Building solar for his tribe

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October 11, 2021
Jaiden, a Tribal program trainee, stands in front of a project he installed on Tribal lands

Jaiden Comes At Night is a member of the Blackfeet nation in Montana. In spring 2021, he participated in a paid workforce training sponsored by a SETO grant in partnership with Blue Lake Rancheria, and GRID's Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund in partnership with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. Now he's working full-time as a solar installer. When he's not on site, he lives with his parents back home in Montana.

How did you come to the training program with GRID? 

My old superintendent from high school told me about the GRID training program. I was initially thinking about going to college, but this was a great opportunity. I was unsure about what I wanted to pursue at college and was still deciding between trade schools, but the cost was very high which made the decision hard. I started the GRID training program at the end of May, after I graduated. I told my parents I would try to work as hard as I could to get a job offer. I completed the training program and then got a call one day and was told that GRID wanted to hire me.

What is your favorite part of the training program with GRID?

Just doing the work itself, learning how to do all these new things. They are great with hands-on training, the supervisors will sit there and show you how to do everything. Last night, Tim [Willink] was showing me how to do the conduit wiring. It was also fun meeting trainees and getting to help them help their reservations and communities.

What is your vision for an environmentally just future and how can solar help?

Solar would help the communities that actually need it, help to heat homes, and help people with electric bills that can be really high. Sometimes the power [on my reservation] can be unreliable.

Who is an indigenous history-maker that people should know about, or that has influenced your work?

My parents, grandparents, and uncle. My parents have shown me how to go through life and help me understand what steps to take to get where I want to be. My grandparents have been there for me, and they share good advice with me. My uncle also works in renewable energy, on wind turbines, and that drew me to this industry. He is spiritual and helps me with the spiritual side of life. 

What project(s) are you most excited about in the coming year?

I’m pretty excited about the upcoming Utah project. We are going to be installing ground mounts and solar on a few roofs too. I actually did ground mounts for my first project, in Rosebud, and I’ve also been on roof installs, so I’m learning a lot with each project. 

In what ways has renewable energy helped the community you grew up in? 

I’m from a small town on the Blackfeet reservation in Montana. This past summer, we were in stage two for fires, which is quite scary. As weather becomes more unpredictable from climate change, solar could help with resilience. The high school I went to, Heartbutte High School, is now running on rooftop solar as of June 2020. The Blackfeet Community College back home also has solar panels on their roofs, both of which GRID helped install.

Renewable energy, like solar and wind turbines, would also help cut down on living costs for elders and even the younger ones. My grandparents have a wood stove in the winter and portable heaters, and that’s what they use. We can get really bad wind storms and snowstorms. Solar would be helpful, especially if you had a battery system that could run a whole house if power went out.

GRID Celebrates Indigenous Peoples' Day