Three Takeaways from the Tribal Energy Equity Summit

April 10, 2024



NCEL Point of Contact

Sidra Aghababian
Climate and Energy Coordinator


From March 18-21, Alliance for Tribal Clean Energy (ATCE) hosted the 2nd annual Tribal Energy Equity Summit, on Muscogee Creek Nation also known as Tulsa, Oklahoma. The summit was a highly transformative event, offering invaluable insights and key takeaways applicable to state legislators’ efforts in advancing energy sovereignty and navigating the clean energy transition.

  • A Closer Look: Energy sovereignty is the inherent right for individuals and communities to make their own decisions regarding energy generation and consumption. For Tribal nations and communities, energy sovereignty allows them to have control over the decisions that shape their energy futures. The Summit aimed to foster listening and learning for all attendees and the cultivation of partnership opportunities that are beneficial for tribes.

Overview of Summit 

The goal of the Tribal Energy Equity Summit was for Tribal leaders, federal and state leaders, and other key stakeholders to learn and discuss how to continue supporting a just transition to Tribal energy sovereignty. The Summit covered a multitude of energy topics over the four days, including:  

  • Federal Executive Order 14112 and how it has reformed federal funding and support for Tribal nations. EO 14112 formally committed the Biden administration to protecting and supporting Tribal sovereignty and self-determination.
  • Education on the history, legal entitlements, culture, and political and economic frameworks of Tribal Nations in the United States for non-Tribal participants.
  • The Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) impact on grid modernization and transmission development.
  • Advancing clean energy through critical material sourcing while safeguarding the Earth. 
  • Along with the informational content, each day of the Summit had a cultural performance to share the spirit of Powwow through music and dance. 

Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts), Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, Treasurer of the United States (U.S. Department of the Treasury) gave a powerful keynote address on energy equity and unity. Along with the keynote, Dr. Lyla June (Navajo/Cheyenne) and Chase Iron Eyes (Oglala Sioux) gave talks that highlighted the collective purpose for Tribal energy sovereignty and the clean energy transition.  The Summit ended with facilitated roundtable discussions which allowed for participants to reflect on what had been learned and strategize for the future. 

Takeaways from Summit

There were numerous takeaways from this event that are important for state legislators and their work with Tribal Nations.

Takeaway One – Tribal Consultation

The whole Summit highlighted the importance of having Native and Indigenous representatives in decision-making and consultation positions. When discussing United States policymaking, specifically energy policy, Tribal consultation is crucial and must be prioritized. The panels on Executive Order 14112, noted the positive impact that the creation of committees, offices, and liaisons focused on Tribal support have for the implementation of policy. 

  • Policy Option: Washington’s H.B.1753 (2022) requires agencies that allocate funding or administer grant programs from the climate investment fund, created by Washington’s Climate Commitment Act, must offer early, meaningful, and individual consultation with any affected federally recognized Tribe on all funding decisions and funding programs that may impact Tribal resources

Takeaway Two – Ensuring a Just Energy Transition

Tribes cannot be ignored during the clean energy transition. Historically, when thinking about the expansion of transmission infrastructure, there has been low outreach to Tribes, and the majority of maps outlining ideal transmission and energy corridors do not include identification of Tribal land. This ignores the fact that some of the land in these corridors is owned by Tribal nations rather than the United States. It is important to include Tribes within the planning process for all transmission and energy projects to avoid potential points of conflict and to create a more collaborative clean energy future. 

  • Policy Options: Washington’s H.B.1216/S.B.5380 (2023) requires meaningful engagement with federally recognized Tribes potentially impacted by clean energy projects. Minnesota’s Statute 10.65 recognizes the importance of the relationship between the State of Minnesota and Tribal Nations in Minnesota by expanding the purpose for the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to require meaningful engagement of Tribal Nations in regulatory processes and procedures.

Takeaway Three – Non-Tribal Buy-in

There is always room for non-Tribal people to have more education on the history, legal entitlements, culture, and political and economic frameworks of Tribal Nations in the United States. 

  • Learning Opportunity: This free course, Indian Country 101, is an informative tool for anyone looking to expand their knowledge about Tribes and Native citizens. 

Closing Thoughts

The invitation and warm welcome extended to NCEL at this event were greatly appreciated. The wealth of knowledge gained regarding Tribal efforts towards energy sovereignty, alongside the insights shared by Tribal leaders, is invaluable and will help state legislators to further collective efforts towards the clean energy transition. NCEL extends sincere gratitude to the Muscogee Creek Nation for their hospitality and to the Alliance for Tribal Clean Energy (ATCE) for the invitation to participate.

NCEL’s Continued Commitment to State-Tribal Collaboration 

NCEL is committed to fostering relationships between States and Tribes for the betterment of the environment. See this blog co-authored by NCEL’s Executive Director, Dylan McDowell and Erik Stegman, Chief Executive Officer of Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) outlining a NAP-NCEL partnership to support State-Tribal relationships.