2020 Cohort

Learn about our first cohort of TEI Fellows in 2020

Click HERE to watch the recorded presentation on “Resilience and Sovereignty through Renewable Energy” at the 2020 AISES National Conference

Stephanie Bostwick, Ph.D (Blackfeet)

Fellowship Goal: To develop a smart grid lab at Northwest Indian College that will incorporate renewable energy curriculum into the new AA engineering degree program.

Stephanie Bostwick is a former Aerospace Engineer who has spent the past six years teaching Engineering, Physics and Math at community and technical colleges in Washington State. Three years ago, she successfully started an engineering program at Lake Washington Institute of Technology and she is now working to launch a similar program at Northwest Indian College (NWIC). This new program will include sustainability and renewable energy, with a focus on smart-grid technology. She is also the mentor for NWIC’s Robotics Club, which will compete at the annual First Nations Launch and the AIHEC robotics competition in 2020. 

  • Fellowship Objectives: Engage multiple partners in this work, identify grant funding for Lummi/NWIC, and incorporate learning throughout the process.
  • Fellowship Activities: strengthen partnership with WA State Univ and Spark NW, host STEM summer camps for 9-12 students, collaborate with Lummi Nation to enhance their strategic energy plan 2016-2026.

Demetrius Johnson (Diné)

Fellowship Goal: To develop solar curriculum and training that will provide education for three Navajo Chapters on the Navajo Reservation who are located near mining/power plant sites. 

Demetrius Johnson is Tódich’íi’nii (Bitter Water Clan) from a small community on the Navajo reservation near Ganado called Tółaní. Demetrius studied Electrical Engineering at The University of New Mexico (UNM) with an emphasis on power generation. At UNM is where Demetrius learned how to gather resources to help Indigneous communities from the mentorship of Pueblo and Dine femmes. Since 2014, Demetrius been a community organizer serving in leadership positions as KIVA Club President from 2015-2017, and now as Chair for The Red Nation in the Albuquerque Freedom Council. Demetrius has always been passionate about helping Indigenous communities power their own communities, especially since the resources for electrical generation come from Indigenous communities and lands.

  • Fellowship Objective: Train approximately 50 community members, including youth, to install solar, provide opportunities to learn about OHSA, and educate communities about everyday effects from lack of energy access.
  • Fellowship Activities: Research and compile challenges/issues facing NN (unemployment, electricity access, clean water, adequate healthcare in correlation to hydraulic fracturing), conduct bi-weekly meetings at local schools and communities.

Rachael LaFriniere (Turtle Mountain Chippewa)

Fellowship Goal: To develop a solar power source for cooking, lighting, and audio at a native garden.

Rachael La Friniere is an enrolled tribal member of the turtle mountain (Metis) from Belcourt, North Dakota and a descendant of the White Earth (Ojibwe) tribal community of Minnesota. She was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Rachael has spent her youth traveling across the western States to the remote islands of the Pacific and back. She has earned her AAS in Business Management at Rasmussen College. She attended Augsburg University pursuing her BA, majoring in American Indian Studies and minoring in Environmental Studies. She is committed to sustainable living that aligns with her native culture, traditional values, and beliefs using innovative ideas that support in her community’s growth towards a sustainable future of the people.

  • Fellowship Objectives: To create a usable and sustainable space for native foods to grow and harvest for the urban Indian community in Minneapolis-St.Paul area.
  • Fellowship Activities: Community meetings, partner meetings, solar assessment to utilize space.

Cheyenne PoorBear (Oglala Lakota)

Fellowship Goal: Develop a tribal owned and tribal focused O&M solar business. 

Cheyenne was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. She is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Her solar adventure began back in 2015 when she first learned about GRID Alternatives. She traveled to her homeland of Pine Ridge South Dakota to help install solar on Lakota Solar Enterprises. From that moment she realized she wanted to learn more about solar and its impact on our earth Later that year she accepted a SolarCorps Fellowship position in Willits, California with GRID Alternatives and lived in California for the next year impacting tribal communities. In 2018 she partnered with Trees, Water, People and obtained a grant to purchase 15 solar suitcases. These solar suitcases are distributed throughout reservations in South Dakota and are used by students. Her vision for the future is to help her people understand sustainability, how it impacts us, and how we can use it to better our community. Cheyenne currently resides in Denver, Colorado with her family. 

  • Fellowship Objectives: Train O&M tribal staff with capacity to monitor systems year round.
  • Fellowship Activities: Develop, plan, and implement an Operations & Maintenance training for GRID Alternatives tribal partners. 

Vaughn Vargas (Cheyenne River Lakota)

Fellowship Goal: To develop “desktop” studies and framework that will help inform renewable energy planning and implementation in a way that tribes/tribal staff understand.

Vaughn Vargas is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (Siha Sipa Band). His great grandfather was James Holy Eagle Sr. Vaughn grew up in Rapid City, SD and started his academic career at Oglala Lakota College in 2011. He was OLC’s 2013 Student of the Year, Mr. American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), SD NASA Space Grant Consortium Scholar, among other accomplishments. He earned a Master of Liberal Arts in Management from Harvard University and has a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SDSMT).

Vaughn worked in the SDSMT Engineering Projects in Community Service Program where he advised primarily non-native engineering students who completed engineering projects in tribal communities (Tiny houses, green houses, wind farm feasibility, E.M.S.). He also served in the Department of Interior, Division of Energy and Mineral Development – Branch of Renewable and Distributed Energy. He has since moved on to serve Tribes directly in economic, energy, and enterprise development. The TSAF – Tribal Energy Innovators Fellowship will be used to obtain engineering licensure, project management certification, energy engineering certifications, and training and mentoring in energy regulations (e.g. WAPA, NERC, FERC). 

  • Fellowship Objectives: To help tribes navigate existing funding opportunities, and streamline energy and utility policies applicable to tribes. 
  • Fellowship Activities: To develop knowledge, credentials, and training through various energy management and licensure programs. Target community: Pine Ridge, SD.