Embracing Diversity and Amplifying Indigenous Voices

Aug 25, 2023 9:30 AM ET

Originally published on NRG Energy Insights

By NRG Editorial Voices

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples celebrates the rich cultural diversity of Indigenous people worldwide while raising awareness and support for the protection of their rights. This day also highlights the importance of understanding the past and current relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous society to create a more open dialogue.

Storytelling is a central part of Indigenous identity. In honor of that practice, we want to share the stories of two teams within NRG and their work in support of Indigenous groups.

Sharing the sun

Goal Zero, a brand focused on sustainable portable power products, empowers people with energy resilience solutions. The business donates and installs solar generators on homes in the Navajo Nation to help communities without access to power. In 2020, Goal Zero partnered with Heart of America to leverage its education-focused connection in the Navajo Nation. Together, the organizations are providing free, sustainable power for students and their families.

With 275 installations so far, the partnership goes beyond providing electricity. It’s also helping students complete their schoolwork and focus on their education.

“The power is independent of the grid, so families don’t have to pay for electricity. This includes providing lighting so that students can complete homework and pursue hobbies and activities beyond their classrooms,” says Brianna Blaschke, Humanitarian and Events Associate Manager at Goal Zero.

Access to electricity has improved the lives of many Navajo families. Now, they can charge school-provided electronics and personal devices, power home appliances, and have uninterrupted power for general living. With these successes, Goal Zero and Heart of America don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

“Our goal is to supply power to all the unpowered homes across the Navajo Nation while continuing to update our donations to match the growing needs of the community. We also aim to develop a training program to provide an avenue for long-term skill development and eventual employment opportunities for Navajo Nation residents,” says Blaschke.

RISE-ing to the occasion

The Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and Supporting Equity (RISE) business resources group is taking the initiative to raise awareness of Indigenous people in our communities and in the workplace.

“We were starting to see some gaps in how we’re meeting the unique needs of the Indigenous communities that we support or service,” says Stacey Schorr, Director of Government Affairs at Direct Energy and member of RISE. “Employees were also asking more questions and were not aware of how Indigenous history has developed in Canada.”

RISE saw an opportunity to foster and improve the relationships with Indigenous communities. The group also recognized the need for more education and awareness at work.

“This past spring, we brought in a speaker who walked through the histories of the Indigenous communities in Canada. She brought in a talking stick, and there were opportunities to share your experience. It was amazing to me how, even in the office environment, people really opened up,” says Schorr.

To gain a better understanding and have meaningful dialogue, members of RISE believe it’s important for organizations to have conversations that incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“For me, it means recognizing, respecting, and valuing the unique cultural, historical, and social experience of Indigenous communities. It involves creating an environment through education, awareness, and cultural competency where organizations are better equipped to address and dismantle systematic barriers that exist for Indigenous people,” says Colleen Geddes, Customer Experience Analyst at NRG and member of RISE.

Schorr also adds, “Everybody views diversity, equity, and inclusion from a different perspective, and it’s often built upon what your individual experiences are. What I really appreciate is creating a space to have those conversations.”

RISE acknowledges the significance of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples as it aligns with their mission to educate and bring attention to the culture and unique challenges of Indigenous people.

“The day provides an opportunity to educate the public about the rich cultural heritage, traditions, and contributions of the Indigenous community. It amplifies their voices to remind people of the struggles for the rights and well-being of Indigenous people while celebrating their resilience,” says Geddes.

Working together for greater equality

“Indigenous worldviews often have the philosophy of interconnectedness and belonging,” says Geddes. “With the foundation that we are all related, the group then becomes accountable for each of their actions. Each child, youth, adult, and elder has a role and a responsibility to each other and the community.”

By honoring Indigenous cultures and acknowledging historical injustices, we can make progress toward a more equitable future. Through collective action, we can work toward a more inclusive future where the rights, cultures, and contributions of all people are valued and respected.

If you’re thinking about getting involved, Blaschke says, “Heart of America accepts general donations to help fund these projects and the purchase of products to provide for students and their families. People can also shop to provide school supplies for education kits.”

Watch the following video to learn more about the collaboration between Goal Zero and Heart of America to bring sustainable power to Indigenous communities across the Navajo Nation.