In frigid, snowy northern Minnesota, a group of Native Americans is reaching up to the sun to bring its heat back down to earth in a high-technology way.

 

A tribal corporation owned by the Leech Lake Indian Reservation has struck a deal with Saga Solar SBC, a solar systems manufacturer based in St. Paul, to move its operation 200 miles north to the small community of Cass Lake.

 

The solar photovoltaic panel maker will be owned and operated by the Ojibwe Tribe.

 

After Leech Lake Band acquired 60% controlling interest in Saga Solar, it became the first indigenous-owned solar operation based on tribal land. The company was originally established by R. Marie Zola, a socially conscious entrepreneur of Cherokee descent.

 

To start her company, Zola tapped into the Made In Minnesota incentive program which helps new businesses ideas based on solar energy get started in the state.

 

Zola said part of the reason she opted for solar panel manufacturing was to “address energy poverty” in Minnesota, but also to take part in what she sees as today’s robust energy revolution, led by solar technology.

 

Cass Lake is a tiny community with a population of 770, but is wholly contained within the Leech Lake Reservation with a population of about 10,600 people.

 

The new solar company expects to employ 24 people in manufacturing jobs within the next year – a significant amount of jobs for a community of this size, and where good-paying jobs have been scarce.

 

In addition to creating jobs, tribal leaders say making solar panels on northern Minnesota tribal lands is part of an overall commitments by indigenous peoples to green, environmentally effective and sustainable enterprises.

Categories: Native American, Solar Business

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