DOE Official Encourages Grads to Follow Passion

Aug 15th, 2006 | By | Category: 18-1: The Winding Road to Student Success, Tribal College News

Representatives from three federal agencies provided commencement addresses this year at tribal colleges. Collectively, they addressed more than 180 students at Blackfeet Community College, Little Big Horn College, and College of Menominee Nation.

Thomas Dorr, under secretary for rural development at the Department of Agriculture, spoke at College of Menominee Nation (Keshena, WI). Deborah Cavett, executive director in the office of the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities, spoke at Little Big Horn College (Crow Agency, MT).

Dr. James R. Fischer spoke at Blackfeet Community College (BCC, Browning, MT) May 6. As the senior technical advisor to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Renewable Energy Section Board of Directors, he was well matched with the Blackfeet tribal college.

The college and the Blackfeet Tribe have been involved in wind energy for many years. The college put its first wind turbine on line in 1996. A 10-kilowatt wind turbine provides power for the vocational education building. With funding from DOE and the Air Force, BCC students collect data on the wind and utility costs. (See TCJ, Vol. 17, N.2, pages 10-15.)

“Indigenous nations like the Blackfeet have always looked to the future and attempted to live sustainably,” Fischer acknowledged. He quoted the Blackfeet philosophy: “In order to understand us, you need to understand the world around us.”

“What you call the Essence of All Life, Ihtsi-pai-tapi-yopa, made all living things equal: Humans were not given the right to rule over or exploit the rest of nature. You were ahead of the game all along.”

“As we move to the future, we need to become more like you….to understand and follow the principles of Ihtsi-pai-tapi-yopa in order to sustain the quality of the natural world,” he said.

Rather than focusing on the intricacies of wind power, Fischer gave an inspirational speech, exhorting students to follow their passion while providing personal examples from his own life. “Do not accept something that does not stir your passion and fulfill a need of your nation,” he said.

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