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Tribe’s energy conference enjoys strong attendance

In person attendance for the conference neared capacity at the Native Learning Center in Hollywood. (Photo Louis Porter Jr.)

HOLLYWOOD – The Seminole Tribe’s fifth “Renewable Energy and Sustainability Conference” returned to an in-person format at the Native Learning Center (NLC) this year, and gauging by the attendance numbers, people were happy to be back in Hollywood.

NLC marketing coordinator Louis Porter Jr. said there were 110 in-person attendees, including presenters, with another 60 attendees participating virtually. Last year’s conference took place in a virtual format due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The annual conference attracts attendees from across Indian Country – whether tribal members or those working for tribes – who share up-to-date information and best practices on sustainability, energy security and energy sovereignty issues.

NLC’s new training and development manager, Hurvens Monestime, welcomed attendees to the two and a half-day conference Feb. 7.

“The purpose of this conference is to focus on the newly changing landscape of tribal energy development and sustainability,” Monestime said. “This conference will give tribes and First Nations an opportunity to explore the range of renewable energy and sustainability opportunities that exist and how to start the process.”

Thomas Jones (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma), a deployment specialist in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, a regular at the conference, opened the first day with a keynote presentation on “supercharging” tribal clean energy projects with the help of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Other speakers covered topics on best practices, policy and regulatory changes, and industry trends.

About a dozen tribal employees attended and two were formally part of the conference. Emran Rahaman, the tribe’s director of Public Works, participated in a panel discussion about about funding “climate proof” water infrastructure. Harvey Rambarath, the tribe’s assistant director of Community Planning & Development, gave a presentation on the tribe’s solar powered battery energy storage systems (BESS) on the Big Cypress and Brighton reservations.

Tribal energy independence efforts were set into motion by Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. soon after Hurricane Irma caused significant power outages on the Big Cypress and Brighton reservations in 2017. He subsequently launched an energy committee to take a broad look at renewable energy and sustainability projects the tribe could embark on, which includes the annual conference.

The energy committee’s goal, and that of the conference, is not only to keep the tribe on the forefront of sustainability issues, but also to offer attendees an opportunity to learn more about the tribe. The NLC is located at 6363 Taft Street in Hollywood. It is supported by an Indian Housing Block Grant, which is awarded by the Office of Native American Programs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. More information is at

Harvey Rambarath, the tribe’s assistant director of Community Planning & Development, spoke about energy projects on the Big Cypress and Brighton reservations. (Photo Louis Porter Jr.)
Native Learning Center and Seminole Taft Street Properties staff helped with the logistics of the conference. From left to right are Ouista Atkins, Omaida Cavazos, Julie Moag, Georgette Palmer Smith (Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma/Choctaw), Gaylene Jacobs and Hurvens Monestime. (Photo Louis Porter Jr.)
Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at