The Power of “Indigenuity”

The Intersection of Ingenuity and Indigenous Sciences

Cruz Tecumseh Collin is on a mission to heal the world. And if early progress is any indication, he very well may.

At the age of 19, Cruz, an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, has a dream “to help Indigenous Peoples lead the world toward a sustainable future through the implementation of our sciences and traditional knowledge.”

His inspiring, innovative initiative is called “Sustainably Powering Rural Native Communities,” and Cruz recently received a $20,000 Dreamstarter grant to “build and test a modified solar technology that is sustainably produced and is not environmentally harmful in its disposal.”

The Lakota are a Native American people, and they are part of the Tetuwan Band of the Oceti Sakowin (the Seven Council Fires), also referred to historically as “The Great Sioux Nation.” The Lakota Peoples are currently based in South Dakota, North Dakota and Canada. Not uncoincidentally, the Lakota have a prophecy that they will be called upon to heal the world.

It is, in part, representative of Cruz’s heritage, this spirit that drives his passion for healing the planet. By working to combine western science and Lakota knowledge, he has forged a position of being a pioneer in sustainability, brilliantly leveraging the intersection between modern science and indigenous sciences, customs and practices. 

Cruz has said, “Environmental justice is part of who we are naturally and it is what our society’s strove to create. It is key to not only helping us move forward into the future, but rediscovering who we were in the past.” 

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His dream is to combine his traditional Lakota knowledge and scientific principles with western science to build a more sustainable and cost-effective solar panel system. Cruz is determined to prove that dreams really can come true. 

Because, as Olympic great Billy Mills (also Lakota) has said, “You need a dream to fix broken wings.”

Photo: Running Strong for American Indian Youth® and Cruz Collin

Embracing the Best of Both Worlds to Heal the World Itself

Cruz recently told Running Strong that, ever since he was a young boy, he loved nature and dreamed of making the world a better place. Here is an excerpt that relays his vision, his passion and his plans for the future of our planet, as shared with Running Strong, a nonprofit organization committed to building the capacity of local Native communities so they are well equipped to respond to the challenges they face: 

“As a child I was always in the woods observing Mother Nature and the intricate wonders and systems she creates,” said Cruz. “When I was young I did not realize that the principles of sustainability and working with nature’s natural systems that I was learning about and experiencing were the core of our Lakota ways.”

Cruz says this innovative design is cost-effective and produces more electricity than current solar panels and will help strengthen tribal sovereignty.

“It will also ensure that once installed, renewable and sustainable power is being delivered in a way that is aligned with my Lakota scientific principles and mission to protect Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) and all life.”

Cruz added, “This design has the potential to provide high paying jobs to people on my reservation, which like many reservations, suffers from a lack of economic opportunity.

“This product can help solve this problem, and it has the power to serve as the start of a solution to the world’s energy crisis.”

At the age of 6, he was brought into his Lakota ceremonies when he went to his first Sundance where he instantly felt at home watching the ceremony and supporting the dancers. “There was something so familiar about it, and it made me feel so happy, safe, and free.”

“Because of this love for my cultural ways, I was allowed to fully participate in the ceremony when I was 9 years old. Ever since that time, Sundance has been my intellectual, spiritual, and scientific anchor.

“It has allowed me to hold onto my traditions and the ways of my ancestors in a world that seeks to induct people into mainstream society.”

With the instincts of a veteran inventor, Cruz holds two provisional patents for his solar panels, filed pro bono by Quinn IP Law at the behest of firm principal Chris Quinn, who has joined Cruz’s family in support of Lakota peoples in South Dakota for more than 10 years. The Spirit Horse Connection, the nonprofit Chris runs with his wife Karen, helps fund projects that support and benefit the Lakota.

Photo: Running Strong for American Indian Youth® and Cruz Collin

Chris says of Cruz, “It is a source of pride that the Lakota are really trying to help the environment, but an even bigger honor to have gotten to know Cruz. His passion and his innovation are impressive for an inventor of any age, let alone one still in his teens. The future is bright for Cruz, and because of people like him, for the world we all share.”

We may not have coined the term ourselves, but consider our firm bullish on the power of “indigenuity” — the best of ingenuity and indigenous knowledge working in concert to change the world. 

To learn more about Cruz Collin and his mission to heal the planet through innovation and indigenous knowledge, read this in-depth profile on Running Strong’s website.