Curtis Windy Boy- AmeriCorps in Montana’s Indian Country

Curtis Windy Boy

Curtis Windy Boy (Left) with a fellow AmeriCorps member

30-year old Curtis Windy Boy is an AmeriCorps member with Montana Energy Corps, a program that promotes sustainable energy consumption and energy education. Montana Energy Corps has 13 full time members who serve 1700 hours a year. This year, nearly half of the Montana Energy Corps team is Native American.

Curtis was born in Havre, he is a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe and grew up on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation. He’s been an AmeriCorps member for 2 consecutive service terms, serving on Fort Belknap’s reservation in 2010 and on Rocky Boy’s reservation in 2011.

“I am interested in energy conservation and natural resource management,” said Curtis Windy Boy. “I am thankful to have had opportunities through Montana Energy Corps to work on reservations where my family is located, and provide a service. AmeriCorps has given me the leeway to be able to work on projects that interest me while building the community up.”

Curtis Windy BoyWhile serving on Fort Belknap, Curtis became aware of U.S. Department of Energy’s federal grant funding to support energy audits which are efficiency improvements for Tribal facilities on the reservation. The application process required the completion of Energy Audits to identify the energy efficiency improvements needed. Energy Audits are the inspection, survey and analysis on how to save energy, which ultimately saves money. Curtis explained the benefits of the audits and promoted the availability of DOE funding to the administration and the community. Curtis, then, coordinated the audits with engineers from the Butte-based National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), the sponsor organization of Montana Energy Corps allowing Fort Belknap to prepare the application and secure the federal funding.

The audits will provide a road map of buildings to prioritize through retrofitting for energy conservation.

“Curtis was instrumental in explaining the benefits of energy audits to tribal members,“ said Barb Stiffarm, Executive Director of Opportunity Link, a non-profit organization that helped connect Curtis with AmeriCorps. “He took a lot time and effort to educate the community. He was very persistent and had to collect things like utility bills and building plans. He believed in the energy audits and wanted Fort Belknap to be able to access them.”

Montana Energy Corps“Curtis was able to help make the energy audits happen on Fort Belknap and to be able to do that in the first year is pretty significant,” said Todd Hunkler, Program Director for Montana Energy Corps. “He has been an impressive member for us and through hard work and self motivation he has created a lot of shining moments.”

Curtis is serving with Montana Energy Corps, again this year on Rocky Boy’s reservation and has been weatherizing homes, teaching classes on energy conservation and is involved in the noxious weed program.

After serving 2 consecutive terms with AmeriCorps, Curtis will have earned nearly $10,000 dollars in education awards. Curtis has attended Stone Child College where he earned a Natural Resource AA (Associate of Arts) degree. He is working toward a BA (Bachelor’s degree) at MSU-Northern in civil engineering and says he will use his AmeriCorps education awards toward training in renewable development.

“AmeriCorps has been the perfect opportunity to make a difference and help rural communities progress,” said Curtis Windy Boy. “The reward is the work you do. It’s a big benefit to have the education awards, too. They are the extra help I needed to pay for college and get my degree.”

According to data provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service, from 2005-2009, $750,402 total tuition dollars that were paid to 6 of the 7 Montana tribal colleges came from AmeriCorps education awards.

The five AmeriCorps State programs in Montana serve on all 7 reservations. Montana Campus Corps members serve with schools, health clinics and more; Montana Conservation Corps members weatherize homes and build trails; Montana Energy Corps develops energy education projects and provides outreach, conducts energy assessments and more; Justice for Montanans Project provides outreach about legal resources available and more; Young Adult Service Corps provides youth mentoring and more.

-Story by Jennifer Lawson, Spring 2011
Learn more about AmeriCorps State Programs Serving in Indian Country
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