Introducing Catherine Zingg, Director of Indigenous Partnerships

New Mexico Senate Bill 169– A Brighter & Greener Economy Ahead for Tribes, Pueblos, & Nations

By Catherine Zingg (Ho-Chunk Nation)

Hižąkiišąną Hįįnį Karagiwiną! Greetings to each and every one of you, my relatives and friends. As the new Director of Indigenous Partnerships at Vote Solar and as a member of the Interior West Team, I am honored to introduce myself, my background, and my values as one of the newer hires at Vote Solar that represents a meaningful shift in relationships between Tribes and our organization.

Firstly, I am a proud member of the Ho-Chunk Nation. I am a daughter and a sister. And I am constantly in search of understanding between my language, my identity, and my role in this collective community and land that I call home which is Phoenix, Arizona. While my position at Vote Solar signifies a turn towards truth and honesty between policy spaces and Tribal Nations in the Four Corners region as it relates to clean energy, my approach to this work will always be that of centering Tribal sovereignty. If Indigenous peoples are not in the rooms or at the table clearly voicing their beliefs, community interests, and values, policy and advocacy will be lacking depth and fullness of body. The convergence between Indigenous systems of governance and Western systems of governance is critical to not only moving towards a more sustainable future but in allowing the fullness of humanity in its many expressions. 

Our policy victories when centering Indigenous peoples’ rights and wellbeing mean more than policy: they are victories for our hearts and bodies as an interconnected community.

With over four years of experience in food sovereignty work, coalition building, and health equity policy implementation with Tribes, I acknowledge that our systems rely upon one another. From public health to environmental impact, our actions in current policy work will impact future generations to come and must reflect our communities’ values and beliefs as Indigenous people.

SB169– What Does it Mean for Tribes, Pueblos, and Nations?

With the proposed Climate Investment Center Act, Tribal communities in New Mexico will have greater access to green energy project financing than ever before. With this potential emergence of New Mexico’s first green bank, Tribal customers will be equally served in green energy project financing as other customers, and more investment will be driven to Tribal communities. 

Some highlights of the Climate Investment Center Act include: 

  • Creating a nonprofit that will be able to receive and distribute federal and private funding
  • Establishing a nominating committee to appoint an initial board
  • Funding priority green projects that include but are not limited to mitigating climate change, increasing weatherization and climate resiliency, reducing energy burdens in Tribal communities, increasing workforce development, and applying for federal funds through the Inflation Reduction Act
  • Making an appropriation of $20 million to fund initial operating costs

For Tribal communities, the Climate Investment Center would act as another source of funding for solar projects and jumpstart green economies at both state and Tribal levels. By alleviating the amount of time procuring capital for renewable energy projects, more time can be spent towards developing a clean, green economy at the state, local, and Tribal levels of government. The Climate Investment Center is an opportunity for Tribes to be a part of and lead equitable transition in their communities.

Furthermore, the green bank could include financing terms for other forms of environmental infrastructure such as water conservation, land management, and waste and recycling. The green bank model exists to drive private investment into green energy projects and boost the climate economy while ensuring low-income communities have access to these green energy projects within their communities.

The Climate Investment Center Act not only offers a quicker transition to solar projects and other green projects, but it offers a pathway to justice and equity for Tribal communities by ensuring that Tribes have access to equal investment with green projects when compared to other communities in the state of New Mexico.  

See for more information on the Climate Investment Center.

Endorsed by: CVNM, Vote Solar, Sierra Club, Prosperity Works, Coalition of Sustainable Communities, REIA, Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, YouthWorks, SWEEP, CCSA

JOIN THE MOVEMENT Sign up for updates from Vote Solar on solar progress and energy justice across the U.S.