As an Energy Efficiency Advocate, funded by the Indigenous Community Energy Efficiency Program, Thurman “Darby” Essie isn’t just advocating for the environment. He’s a champion of his community: Sioux Valley Dakota Nation (Wipazoka Wakpa).

With advocacy work, Darby says it’s important to “get people together and help them understand.” The beauty of this program is it allows Nations to hire members of their own communities, so the incoming knowledge is delivered by someone who knows (and is known by) the community they serve.

Having lived in Sioux Valley himself, Darby describes the need to update homes that have air leakage and poor insulation. Updating these structures can significantly lower energy bills, Darby notes, which is vital for families who struggle financially.

To access energy efficiency upgrades, community members contact their Nation’s housing department, which directs them to Darby and his coworkers. Darby receives direct support from Efficiency Manitoba, which he says will continue after Sioux Valley’s multi-year participation in the Indigenous Community Energy Efficiency Program ends. “[Iain from Efficiency Manitoba] is willing to travel to any community. He just wants to make sure that people know how to do [the upgrades] … He’s willing to teach.”

Passing on his knowledge is the most rewarding aspect of the job for Darby. He recently supported five community members in completing geothermal training. At the graduation celebration barbecue, they were presented with certificates and smudge kits. “Everybody I went to visit at each table was just excited [to help the community] … asking, ‘When are we gonna do our first install?’”

This satisfaction in being a positive influence on the community doesn’t stop with Darby’s coworkers, but extends to the young people in his family. After noticing the work Darby does for his community, his nephew now approaches Darby at events to ask what he can do to help. Even something as simple as bringing a bag of popcorn to an elder puts a smile on the boy’s face. “Do you like that feeling?” Darby has asked his nephew. “That’s what I get every time I help out in the community.”

Nation-to-Nation support is another area of passion for Darby. His goal is to travel to other Dakota Nations, sharing the skills he’s developed. “This is how the Dakotas work. We’re always willing to help, not just our own, but anybody.” Sioux Valley intends to hire Darby to continue the important work he’s begun.

When asked if he’d be willing to share contact information with folks who want to ask questions about the program, Darby doesn’t hesitate to agree.

“The reason there are a lot of other Nations who wear the war bonnet is because the Dakota gifted it to them. That was our way of showing friendship… I wouldn’t mind doing that again… That’s the only way we’re going to be able to survive, period, is by helping each other out.”

Darby Essie,
Energy Efficiency Advocate

We are so thankful to Thurman “Darby” Essie for sharing his story. If you’d like more information about the Indigenous Community Energy Efficiency Program, reach out to Efficiency Manitoba or speak to Darby
directly at

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