A terrible storm just came through the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, affecting the lives and livelihoods of its 40,000 residents.
On August 2, Running Strong for American Indian Youth® field staffer Ken Lone Elk took to the airwaves of the local KILI Radio station on the “Running Strong Field Office Program Hour” to inform listeners about the extensive damage to homes and gardens throughout the reservation – and that we are in the planning stages right now to determine the best way to move forward to provide relief to hundreds of Pine Ridge families.
Of course, we know these people with damaged roofs and siding and shattered windows need assistance as soon as possible.
But with our decades of experience of working on the reservation, we also realize that disaster response is not just a matter of jumping in headfirst without assessing the full extent of the damage, determining which families have been hit the hardest, and how best to utilize our limited resources to help those who need it most.
As Ken told his listeners on KILI, the Voice of the Lakota people on the reservation, help from Running Strong is coming soon and they need to contact him to receive assistance – even giving out his personal cell phone number over the air!
Ken began the radio program saying, “I want to extend my sympathies to all our relatives in Oglala, Wakpamni, Allen and a lot of places that received hail damage.
“My heart goes out to you.”
Ken could empathize with that affected noting that in a storm the previous year hail caused $12,000 damage to his truck, his son’s truck was a total loss, and his home experienced broken windows and severe damage to the siding.
“I know the feeling,” he said. “I know what it’s like.”
Visiting a “kola” (good friend) on the reservation whose house had been damaged, Ken told listeners, “I really felt bad looking at his house. I could see the pain in his eyes. I felt really sad.”
Ken explains that he makes a point to reach out to the families out in the far reaches of the district.
“My plan has always been to help the families who live way out,” he said. “There are families that are quiet, humble, those are the ones I always try to help.”
While the Ogala Sioux Tribe government is there to provide assistance to Pine Ridge residents, Ken understands that with limited funds. “The tribe can only do so much.”
Despite the additional hardship on the families caused by the storm, Ken is still able to look to the environmental disasters in the east and west – flooding and wildfires – and be thankful.
And after all…
“It’s tough sometimes, but we’re Lakotas. Nothing holds us down.”
And as a final assurance that Running Strong will soon providing damage assistance to hundreds –
“I want you to know that I’m out there.”