Access to clean water for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing remains a critical problem for Native American families on reservations throughout the country, including the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Navajo Nation.
Providing water to families on Pine Ridge in South Dakota has been a 30-year-long mission of ours, initially by delivering water by the truckload and digging wells hundreds of feet deep and most recently by connecting hundreds of households to the main water service line which runs through the reservation.
With the success of the Mni Wiconi water program, we are expanding our program to include the District 11 community of Wheatfields, Tsaile and Lukachukai on the Navajo Nation located in Arizona, where there is also a critical need.
“We are now doing water projects within the Six Sacred Mountains on Dinétah! (the traditional homeland of the Navajo tribe)” Cassandra Chee-Tom, Navajo Water Project Manager and Grants Administrator for Running Strong, announced this month.
As you read this, we have seven projects in the beginning stages in the three communities. From the seven projects, five are septic installations with a new leech line and two outdoor water hydrants. In the Wheatfields community there are 325 households, but only 85 have access to clean, running water, so the need is tremendous.
“There are about 240 families hauling water in one fashion or another,” says Cassandra, adding, “Every year the numbers increase where more people find a place to live on the reservation, but not with water service connections.”
Thanks to the supporters of Running Strong we have been able to provide running water to hundreds of Pine Ridge residents over the past three years, and now we are looking eagerly to doing the same for members of the Navajo Nation.