In 2015, Running Strong for American for American Indian Youth® was made aware of the frustration many residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation felt not to have running water to their homes – even though a main water service line ran through the reservation, sometimes just a couple hundred feet from a home without water.
Many people without water, such as Duane Big Crow, had been on a waiting list for years to be connected to the line only to be told time and time again to call back in a few months.
So Running Strong Field Coordinator Dave Lone Elk contacted Executive Director Lauren Haas Finkelstein to ask if there was something we could do help those on the list most in need of running water.
The problem? As usual, it is the expense, and tapping into a water line and running pipes hundreds of feet to a house is not cheap. If fact, it’s pretty expensive with the average cost being $7,500 per house which varies depending on how far it is from the main line.
So Lauren went to the Running Strong Board of Directors with an idea for a pilot program to connect 10 households, and despite the major financial expenditure, the board agreed.
One Family's Story
Dave and his father, Ken, who works with him on Pine Ridge, began going over the waiting list to determine which households should be included in the pilot program.
Duane grew up on Pine Ridge fetching water from a creek as a boy, and collecting it from his brother’s house, which has running water, as an adult. Duane had been on the waiting list for four years and he never could have paid the cost of connecting to the main line himself.
Now, he and his four young grandchildren who living with him never have to worry about having plenty of water for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing. Although, realizing how precious it is, they remain careful not to waste a drop.
“It’s been more like a blessing to them,” Duane said. “I’m glad Running Strong came through.”
With the success of the pilot program in 2016, the Running Strong board authorized that the program continue full steam ahead with the goal of connecting hundreds of households over the next few years.
According to Ken, it is estimated that there are 200 Oglala families like that living on the reservation without water.
For 2017, the board agreed to double the budget from $75,000 to $150,000 in order to connect 20 households to the main water line this year – 10 percent of those currently without water.
By the end of this year that will mean that 30 households, composed of hundreds of children, women, men and elders, will have what we all take for granted – running water – and it’s all because of people like you!