Our day began visiting Bear Butte. We were welcomed with a prayer from our guides Ken Lone Elk and Chris Eagle Hawk. After admiring the landscape of Bear Butte and learning about its importance to the Lakota people, we were on our way to the Takini School on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation.
The Takini School
To look at Running Strong’s backpack food program in action we stopped and had lunch at the Takini School. The school serves students K-12 that come from all over the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation. Takini means survivor and the students are descendants of Chief Spotted Elk’s band who survived the Wounded Knee Massacre.
The backpack food program started after teachers were noticing their students were tired and hungry coming in on Mondays. Because the students qualify for the Federal Free Lunch Program they rely on the breakfasts and lunch provided by the school during the week, but the weekends are more difficult.
The backpack food program began to help provide kid-friendly, easy to eat and prepared foods. We are able to include fresh fruit in the weekly bags that children receive and oftentimes the weekly sacks of food can help feed their entire families.
Summer Youth Feeding at Red Scaffold
Next, we traveled to the Sacred Heart Church in Red Scaffold, one of the sites of our Summer Food Program. We were welcomed to Red Scaffold by Dayne Collins. She volunteers as a cook and on average feeds an average of 38 youth a day. She manages the site by herself, driving some 132 miles round trip each week during the program to pick up food supplies.
Since 1995 Running Strong has been supporting Summer Food Program on Cheyenne River and in 2010 we partnered with the USDA to help fund the program.
The kids are fed lunch every day during the summer, all they have to do is show up. The lunches are healthy, meeting USDA nutritional standards. These lunches are essential because when school is not in session there are limited options for the kids to get food.
Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP)
We received an in-depth tour of the Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP). CRYP has been serving kids on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation for over 25 years. The center is also an essential part of Running Strong. Since our first grant in 1995 for $1,000 we have supported CRYP’s opening of both the Main Youth Center, known as the Billy Mills Youth Center, the Cokata Wiconi Teen Center, and the wide variety of programs that help serve the youth in the community.
We were given a tour of the Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) Garden, a 2.5-acre organic vegetable garden.
After taking a look at the gardens we visiting the Ċokata Wiċoni Teen Center (“Center of Life” in the Lakota language). It’s CRYP’s most recent building and includes an indoor basketball court, an internet café, classrooms, library, and final art and dance spaces.
It was so wonderful to see the programs that Running Strong support.
We finished up with dinner at in Eagle Butte, SD with Running Staff on the Cheyenne River Reservation – Stacie Lee, who runs the Summer Youth Feeding Program, Billie Rose Garreaux, our Food Distribution Coordinator, and Mary Little Sky, our Backpack Food Coordinator. In the morning, we’ll visit the Keya Foundation and spend time with Year 2 Dreamstarter Annie Chasing Hawk.