From connecting homes to water to new mobile food markets delivering food to families far from a market to clothing thousands of children with winter gear to opening our new Oyate Ta Kola Ku Community Center, 2022 was a year to reach even more families in Indian Country than ever before.
Our 2022 Dreamstarters have been busy working on their Dreamstarter projects since attending the Dreamstarter Academy in the spring.
Among those who have completed their projects are Ku Stevens (Yerington Paiute) of Nevada and Mariah Plummer (Navajo Nation) of Utah.
Ku held his 2nd Annual Remembrance Run and able to achieve his dream of raising awareness of the traumatic history of residential schools, remembering and honoring the relatives who endured them and cultivating a space for healing and reconciliation,” stated Sydney.
Mariah used her grant to create and implement the Utah K’é project for all natives in the regions of Salt Lake City. “Her dream was based upon the Diné Navajo teachings of K’é. The Navajo-English translation is used to describe kinship, blood relation, and balance, which are all essential to a person’s inner peace and striving goals,” said Sydney.
Twenty-eight Dreamstarter Teachers successfully completed their grant years.
Among them was Autumn Adams who used her grant to purchase art supplies for her students and exposed them to various mediums of art.
“Many of our students have tremendous artistic ability and no outlet for that,” reported Autumn. “I want to offer that outlet to my students to help foster positive relationships with them and give them confidence and encouragement.”
Mni Wiconi (Water is Life) Water Line Connection Program
Throughout 2022, Running Strong was able to connect 34 homes to clean running water on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Among them was Venerito Rosales Bull Bear who had been going without running water since February 2018 and having to haul it from 50 yards away.
“I needed water running for my child and myself to keep myself and my child safe and clean,” she said. “I am 50 years old and it’s hard hauling water by buckets.”
Ben High Horse had been without water for 20 years. He would haul water from 1/8 mile away.”
Rodney Bissonnette, with his family of seven, including four children, had been hauling water from 1 mile away.
“We need water because water is life. For cooking, cleaning, drinking, washing,” said Rodney.
Oyate Ta Kola Ku/Medicine Root Garden
On Pine Ridge, we spent much of 2022 preparing for the grand opening of the Oyate Ta Kola Ku Community Center, which was held on October 14, the 58th anniversary of Running Strong co-founder Billy Bills’ historic gold medal win at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
“Our elders have the vision, our youth have the dreams,” stated Billy at the ceremony.
Oyate Teca Project executive director Rose Fraser noted that not only does she now have triple the space to teach, gather and celebrate, but she is also developing the first nursery on the reservation.
Regarding Oyate Teca’s Medicine Root Gardening Program, Rose announced last summer that she is significantly expanding the growing season for its community garden with greenhouses and high tunnels for year-round growing.
In addition this year, on the vast reservation where it is difficult for residents to travel long distances to the Medicine Root Farmers Market, Rose decided that if Pine Ridge residents cannot get to the market, she will bring the market to them with the implementation of a mobile market which travels to remote communities bringing access to healthy, locally-grown produce to families and elders.
Outfitting Native Youth
In 2022, Running Strong for American Indian Youth® distributed 2,989 elementary school kits, 2,020 jr. high kits, 1,500 adult coats, 3,000 youth coats, over 5,000 pairs of winter gloves, 2,000 blankets, over 4,000 pairs of shoes, 3,000 dental kits, and more across 24 program partners in 10 states.
Too many children have to rely on school-offered food for their primary meal of the day. That’s why this year, we provided 2,800 Smart Sacks (bags of food for schoolchildren to take home over the weekend) to the Takini School on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation and 5,760 Smart Sacks to the Wakpala School on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation.
And over the course of the year, we shipped 6,475 boxes of food containing enough to feed a family of four for a week, to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and an additional 4,200 food boxes to Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.
This December, during the Christmas season, we worked once again to ensure that “Santa” didn’t pass hundreds of Native American children by on Christmas Day by providing funding for 2,400 toys to for distribution throughout the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, as well as providing holiday grant funding tour partners in Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Utah.