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April 2021 E-News! Slim Buttes Agricultural Program, SmileStrong, Water Projects, and more this month

Slim Buttes Agricultural Development Program to Plant 200 More Gardens With Running Strong’s Help

For more than 35 years, Slim Buttes Agriculture has been assisting families on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on the Great Plains of South Dakota establish their own gardens, helping to ensure they access to fresh vegetables and fruits grown in their own backyards.

“Slim Buttes Agriculture remains committed to helping home gardeners despite the obstacles,” says SBAG Executive Director Thomas Cook. “Its success through decades has been due to the self-determined desire of the people to help themselves by gardening and has been strengthened by focus on the spiritual foundations of their thinking.

SBAG Field Director Milo Yellow Hair, who hosts a radio gardening program on Monday mornings on the local radio station serving the reservation, KILI Radio 90.1 (also available nationwide on the internet), notes that, “SBAG, at its core, is a food production entity with major investment in the daily life of Oglala Lakota families.”

And right now, Tom, Milo and the crew are once again hard at it again working to meet the gardening and food security needs of the people on Pine Ridge.

Thanks to the supporters of Running Strong for American Indian Youth®– especially one anonymous generous and loyal donor who has provided a $7,000 matching grant for our garden match campaign for SBAG for the past many years and along with our supporters, we were able to raise $20,000 for SBAG this spring – which Tom projects will go a long way to help 200 families (at a minimum) to plant gardens this spring and supplied with seeds and 8,000 seedlings following the last frost of the season in May.


Hygiene Assistance Keeps Families Safe and Prepared

While proper hygiene is always important, with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging threatening illness and even death throughout Indian County, items such as bars of soap and hand sanitizer are more critically essential now than ever.

But even more than that, at Running Strong for American Indian Youth® understand that proper hygiene includes access to toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss, and diapers for thousands of infants and toddlers, and that’s why throughout the past year, we have made providing our partners with these items to help keep their Native clients safe.

And as you are reading this, thanks to our supporters, we are preparing to ship nearly 5,000 pump bottles of liquid hand soap and more than 21,000 diapers to our field office Tipi Waste Un Zanipi (Wellness Through A Good Home) on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.


SmileStrong Keeps Children’s Teeth Healthy and Bright

In 2015, Running Strong for American Indian Youth® Dreamstarter™ Cristin Haase, then a dental school candidate and today a dentist treating Native children, educated us about the dire need for proper dental care in Indian Country, particularly among young children.

Cristin inspired us to take action, so in 2016 we initiated our “Smile Strong” campaign providing thousands of Native American children with a box containing a toothbrush, a six-month supply of toothpaste, dental floss, and educational information about the importance of taking care of their teeth properly, as well as a 2-minute hourglass timer ensuring they know EXACTLY how long they need to brush.

According to Delta Dental of South Dakota, the state’s American Indian children experience some of the worst oral health disparities in the country. In fact, preschool children within the Aberdeen Area Indian Health Service, which includes South Dakota, have the highest tooth decay rate of any population group in the country.

And throughout Indian Country, the situation is no better as 2014 Indian Health Service Oral Health Survey reported that “76 percent [more than three out of four!] American Indian/Alaska Native children have experienced dental decay by the age of 5.”

And as we have for the past several years, next month, thanks to the supporters of Running Strong we will be shipping out 3,000 Smile Strong dental kits to our field office Tipi Waste Un Zanipi (Wellness Through A Good Home) on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and several of our partners throughout Indian Country.

We are well aware of the importance of providing Native children with the “tools for teeth” they need to not only keep their teeth and mouth healthy for a day, a week, a month, or even a year, but to inspire in them the importance of brushing every day for the rest of their lives ensuring for healthy, happy smiles for a lifetime!

Water Projects Begin to Spring

After a late spring snowstorm that snowed in most of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation at the end of April thawed, our water coordinator Ken Lone Elk was optimistic about the progress he and our Oglala Lakota owned and operated team of contractors would be making on this year’s Mni Wiconi water connection program.

“Sam and I are shooting for 75 or at least 50 homes per program year,” Ken told us. “And from my last conversation with Karen [Lone Elk, Pine Ridge ield program assistant], we have about 15 or so in Porcupine and the rest are scattered families in all the districts.”

The districts of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation span an area the size of the state of Connecticut. Of the 33 connected since July, the distance of each home from the Oglala Sioux Rural Water Supply System ranged from 40 feet to 1,000 feet, with some homes requiring the special intervention of a power tool to bypass paved concrete, called a “road borer.” The Mni Wiconi program has successfully connected 33 families to running water since last July with 7 of those families being connected in 2021.

The implementation of the Mni Wiconi water line connection program is still fairly recent, with the Running Strong water connections beginning in 2015. Some of the recipients this past year had been without water for 3 weeks, while one household had lived without running water for more than 15 years. With the dedication and support from Running Strong for American Indian Youth supporters however, more and more families are receiving running water to their homes than ever before.

“One thing is for sure, we will never be out of applicants,” Ken remarked. “There is always someone purchasing a mobile home, so our list is never empty. It stays at a constant work order number of about ten to twenty.”


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