In 2019, Running Strong for American Indian Youth® entered a Memorandum of Understanding in which Running Strong has agreed to match up to $150,000 in donations raised by the Boulder (Colorado) Rotary Club (BRC) and provided to Running Strong by the Boulder Rotary Club.
The MoU stipulates that the BRC will provide $3,000 per individual household for materials, the installation of a water line from the home to the Oglala Sioux Rural Water Supply System main service line which runs through the reservation and the connection of a yard hydrant to which Running Strong will match up to $150,000 over a two-year period.
Two years later since our first joint project in September 2019, through this partnership, together, we have been able to connect more than 40 homes to the water line providing more than of children, parents and elders with all the water they need for drinking, bathing, cooking and washing.
Among them are Harold, a 74-year-old Lakota elder of the Wounded Knee District, who had spend the last eight years getting water from a nearby church and looking for resources to secure running water for his home. However, shortly after contacting Ken Lone Elk, our water coordinator on the reservation, a short time later a 250-foot line was run from his home providing him with all the water he and his household needs.
“It’s such a basic thing, and a lot of people can’t believe how many in Indian Country don’t even have running water,” says Ken. “But when you dig for a connection and hook up a family with running water for a first time, you’re creating hope. You’re changing their lives.”
Running Strong national spokesperson, Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills, told the club after being a virtual speaker at the club at the inception of our partnership that “You have not only given my people hope in a time of need, you have been among the front lines of our Native communities in a year when running water is a dire matter of public safety.
“With every new family we connect, I thank the Creator to have found fellow souls among you who assent, ‘Mni Wiconi,’ or Water is Life. This global experience has magnified the spirituality of the Lakota prayer, ‘We are all related.’ You are my relative.”
Running Strong Executive Director Lauren Haas Finkelstein thanked the BRC and the 18 sister clubs and the Boulder Rotary Club for its strong support of the water line connection program and noted in December that thanks to their partnership Running Strong had received a total of $90,000 ($3,000) per connection for 30 Oglala Lakota families.
“Ages ranged from elders to infants with a total of 119 individuals served, 91 of whom were children,” reported Lauren. “Families had been hauling water from their mom, uncle or other relatives’ homes, and the church next door. One family had to travel a mile away to use the bathroom and another told us they had been living without water for over ten years.
“We highly value our partnership with the Boulder Rotary Club and our common important work in providing CLEAN water to the Oglala Lakota People at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation,” stated Running Strong Executive Director Lauren Haas Finkelstein.
And we are pleased to report that this partnership will be continuing for at least the next 12 months as we work in partnership with the BRC to bring running water to 30 more Pine Ridge families.