In recognition of the 30th Anniversary of the incorporation of Running Strong for American Indian Youth®, we are embarking on our Mni Wiconi (Water is Life) campaign with the goal of connecting households on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to the main water service line which runs through the reservation – 30 running water connections in 2020, and 300 or more in 2021 and coming years.
For generations, the Oglala Lakota Sioux living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation have struggled to have access to clean water for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing. Today, it is estimated that there are between 250 and 400 families on the reservation who must walk hundreds of yards, or more, to fill containers at their nearest neighbor’s or family member’s home, or drive miles to a community water tap, or drive to a store to purchase bottled water which is expensive and difficult to afford. For decades the Indian Health Service has been very gradually connecting homes to the water pipeline but its current estimated timeline to complete the task is more than 40 years, and there is great need.
HOW WE ARE ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM:
When Running Strong co-founder Gene Krizek visited the Pine Ridge in the 1980s for the first time and spoke with the tribal chief Joe American Horse about what was their greatest need, he gave a one-word response: “Water.” Beginning first delivering water by the truckload, and then later by drilling hundreds of deep water wells to serve households and even entire communities, today Running Strong is helping to meet the need by connecting families to the Oglala Sioux Rural Water Supply System main service line which runs through the reservation. Running Strong is partnering with the Boulder, CO, Rotary Club Foundation to connect more families to the water line this year and in 2021.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT NOW:
While living without water was a challenge before, the need has been made much more urgent with the necessity of frequent hand-washing recommendations being made the national health experts as one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus, and potentially serious illness and even death. Access to clean water is necessary for a healthy and productive life. When people have access to clean water, proper hygiene is possible and water-related diseases decrease. Children and families are healthier, and spend less time, and money, obtaining water and more time seeking economic sustainability. In addition, by being connected to the water line, families have the water they need to plant gardens in their yards, helping to alleviate the scarcity of healthy food.
WHO WE ARE AND WHO WE SERVE:
Running Strong for American Indian Youth®, co-founded by USAF Col. Gene Krizek (Ret.) and Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills, Oglala Lakota, who grew up on Pine Ridge, has been helping Oglala Lakota children and families there for more than 30 years. Since then, our programs have extended throughout Indian County from New York State to California. In addition to our water projects, Running Strong provides critical needs such as supplemental food, winter coats, school supplies and much more to our Native American partners, as well as supporting cultural and language projects.
OUR QUALIFICATIONS TO DO THE WORK:
Running Strong does not tell our Native American partners what they need; we ask them, and then with the generous financial assistance of our supporters across the country, we do our best to grant their requests as we have been doing for more than three decades. Running Strong has connected more than 100 households to the main water line since initiating our Mni Wiconi (Water is Life) program in 2015.
THE FINANCIAL OBJECTIVES:
Through our partnership with the Boulder Rotary Club Foundation we are establishing a matching grant program of $150,000 each with a goal of raising a total of $300,000 to connect 30 households to the water line this year at a cost of $5,000 to $10,000 per home.