Running Strong is dedicated to uplifting the next generation of Native leaders and communities holistically- meaning we are committed to supporting native individuals and families by meeting their critical needs, protecting their communities, and preserving cultures and native homelands. Our Dreamstarter program focuses on uplifting the next generation of native leaders and their communities by providing grants to Dreamstarters and empowering these Dreamstarter youth to create programs tailored to their communities. Two of our 2023 Dreamstarters, Sheniah Reed and Loren Waters, have developed programs to address water rights and water quality issues their tribes face, all to help protect natural waterways and create a better future.
Sheniah Reed (Oneida Nation) is pursuing a Wildlife Ecology and Management degree at the University of Wisconsin- Steven’s Point. Sheniah’s dream is to hold a space for Native youth to learn about environmental injustices, such as poor water quality and food insecurity, and get them involved in protecting their natural resources and native animal species. Sheniah has invited students from her college and surrounding areas to attend a one-day conference she is hosting on her college campus. Participants will hear from expert speakers on water rights and food sovereignty and have the opportunity to ask questions and engage with a guest panel of fellow Dreamstarters. There will also be an information fair where local organizations can distribute information, share their efforts, and gain support from others who want to get involved. Sheniah is helping to create and strengthen a community of young water protectors, with an expected turnout of over 150 participants from all over Wisconsin.
Loren Waters (Cherokee Nation) uses mainstream media and her creativity to raise awareness of water rights and quality issues across tribal nations. Loren’s dream is to increase the visibility of Indigenous environmental efforts, like the clean-up of the Tar Cree superfund site on her tribe’s reservation. To raise awareness of this environmental injustice and pollution of tribal waterways, Loren is using her Dreamstarter grant to produce a short film “ᏗᏂᏠᎯ ᎤᏪᏯ (Meet Me At The Creek)” – a documentary highlighting Cherokee Elder Rebecca Jim’s fight to restore Tar Creek. Recently, Loren presented her completed film at a conference for potential funders and has submitted her work to film festivals nationwide. Loren is also looking at hosting her film festival in Oklahoma, near the Tar Creek Site, that will include a screening of her film along with other native creators, host panels, and guest speakers, and provide attendees and local residents with water filters. The fight to restore Tar Creek is still ongoing, “ᏗᏂᏠᎯ ᎤᏪᏯ (Meet Me At The Creek)” is a transformative new way to raise awareness of the environmental injustices faced by the Cherokee Nation and so many other tribes. Keep up to date with Loren’s film by following Loren on Instagram @lorenkwaters, or visit https://indianyouth.org/i-am-on-native-land/ to learn how you can get involved.