June E-News

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Navajo Nation Relief Supplies Ship Out

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The Navajo Nation has been the hardest hit of any Native community by the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, and is experiencing among the highest per capita rates of confirmed coronavirus cases in the nation.

“This virus didn’t originate on the Navajo Nation,” stated Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. “But we got hit pretty hard.”

This month, thanks to the supporters of Running Strong for American Indian Youth®, we were able to distribute 128 gallons of hand sanitizer, 3,120 bars of soap, 20,000 pairs of latex gloves, 250 Smile Strong dental kits, and 19,100 diapers for growing families with infants and toddlers.

The shipment went to our longtime partner on the reservation, Today We Follow, Tomorrow We Lead (TWF-TWL), and the SLC (Salt Lake City) Air Protectors in Provo, Utah, where 2019 Running Strong for American Indian Youth Dreamstarter® Jacob Crane (Tsuuti’ina Nation) is a director.

“Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic our team has been working diligently to provide emergency food services to the Navajo Nation,” Jacob told us, noting that as of mid-June they have fed more than 700 families.

Without the supplies provided by Running Strong, Jacob said that SLC Air Protectors would be hard-pressed to figure out a way to continue filling in the gaps that tend to happen every day: “It would fall upon SLC Air Protectors to continue this much-needed work.”

Beat the Drum Census Update

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In March, we launched our “Beat the Drum. Be Counted!” campaign to help ensure an accurate count of American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) by providing Chromebooks to our partners across Indian Country. Part of the campaign included distributing computers to partners to better facilitate online census form submissions.

Among the many partners we provided computers to were the Catawba Indian Nation (CIN) in Rock Hill, South Carolina, the Sacred Pipe Resource Center (SPRC) in Mandan, North Dakota, the Denver Indian Family Resource Center (DIFRC) in Colorado, and more.

“The Catawba Indian Nation Tribe is very grateful for receiving the Chromebook and Running Strong supplies to help support the 2020 Census and educate our tribal citizens to be counted,” said Donna Curtis, Catawba Indian Nation Tribal Roll Coordinator, who is expecting that some 200 tribal members will come to their office to complete their census.

SPRC Executive Director Cheryl Kary reported that despite the slowdown of community activity due to the coronavirus pandemic, they are expecting to be able to resume self-response census reporting events when operations resume.

“We have also established some communication with individuals who are homeless and have encouraged them to come into the DIFRC office to complete the census,” said Lucille Echohawk, Executive Director of Denver Indian Family Resource Center.

“It made a difference to many that Running Strong wanted to make people count, and provided every resource through such hard times to make this happen.”

SBAG Update

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For over 30 years, we have been able to provide financial resources to our partner, the Slim Buttes Agricultural Development (SBAG) gardening program on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

“SBAG, at its core, is a food-production entity with a major investment in the daily life of Oglala Lakota families,” explains SBAG program manager Milo Yellow Hair, who oversees operations.

In late February, Milo began getting the word out through his annual programming on the local radio station, KILI FM, covering all aspects of gardening with “planting by the energy of the moon” taking center stage.

Later in the spring, 8,000 organic and heirloom seeds were blessed by Chief American Horse and loaded into 2,500 trays and moistened, creating the seedbeds.

In addition to the expected challenges facing SBAG each year, this year, Milo said the impact of the coronavirus-based lock down and travel restrictions on the reservation posed additional challenges.

“SBAG came to a standstill,” reported Milo, although the tribal council provided some relief after determining that food production was deemed an “essential” operation, which included SBAG.

“However, the realization of food security brought many visitors to us. Among the rank and file of Lakota, gardening became the word of the day!”

And with that increased awareness, Milo said the demand for seedlings jumped and it didn’t take long for 7,500 seedlings to quickly go out the door with many requests for more seeds.

Summer Youth Feeding Program

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For the past several years, children in the remote small communities of Cherry Creek (pop. 350), Red Scaffold (pop. 363) and La Plant (pop. 171) on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota have relied on the Running Strong for American Indian Youth Summer Youth Feeding Program during the summer months when school is out.

Despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, our summer feeding program opened on schedule on June 1 with a modified schedule allowing students to “grab-and-go” their meals as opposed to eating onsite as in past years.

The program is slated to run 50 weekdays, ending on Friday, August 7. The importance of the summer food program on Cheyenne River, among the poorest regions in the country, cannot be overstated.

This year, Running Strong has also been able to provide breakfast in addition to lunch. All meals are free of charge, and any youth under the age of 18 is welcome to come and pick up a healthy, filling meal.

“You’re feeding kids,” says Stacie, our program coordinator. “And you know a child is getting a free, nutritious meal. And the kids don’t have to go hungry.”

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