On July 5, thousands of listeners to KILI Radio, the voice of the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, had the opportunity to learn all about the programs being operating on the reservation by Running Strong for Indian Youth®.
Field Coordinators Dave Lone Elk and Rose Fraser, alongside Field staffer Ken Lone Elk (who just happens to be Dave’s dad and has been working with Running Strong for more than 30 years), spoke during the hour-long broadcast.
Their informative talks about our youth and garden programs at Oyate Teca by Rose, the great strides being made in our water connection program by Ken and the in-kind distributions of food, school supplies and more by Dave was an education for those residents who didn’t realize the full extent of all we do there.
Of course, none of these things could be done without the compassion and generosity of our loyal, longtime supporters and thanks to kind permission of KILI production coordinator Derrick Janis, we are able to provide excerpts of the program so you can hear firsthand from Dave, Ken, and Rose.
Speaking on the gardening program which begins in January with several weeks of pre-season instruction, Rose announced that everything is “growing strong.”
“We’re in full production mode,” she said, noting that through the assistance of our supporters, the Oyate Teca Medicine Root gardening program has expanded its acreage from ½ acres to 5 acres in the past few years.
In addition, Oyate Teca just kicked off opening day of its summer-long farmers market which provides healthy – and affordable – fresh vegetables and fruits to thousands on Pine Ridge, where fresh produce is hard to find and expensive when available.
She also announced that with the vastly expanded gardening program, she will be able to include fresh produce in 500 food boxes soon to be distributed to families on the reservation.
Things got a bit lighthearted during the discussion on Oyate Teca’s gardening program, when Rose misspoke saying that the nearly 400 tomato plants in their hoop house are “all strung up to grow 50 feet.”
“Wow!” quipped Dave, causing Rose to quickly correct herself saying that she didn’t mean they grow 50 feet tall, but that each plant is growing to be more than 10 feet tall and will produce 50 pounds of tomatoes.
She also explained how the gardening project is expanding the palates on Pine Ridge as families are learning how to incorporate previous healthy foods unknown to them such as kale, leeks kohlrabi and more.
Ken announced that 10 families are on Running Strong’s list to be connected to the main service water line which runs through the reservation bringing clean, treated water to families and elders who have not had running water for years and explained the application process.
Dave told residents how to receive the boxes of food and other in-kind items such as school supplies, winter coats, disposable diapers and laundry detergent provided by Running Strong and distributed throughout the district.
When a recent food delivery arrived at Tipi Waste, one of Running Strong’s field offices on Pine Ridge, Dave knew something was different this time around as it took two trucks instead of the usual one to deliver the hundreds of boxes of food.
“Man, there’s got to be a lot of stuff in these boxes,” he recalled thinking to himself at the time. “And there was. They were pretty hefty boxes.
Rose chimed in saying that “We get a lot of compliments” every time they distribute Running Strong food boxes at Oyate Teca. “It goes really fast. People really look forward to that.”
She also took the opportunity to plug the free dental screening that will be held in partnership with Delta Dental of South Dakota at the end of the month where dental hygienists will check kids’ teeth for cavities and other issues, and each child will be provided with a Running Strong SmileStrong dental kit ensuring they have the toothbrushes and toothpaste they need to keep their teeth clean and healthy.
Ken noted that all Running Strong activities on Pine Ridge are led by Lakotas – Dave, Rose and himself, as well as at the district service centers, and the Running Strong mission is to be “a hand up, not a handout. If you really try as a family, we try to help you.”
Dave also pondered the question of what to name their program which is now a regular feature on KILI Radio on the first Thursday of each month.
“We’ve gotta find a cool name for this show,” he said, just a split second before the answer came to him – “Talking Strong.”
In conclusion, Ken expressed his gratitude on behalf of all the residents of Pine Ridge to “all the individuals who have been so kind and glad to help us… and we don’t want to forget all of our donors who are listening – thank you from wherever you are.