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On September 11, 2019, 50 Running Strong Tour participants joined us for the 30th (and final) annual tour of Running Strong’s programs on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. During the four-day tour, participants had the opportunity to learn about Running Strong programs and the way we support families. Tour participants were also able to visit sites important to the Lakota people.
The first day of the tour started with an orientation and breakfast in Rapid City where the tour participants were able to meet one another as we set off on the tour. We spent the first morning in the incredible Badlands National Park and drove the picturesque Badlands loop, with stops to take photos along the way. In the afternoon, we had the chance to visit the top of the Crazy Horse monument and see the amazing sculpture of the Lakota leader up close. It was a memorable experience for all!
The next morning was spent at Fort Robinson State Park where Chief Crazy Horse was killed. We then traveled to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where Running Strong Field Coordinator Dave Lone Elk hosted a delicious lunch for everyone at Tipi Waste Un Zanipi (Wellness Through a Good Home) field office and warehouse. After lunch, Dave and his father Ken, who manages Running Strong’s water program on Pine Ridge, shared details about the many in-kind programs that Tipi Waste manages, as well as talking about the Mni Wiconi Water Connection program that provides water connections for Pine Ridge families. We then spent the evening with the Oglala Sioux Tribe Partnership for Housing (OSTPH) and their director Pinky Clifford. Running Strong partners with OSTPH to make small scale home repairs for families in need on Pine Ridge.
On Friday, we were able to visit a home that was being hooked up to a water connection through Running Strong’s water program. Ken and the contractor explained the process that it takes to provide a water connection to Pine Ridge residents. Lunch was provided by the Oyate Teca Project, Running Strong’s newest field office on Pine Ridge. Oyate Teca’s director, Rose Fraser gave a tour of the garden and youth center. Everyone admired all of the fresh produce at Oyate Teca’s farmers market. The highlight of the day was a Powwow at the Loneman School with Billy Mills.
The final day of the tour was back in Rapid City, where we spent time at the Journey Museum. The Running Strong field office staff from the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation joined us for lunch. Billie Rose Garreaux shared information about Food Distributions at Cheyenne River, Mary Little Sky spoke about the Backpack Food Program at Takini School, and Stacie Lee told us about Cheyenne River’s Summer Youth Feeding Program. Two of our Dreamstarters, Annie Chasing Hawk and Hokani Maria, joined us to talk about their Dreamstarter projects. The final event of the tour was a special reception with Billy Mills in the evening. It was a wonderful time to spend together as everyone had the opportunity to meet and take their picture with Billy and reflect back on the amazing trip and the projects that we visited.