In the spring of 2021, Running Strong for American Indian Youth® proudly announced our vision for the proposed Oyate Ta Kola Ku Community Center to be constructed on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
The 21,000-square-foot center, named Oyate Ta Kola Ku – Friend of All Nations – in memory of the late Running Strong co-founder, Gene Krizek, is now providing more than triple the amount of programming space previously offered by our partner on the reservation, the Oyate Teca Project.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, Oct. 14, the 58th anniversary of Running Strong co-founder Billy Mills’ historic gold medal win at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, he stated: “Our elders have the vision our youth have the dreams.”
Oyate Teca Project executive director Rose Fraser stated: “Not only do we have triple the space to teach, gather, and celebrate, but we will soon have the first nursery ever on Pine Ridge.”
“This is what dreams are… the beginning of something,” said Christian Relief Services Charities President and CEO Bryan Krizek.
Running Strong executive director Sydney Mills Farhang, stated: “This is not our building, it’s the community’s building.
Within minutes following the ceremony, excited children took to the floor to shoot some hoops in their brand-new state-of-the-art gymnasium for the very first time for the many years to come. Adults and tribal elders toured the classrooms and kitchen facilities, just imaging the arts, language, beading, and traditional cooking classes they could soon teach.
And all were excited at the possibilities this new community center would create, all the while providing a safe, healthy, accessible space for all to feel welcome
And, as for Billy Mills himself, “As I gazed upon the completed community center on that glorious Friday afternoon my heart as filled with joy.
“Even now I cannot even begin to describe how overjoyed the young people, families, and elders of Pine Ridge were to see this building rise up from the ground over the past year.
“The excitement of the children as the ran through the front doors was contagious!”
Running Strong has been, and remains even more so today, committed to the future of native children, their families, and the communities they live in.