Back in April 2020, Harold Eagle Bull came to Running Strong for American Indian Youth® to request a water line connection to his home located just 112 feet from the Oglala Sioux Rural Water Supply System main service line which runs across the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
At the time, the now 75-year-old Lakota elder, had spent the last eight years walking 300 feet each way to fetch water for his daily needs from a local church, but he did not complain or blame others for the situation. He accepted the situation for what it was and addressed the issue himself.
However, that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t like to have running water at his home in Wounded Knee, but the cost of several thousands of dollars to connect a water line to his home was simply out of his reach so he carried on.
He likely had no idea what would happen next.
Today, through our Mni Wiconi (Water is Life) water line connection program, Harold is no longer having to walk to the church for water, instead, all he has to do is walk a few steps to his kitchen or bathroom and turn on the tap.
“My parents finally have water in their home after 12 years thanks to Running Strong!” Harold’s daughter told our water coordinator on the reservation, Ken Lone Elk, who has known him since they were in second grade at Porcupine Day School. “They are so grateful!
“My mother cried, and my dad has the biggest smile ever because they can finally use their own toilet and take a shower in their home – a true celebration for sure!”
But Running Strong wasn’t done with Harold just yet as this summer we came back with our Oglala Lakota contractor to completely replace the hot/cold potable water system, install a new shower, shower valve, bathroom, and kitchen drains install a new hot water heater, completely new sewer drainage system under the mobile home and install new electrical fixtures in the bathroom.
“Thank you ever so much for this program,” Harold’s daughter wrote Ken. “We love you, Billy Mills, and to the worker that dedicated his time from start to finish on this job.
“Truly, truly grateful!”
Another Pine Ridge elder who just got running water and a septic system through our Mni Wiconi program is Louis Tyon who was constructing a frame house about three-tenths of a mile from the main service water line but could not afford to run a water pipe to his new home.
We were able to run 440 feet of pipe from his home to tap into the main water line, install a hydrant, meter pit, and 1,000-gallon septic tank and drainfield so Louis and his wife can enjoy life in their new home without worry about how they would get water.
“It’s such a basic thing, and a lot of people can’t believe how many in Indian Country don’t even have running water,” says Ken. “But when you dig for a connection and hook up a family with running water for a first time, you’re creating hope. You’re changing their lives.”
Watch as Harold Eagle Bull turns on his water for the first time!