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September News from Running Strong for American Indian Youth® Bringing Water to Navajo Nation, Food to Children, and more

Diné Naabeehó Tó Challenge - Running Strong Water Project Expands to Navajo Nation

Access to clean water remains a critical problem for Native American families on reservations throughout the country, including the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Navajo Nation.

Providing water to families on Pine Ridge in South Dakota has been a 30-year-long mission of ours, initially by delivering water by the truckload and digging water wells and most recently by connecting hundreds of households to the main water service line which runs through the reservation.

With the success of the Mni Wiconi water program, we are expanding our program to include the District 11 community of Wheatfields, Tsaile and Lukachukai on the Navajo Nation located in Arizona, where there is also a critical need.

“We are now doing water projects within the Six Sacred Mountains on Dinétah! (the traditional homeland of the Navajo tribe)” Cassandra Chee-Tom, Navajo Water Project manager and grants administrator for Running Strong, announced this month.

We have seven projects in the beginning stages in the Wheatfields area of the reservation. There are 325 households, but only 85 with running water, so the need is tremendous.

“There are about 240 families hauling water in one fashion or another,” says Cassandra, adding, “Every year the numbers increase where more people find a place to live on the reservation, but not with water service connections.”

Smart Sacks Provide Food for Students and Families All Weekend Long

At the Takini (Survivor) School on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation, 100 percent of the students are Native American and 98 percent of them come from low-income families.

Although all these students qualify for the federal government’s free meals program and are guaranteed a healthy and filling breakfast and lunch each weekday while school is in session, that is not the case on weekends.

That’s why at Takini we initiated our “Smart Sacks” program providing students with a backpack full of food each Friday afternoon to take home for themselves and their families over the weekend.

Each week since the start of the new school year, we have provided nearly 400 students at Takini and elsewhere with Smart Sacks to ensure families don’t go hungry over the weekend. With the school year having just begun, we’re just getting started!

2017 Dreamstarter Sara Chase, PhD Candidate at UC Berkley: Native History Not Taught in Public Schools

2017 Running Strong for American Indian Youth® Dreamstarter Sara Chase realized her dream of starting a summer immersion class to teach Hupa youth the endangered Hupa language, and not only did her dream come true in the summer of 2017, it continued in 2018 making it an annual event.

Meanwhile, Sara is continuing to realize her own personal dream at the University of California at Berkeley as a first year PhD student in the Graduate School of Education in the Language, Literacy and Culture program after earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Native American Studies and Linguistics from Columbia University.

On September 24, Sara was quoted in an article in The Guardian headlined A 124-year-old statue reviled by Native Americans – and how it came down reporting on the removal on September 14 of the Early Days statue in San Francisco, a symbol of colonization and oppression to many.

Erected in the aftermath of the California mission era, the Early Days statue depicts a Native American on his back, defeated, a Catholic priest above him pointing to the heavens, and an anglicized vaquero bestriding the scene in triumph, The Guardian reported.

Sara told The Guardian that California schools fail to provide accurate perspectives of Native Americans and other minorities.

“California schools teach for tests or lose [public funding],” she said. “So certain histories of people are not taught. It’s a test-taking obsession, monetization of knowledge.”

Dreamstarter Kunu Bearchum isn’t just an educator, he’s a NAMMY nominated musician too!

Kunu, Northern Cheyenne and Ho-Chunk Nation, is one of Running Strong’s Dreamstarter grant recipients from 2017. In 2017, Kunu’s dream was to educate youth in his community in Portland, OR about the health benefits and medicinal value of pre-colonial foods. This past summer, Kunu led a group of students on a week-long summer science expedition around the Portland area. This camp included identifying and cataloging indigenous foods, evaluating the nutritional value, connecting modern nutritional science with the elders’ traditional food knowledge, and producing a film that documents the week spent in nature.

He is connected to the music and art community of Portland and over the past few years has been able to combine his passion for music and art with his deeply ingrained need to fight for social and environmental justice.

But Kunu’s talents aren't limited to developing curriculum. He’s a NAMMY nominated musician too, having just been nominated for 2 Native American Music Awards, in the categories of Indi/unsigned Artist and Narrative Music video. See why he was nominated here. Then, vote for him to win an award! Here’s the link to the ballot:

Kunu’s educational, and musical, efforts are impacting the lives of native children and the communities they live in.

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