Running is a tradition in Lakota culture. Before the arrival of the horse, hunters chased the buffalo on foot. Messages were carried village to village by runners. It wasn’t unusual for someone to run thirty, forty miles a day. Survival depended upon it.
So when One Spirit came up with the idea to field a team to run in the 2012 New York Marathon, Executive Director Jeri Baker, considered--and quickly discarded--the idea of letting others run for the charity: “We talked with Coach Dale Pine and together decided that the Lakota could run for themselves.” Dale, who coaches track at Pine Ridge High School, chose five runners--many of whom were former students. They were fast and willing to do the training required for the twenty-six mile, high profile race. One Spirit dubbed the campaign of “The Lakota Five"--and the team was off and running.
The purpose of the team was foremost to raise money for a proposed youth center in Allen; plans are now underway for building it. The need for such a facility on the reservation is urgent. The children there lack after school care, tutoring, computer access--even a warm place to go to on cold days and a meal, the essential things not found in many homes.
But there’s something else, too. By the simple act of lacing up a pair of shoes and setting off, the members of Team One Spirit are showing kids--many of whom don’t see much opportunity--a way to better their lives. Role models don’t have to be rich, remote athletes. They can come in other forms--like the guy who struggles to provide for his own children but still pushes himself to train and run.
The 2012 New York Marathon will forever be remembered as the one cancelled when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast. Team One Spirit members were disappointed by the glitch; for many, it was their first plane ride, first trip to a city of such teeming proportions. The disappointment lasted only briefly when they realized there was work to be done--they showed up and aided in recovery and cleanup efforts. The New York press took notice and wrote glowing stories, but to the team members, it was only right to help out. After all, it was what they would do for their own people, back home.
Team One Spirit returned for the 2013 Marathon, which was dubbed, "The Indians Aim to Take Back Manhattan." Nupa White Plume finished first of the team, despite a knee injury, with the incredible time of 3:21:17. He was followed by Alex Wilson, Kelsey Good Lance, Amanda Carlow, and Jeff Turning Heart, Jr. Like Nupa, Jeff ran with an injury but swore he would finish the race--and he did.
The 2014 Marathon was November 2nd, and Team One Spirit was there. Not only did they compete in the marathon, but the government of Staten Island, New York honored them for their humanitarian efforts in 2012.
The goals are even bigger for next year, with the possibility of running a marathon in Germany. However, all of this does not come cheap! Participation in the marathons requires entrance fees, including transportation, food, and lodging. Donations are critical to ensure that the team keeps running.
Let's keep the momentum going for the One Spirit Youth Programs and the children of Pine Ridge!