The Lakota Forever Summer Running and Fitness Camps were created out of a partnership between Wings Of America, Nike N7, One Spirit, and Running Strong for American Indian Youth.
James Pine is the head facilitator of the camps. He received his training through Wings of America, an organization that has the same goal as One Spirit, to use running as a way to empower Native Youth. Dustin Martin, Wings of America’s program director, credits James with having “an amazing amount of leadership.” As head facilitator of the camps, James is the first to arrive and the last to leave.
Lakota Forever Summer Running and Fitness Camps are a series of (5) two day events, held on weekends at various locations around the reservation, beginning with a session held June 13-14 in Pine Ridge, the largest community on the reservation. The last camp will be held August 8-9 in Allen, SD.
A typical camp day starts at 9 a.m. It is open to children ages six-eighteen years of age. After registration, the participants play a few games to break the ice and become more comfortable with both fellow attendees and camp facilitators. After some warm-up exercises, the kids go for a group run--”the heart of the camp,” James says. “We go outside and let the kids run as fast or slow as they want and as long or short as they want.” The children are provided with a free lunch and are then treated to presentations on health, nutrition, and famous Indian runners. At the conclusion, each child is given a T-shirt and a group picture.
How exactly does one teach running as a sport? James says he and his co-facilitators “inform the kids about form, balance, coordination, stretching, injury prevention, and breathing techniques.” The camps do specifically teach running but James says “if they play other sports they definitely can use what they learn with me for any sport.” Running is a perfect sport for a community that lacks adequate playgrounds, courts, and youth centers. “I remind them (the kids) that we have our land and that will always be our natural playground and race course.”
The camps have been a success, with as many as sixty children attending on some weekends. “I think the camp means a lot to the kids,” James says, adding that he has received “only positive feedback.”
Our goal is to bring back the camps each year and serve even more children in the future. #LakotaLivesMatter