Nupa White Plume, helping Hurricane Sandy relief efforts

The Lakota Five: Young Pine Ridge Marathon Runners Leave a Lasting Impression on New York City

Cliff Matias

When five young people from the Pine Ridge Reservation answered a call for runners to represent their community in the New York City Marathon they never imagined their visit would create such a lasting impression. The trip which was sponsored by One Spirit, a non-profit organization headed by a remarkable woman by the name of Jeri Baker. One Spirit works within the Pine Ridge community bringing food, wood and various programs to community members in need. This past spring the New York Road Runners Club granted five entries to One Spirit with the hope of encouraging Native youth to train and finish the 26.2 mile course. “By allowing just regular community runners to enter the race, this program became a way to highlight the positive accomplishments members of the community can do,” says Baker. So with the help of Lakota running coach Dale Pine they set out to recruit 5 runners: Jeff Turning Heart, Amanda Carlow, Nupa White Plume, Alex Wilson and Kelsey Good Lance.

Two days before their visit, New York City was hit with the worst natural disaster it has ever faced.  Nonetheless the city’s mayor told the world the race would continue. On Friday evening as this reporter sat with the runners in the lobby of their hotel conducting an interview the news reported the Marathon was cancelled. One could see the look of disappointment on the faces of the runners who worked so hard preparing for the race some running up to 120 miles a week. Almost instantly the runners, their coach and One Spirit’s Baker decided this trip would not be in vain and even though the mission of the run was to help their community they knew many communities in the city also needed help.

On Sunday morning Team One Spirit joined a few hundred other runners and climbed aboard a New York ferry heading toward one of the hardest hit boroughs in the city, Staten Island.  The team along with their coach ran across the island to Midland Beach which was almost completely destroyed in the hurricane. The runners grabbed masks gloves and shovels and began going house to house helping residents dig their homes out of the decay left by the storm. They could have stayed dry and clean in one of the distribution areas handing out supplies but these Natives come from a place where helping your community is a daily duty. “We come from a hard place to live” says Coach Pine. “Many of our elders go without heat, electricity and hot water every day, we know what is needed in situations like this."  And so they did, clearing a complete basement of moldy sheet rock and rugs in 30 minutes.  As they helped a Chinese husband and wife who barely spoke English the man turned and asked “Who are these people?”   A Road Runner staff member replied, "They are American Indians, they come from a community which is the poorest place in America.” The man replied  “I am honored they would come to help me." Jeff Turning Heart said, “At first I was sad the race was cancelled but coming here and seeing all these people working  together made me feel proud to be part of it. We know how to survive in desperate situations and have the skills to assist these people in need. I know I am stronger from this experience."

The runners never imagined they would be coming to New York City to help another community in need but as One Spirit founder Jeri Baker said “These young people are now heroes in their community and an inspiration for our youth. That is what this trip was all about. I think that part of our mission was accomplished. There will be other races to run and goals to reach but helping people in need is priceless."

(editor's note: later today ICTMN will bring you a special photo gallery of the Lakota Five and their visit to NYC, featuring the work of Cliff Matias.)

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page



softbreeze's picture
Submitted by softbreeze on
A true testament to the heart and spirit of the Lakota Nation. Here are some excerpts from Tom Brown's Field Guide to City and Suburban Survivial: Number One: Don't Panic, easy to say, hard to do. Think first, then act. Aside from outright panic, nothing can debilitate us faster in a survival situation than getting upset. Efforts must be well directed. Do not try to resist the situation. The best approach is to be like the grass, to bend and flow with the circumstances. Some things are just beyond our control in the moment. Take one moment at a time. Provide for your immediate needs as best as you can and wait. Negative emotions can greatly distort a survival challenge. For this reason, it often helps to dissociate yourself from the situation. If you find yourself getting overly concerned, mentally back out of the situation and pretend you're seeing it on a movie screen or reading about it in a book. In a dissociated state, it is often much easier to come up with logical solutions. Survival Priorities: 1- Air 2- Shelter 3- Water 4- Fire or heat 5- Food 1- Air-make sure there is ventilation when running generators or burning fuel of any kind. Without ventiltion, people are at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. This happened a few years back when it snowed in Mexico, and people had fires in their homes without ventilation. 2-Shelter- Number one risk-hypothermia; immediate treatment- hot,sugared, nourishing drinks, or soups, and warm, dry clothing. If severe, skin to skin contact is most effective. Insulation is the key to warmth. Good heat insulators keep warm air in and cold air out. Types of shelter- Clothing- Best material is wool. Goosedown is good, unless it gets wet. Dacron is good if in a wet area. Also, dressing in layers is important. Shirts and sweaters that button or zip are more convenient. Even crumpled newspaper stuffed inside clothing helps create dead air space and more warmth. The most important parts of the body to keep warm are the head and trunk. Another effective approach is to use plastic bags as vapor barriers between two pairs of socks. You can even use this under one layer of clothing. Shelters in the home- If it gets too cold in your house and you have no source of heat other than your body, you can make a shelter within a shelter. Pick the smallest room in the house that is safe, dry, convenient, and least exposed to the cold. Pick a room without windows, or with windows facing the sun. Pick a room with doors that can be periodically opened for adequate ventilation, but closed off and blocked off to keep down the draft. Then gather up all the insulating materials you can find-matresses, pillows, blankets, towels, diapers, and clothing. In extreme cases, you might even consider using draperies and carpeting. Unless the temperature is extremely cold, it's likely you can keep your family warm without even constructing much of a shelter. First insulate the floor, since it's likely to be much colder than the walls. Then make sure everyone is well bundled up, with everyone huddled together. The mattress cocoon- if you're alone, you can make a cocoon-like shelter simply by wrapping up in several layers of insulating material such as blankets, draperies, or carpeting, warm side in. If you have several small, thin bunkhouse mattresses, you can lay them side by side, lie down croswise at one end,and curl the other ends over the top of your body. Stuff the inside with pillows and other good insulating material, and cover your head. For 2 or more people- The mattress sandwich- Sandwich yourself between 2 mattresses with stuffing around the sides, making sure there is not too much weight on your body from the top mattress, especially in cases of children. Just take the mattress off the boxspring and pad the box spring with clothing or blankets. Then place a thick border of pillows, wadded blankets, clothing, and cushions around 3 sides of the box spring, leaving one end open. Put the mattress on top and crawl in. For large numbers of people, you can create a mattress "shack"- You can make a rectangular box with mattresses. In a corner of a room, place 2 box spring mattresses upright and parallel to eachother Put the first mattress against a wall, and another on the floor, in between the 2 box springs. Make sure the walls of the shelter are supported by sturdy pieces of furniture. Then roof the shelter with a lighter mattress or several thicknesses of blankets. Fill the interior of the shack with insulating pillows and cushions and drape a quilt or blanket over the entryway. Final Protection- Once your shelter is made, confine most of your activities to that area. This conserves energy and prevents unnecessary drafts. Be especially careful about ventilation if there are lots of people in one small area or if you're using candls in the room, as people and flames use lots of oxygen. Above all, don't bring any kind of flames into the shelter itself. Inside the shelter, take off your shoes and wear 2 or more pairs of socks instead. Shoes restrict blood flow to the feet. Also, never go into the shelter wearing wet clothes. Water saps body warmth fast than almost anything. If you detect signs of hypo- thermia, huddle together or warm a person in a warm, running car if necessary. Your are all in our prayers. Hang in there and be a source of support and strength for one another. I pray things will be back to normal for everyone very soon.

jaydokie's picture
Submitted by jaydokie on
A truly inspirational and unselfish act. The best and most inspiring story I have heard or read during the past few months. A positive light in the middle of darkness and despair!

Roberta Martinez's picture
Roberta Martinez
Submitted by Roberta Martinez on
Oh my gosh i'm so proud of my people getting out there and making a difference in the world.....