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July 15, 2013

Running for a Cause Beyond Medals, Lakota Athletes Return to the New York Marathon

Runners ed

Team One Spirit scouting the New York Marathon course. From left to right: Amanda Carlow, Nupa White Plume, Alex Wilson, Kelsey Good Lance, and Jeff Turning Heart Jr. 

Cross-country running has deep cultural roots for many Native American nations. The National Museum of the American Indian in New York recently screened Racing the Rez, a documentary directed by Brian Truglio that tells the story of Navajo and Hopi high school runners, and how their dedication to sport transforms their lives. An exciting, equally transformational story is unfolding for five Lakota athletes from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. 

On Sunday, November 3, Amanda Carlow, Kelsey Good Lance, Jeff Turning Heart Jr., Nupa White Plume, and Alex Wilson will compete in the 2013 ING New York City Marathon.  The team is training extensively for the 26.2-mile event and is determined to do well. Their lead coach, Dale Pine, has helped bring out the best in many Pine Ridge athletes since the 1980s, creating a legacy of state titles in track and cross-country. Reaching farther back, one of the Unites States’ greatest long-distance runners, Billy Mills, gold medalist in the 10,000-meter race at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, got his start in Pine Ridge. One Spirit, a non-profit charitable organization that manages many projects to help alleviate poverty on the reservation, sponsors the current runners, and they have had received support from New York Road Runners (NYRR), the organizers of the New York City Marathon, as well. 

Team One Spirit originally planned to run the New York Marathon in 2012, a race that was cancelled following the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. Instead of returning home to South Dakota, however,the Lakota team chose to stay in New York City to help victims of the storm. On the first Sunday in November, when the marathon would have taken place, they all went to Oakwood Beach, a Staten Island neighborhood hit very hard by the storm surge, to clear rubble and help people whose houses were badly damaged. 

Reliefeffort ed

SandyAid edThe running team and their coach help residents of the Oakwood Beach section of Staten Island recover from Hurricane Sandy. Above, from left to right: Coach Dale Pine, Amanda Carlow, Jeff Turning Heart Jr., Alex Wilson, Nupa White Plume, and Kelsey Good Lance. Right: Alex Wilson and Amanda Carolow.  


Cliff Matias of Indian Country Today asked the team about their decision at that time. “We come from a hard place to live,” Coach Pine explained. “Many of our elders go without heat, electricity, and hot water every day. We know what is needed in situations like this.”

Runner Jeff Turning Heart Jr. added, “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.”

Fast forward to this coming November when the Lakota Five and their coach will return to New York to finish what they planned to do last year. Like many marathon participants, they will be running in support of charity. The team will help raise funds and awareness for One Spirit Youth Programs on the Pine Ridge reservation, including the construction of the Allen Youth Center in Allen, South Dakota. The youth center is being built to provide Lakota youth with a safe space for learning, community, and athletics. 

ING NY Marathon ed

Team One Spirit returns to the New York Marathon this fall, running to represent the people of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and to support construction of a much-needed youth center there. Left to right: Nupa White Plume, Jeff Turning Heart Jr., Alex Wilson, Amanda Carlow, and Kelsey Good Lance.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Pine Ridge is one of the poorest areas in the United States, and its children face serious problems of poverty, including substance abuse, violence and suicide, low graduation rates, high unemployment, and teen pregnancy. The Pine Ridge runners have overcome hardships themselves to become positive examples within their community. Especially, they are role models for other young people, by stepping up to help families on Staten Island last fall, as well as through their efforts on behalf of the youth center back home. When they take part in the upcoming marathon, they will be running with the support of their entire reservation, and they will be running for a great cause.

—Margaret Sagan and Grant Moffitt, NMAI


One Spirit | NYC Marathon

 "Marathon runners show how 'Team One Spirit' inspires many," from the Native Health News Alliance blog Wellbound Storytellers

NYRR On the Run, a short video focusing on the One Spirit team, 9/26/2012

“The Lakota Five: Young Pine Ridge Marathon Runners Leave a Lasting Impression on New York City,” & accompanying photo gallery, Indian Country Today Media Network, 10/17/2012

“No NYC Marathon to run for group of Native Americans who were racing to inspire hope, raise funds for the Pine Ridge reservation,” New York Daily News, 11/3/2012 


Racing the Rez, a documentary by Brian Truglio about Navajo and Hopi high school runners


Margaret Sagan is Visitor Serices manager at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York. 

Grant Moffitt, a native of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, was a summer 2013 Marketing & Community Outreach intern at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York; his internship was funded by Pace University, Wilson Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Grant is pursuing a BA in marketing with a concentration in advertising and promotion from Pace. 

All photographs were taken in New York City, November, 2012, and are used courtesy of One Spirit. 


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it's so great that a running team would contribute so much! great post

Its great to se youth helping so much

I wish you all the best and a good run. Your run is honorable. I am proud of you and what you represent.

I am touch with these runners who are dedicated to helping their community, as a runner and a track coach myself I have great respect for those who put self aside and run their hearts out for a cause, let me know that there are people who hold on to those words that say I am my brother's keeper. keep up the good work I hope one day that I will get to meet those runners from team spirit. please keep in touch

THE OGLALA SIOUX RUNNER (for the Lakota people and the five marathoners of One Spirit Runners)

When I run I sometimes think / of Crazy Horse, / That “Shirt Wearer” who was / not afraid / to run courageously, with a yellow lightning streak / on his face, bringing fear
to an enemy, Blue shirt or brave. / Of those who are proud enough / to run / at Pine Ridge, / There is greatness
among the rolling mixed grass prairie, / Where the wind blows sand / forming dunes. / There the vision of pines, cedar trees /and horses running / along the White River,
That is the Lakota shield.

—Luis Lázaro Tijerina, Burlington, Vermont

Love all the volunteer work you guys do. Keep up the Spirit. My child is named Spirit. Keep pushing forward and teach the younger ones the same. Good luck Team One Spirit!

Great ! articles that you write on this blog make me understand, and more. your writing does not make me confused.

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