She is an elegant woman, calm and composed, soft-spoken and thoughtful. When she smiles, her strong wide face lights up, she laughs easily, and her eyes twinkle. Since our first summer on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, Florence Running Wolf and her husband, Mike, Florence’s sisters and their families, have been welcoming, generous hosts to VISIONS since 1992.

They are our extended family on the Cheyenne with whom we take sweats, learn how to bead, come to understand some of the history and traditions that are the Cheyenne way.

Florence, of the Strange Owl family, was born in Birney Village, a small tranquil community that rests on the Tongue River. Florence left Birney to attend college in California, earned her degree in engineering, and along the way met her husband Mike who is a Sioux from South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Reservation.

Mike is a silver smith, a computer technician, and an ‘amateur’ botanist with extensive knowledge of native plants and their properties. Florence and Mike chose to returnto Birney to live and to raise their two sons, Anthony and Michael, in the traditional way.

A strong belief in and public service inspired Florence to establish Cheyenne Children Services (CCS) nearly two decades ago. VISIONS key liaison / partner on the reservation, CCS serves low-income families and their children by providing school supplies and other educational items, a library and study space, health and safety workshops, cultural awareness programs, even trees and seeds for planting.

Sponsors from across the U.S. and overseas are pen pals to enrolled children, and through the sponsor feels, help provide supplies and clothing. This past year, Florence finished serving her second full term on the Tribal Council, the governing body of her tribe comprised of members elected at large by reservation residents.

Thank you, Florence and Mike. We can’t wait to see you again in June.

VISIONS in The New York Times