In 1981 young people from reservations in South Dakota participated in the Run for Freedom, a spiritual run from Pine Ridge Reservation to the Sioux Falls State Prison. The Run was held to support family and loved ones who were imprisoned there. Tragically one of the young runners, 11-year old Kimberly Rose Means, was killed when she was struck by a drunk driver near Winner, South Dakota. The Run stopped where she died.

I was really moved by Kimberly Means’ story, and in 1987 I talked to Kimberly’s father, Ted Means. I wanted to write a verse about Kimberly to add to my song “Freedom’s Roots.” I’ve written a number of verses to this song about the lives of different women who have made a difference in our world. Ted said that would be good, but he’d prefer it if I wrote a whole song about her instead. So I wrote “Kimberly Rose” that year.

My niece, Kimberly Tilsen-Brave Heart, was born on Pine Ridge Reservation in 1981, a few weeks after Kimberly Means died. She was named for Kimberly Means, to honor and remember her. When Kim Tilsen was 11 years old, she had a dream to finish the Run for Freedom. With the help of the Tilsen family, the Means family, her classmates at school and members of the larger community, Kim organized the 1993 Run for Freedom to complete what had been so tragically interrupted years before. The three-day Run started with a gathering at Kimberly Means’ grave; the runners began the 1993 Run for Freedom at Winner SD where Kimberly had died. Over the course of the three-day run, more than 80 young people participated in the Run for Freedom. It was a very powerful, very emotional and uplifting experience for all who were part of it.

My recording, “Sacred Ground” includes the story of the 1993 Run for Freedom. My song “Kimberly Rose” is woven along with the moving voice of my young niece Kim describing the Run the year that it happened. I invite you to check back here for more photos of the 1993 Run for Freedom with a more detailed telling of this moving story by many of the young runners who participated in it. It is a work-in-progress now and will be on this website sometime soon.
– Barb Tilsen, November 2017

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