The Cheyenne River Youth Project® is preparing to host its 2nd annual Community Harvest Festival Dinner on Wednesday, September 24 at the Cokata Wiconi teen center in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. A community-wide celebration of a bountiful season in the 2-acre Winyan Toka Win garden, the Harvest Festival meal is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. and is open free to the public.
The evening’s festivities will include a large-scale community feed, games, and a free raffle for all guests. The highlight, of course, will be the menu.
“The Harvest Festival Dinner will feature plenty of items from our naturally grown, non-GMO, pesticide-free garden,” said Ryan Devlin, CRYP’s sustainable agriculture manager. “The menu will include soups, salads, roasts, pies and much more.”
Although the menu was not finalized at press time, guests can expect to enjoy Hubbard squash soup, garden salad, roasted Brussels sprouts and pumpkin pie. Devlin also said the staff is hoping to offer local beef and garden-fresh berry wojapi.
Children will enjoy a variety of games at the Harvest Festival, and all guests will automatically be entered into a free raffle to win garden items such as pumpkins and garden gift baskets. In addition, CRYP will formally recognize the 16 garden interns who participated in this year’s growing season and the 17 cafe interns who worked hard in the Keya Cafe & Coffeeshop all summer. The 33 teen interns will each receive a certificate of completion, along with certificates recognizing their participation in specific workshops.
“We started the Harvest Festival last year to kick off our yearlong 25th anniversary celebration, and it’s been a wonderful addition to our calendar,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “The meal is a celebration of our Winyan Toka Win garden, a bountiful harvest, and of our commitment to healthy living here on the Cheyenne River reservation.”
As Garreau pointed out, the meal is a significant one, because so much of the food was grown right at the CRYP campus in Winyan Toka Win. And that sets a powerful example — on Cheyenne River as well as in other reservation communities.
“Our sustainable agriculture programs demonstrate how a community can take meaningful strides toward food sovereignty and security, and toward reversing the tide of diabetes and other health issues among native people,” she said. “It demonstrates how reconnecting with the earth can have real economic and educational benefits, and it can foster a commitment to lifelong wellness.”
CRYP was founded in 1988, making its first home in a former bar on Eagle Butte’s Main Street. Known affectionately as “The Main,” the organization dedicated itself to providing reservation youth with a safe, nurturing, positive place to learn, create, play and enjoy healthy meals and snacks, giving those most at risk a real opportunity to develop into healthy, well-rounded individuals.
In 1999, the organization was able to open a new 4,500-square-foot facility on East Lincoln Street; still known as The Main, it caters to children ages 4 to 12. Then, in 2006, CRYP opened the doors to its 26,000-square-foot Cokata Wiconi teen center, which serves youth ages 13 to 19. The youth project also incorporates the 2-acre Winyan Toka Win garden (1999); and the reservation-wide Family Services program (2002), which provides much-needed household supplies and wintertime heat-matching assistance, as well as popular distributions such as the long-running Christmas Toy Drive.
“We’ve grown so much since that little bar on Main Street 25 years ago,” Garreau reflected. “It can seem like a lot has changed, but at its heart, CRYP is the same organization. We are here to take care of our local youth, to teach them to be proud of themselves and their identity; to easy the daily burdens on their families; and to support the growth of self-sufficient, vibrant communities across Cheyenne River. We’ve been pursuing that mission for more than 25 years now, and we anticipate continuing to do so for another 25.”
The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.