CRYP will be hosting a special Thanks for Kids Dinner for the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation community on Tuesday, November 25 at its Cokata Wiconi teen center. The free public meal and celebration will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the festively decorated Morgan Yellowhead Gymnasium.
Youth, their families, and all members of the community are invited to join CRYP staff and volunteers for a traditional holiday-inspired dinner. A visiting volunteer group from Wisconsin’s Marquette University High School will be assisting with preparing the buffet-style meal.
The youth project also has announced an exciting addition to this year’s festivities: They are extending a special invitation to Cheyenne River elders.
“We invited local elders to host their own learning circles throughout the evening, and we’re hoping to host five,” said Tammy Eagle Hunter, CRYP’s youth programs director. “These five elders will create their own spaces for multigenerational bonding and learning with our young people. They can tell stories, draw, crochet, sing — whatever they would like to share with the kids.
“We’re asking participating children to come up with questions they would like to ask each elder,” she continued. “Those with the most interactions are eligible to win the Thanks for Kids Holiday Raffle. Adults are welcome to participate, as well.”
Many of the foods on the Thanks for Kids dinner menu will come directly from CRYP’s 2-acre, naturally grown, pesticide-free Winyan Toka Win garden.
“As guests enjoy these fresh, nourishing foods, we want them to know that they were grown right here on Cheyenne River, and that the children helped sow the seeds, nurture the growing plants, and harvest the produce through our garden-related youth programming,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “That’s important to us, because not only are we continuing to pursue our vision for real food sovereignty and security, we’re helping our children reconnect to the land, appreciate healthy foods, learn about diabetes prevention, and pursue long-term wellness.”
Garreau also noted that the CRYP staff is very much looking forward to bringing the community together for an evening of fellowship, great food, holiday cheer, and yes, thanks for children.
“We’ve always intended Cokata Wiconi, which means ‘Center of Life’ in Lakota, to be a meaningful gathering place for the Cheyenne River community,” she said. “And what better reason for us to come together than to show our gratitude for our children? We want our young people to know how much they mean to all of us. They are the future of Cheyenne River.”
Founded in October 1988, CRYP was first housed in a former bar on Eagle Butte’s Main Street, where it became known affectionately as “The Main.” From the very first day, 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 opened 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, naturally grown, pesticide-free Winyan Toka Win garden (1999); and the reservation-wide Family Services program (2002), which provides much-needed household supplies, heat-matching and home-improvement assistance, as well as popular distributions such as the long-running Christmas Toy Drive.