Enrolled Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member Anthony Potter grew up in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, in the heart of the 2.8-million-acre Cheyenne River reservation. His house was just down the street from the original “Main” youth center, founded in 1988 in a defunct Main Street bar.
The Cheyenne River Youth Project’s original Main was an all-volunteer-run organization dedicated to providing 4- to 12-year-olds with a safe place to play, do homework and enjoy meals and snacks after school and on Saturdays. And Anthony says it definitely filled a need in the community.
“There really wasn’t anything for kids to do in Eagle Butte before the Main opened,” explains Potter, now 23. “We didn’t have a movie theater, a bowling alley, an arcade… we didn’t have anywhere to go. Thanks to the Main, my brother and I had somewhere to go every day. We loved it, because there was always something to do and new people to meet, and we learned interesting things all the time. The best part is the Main was always there for us.
“I didn’t go as much once I got older,” he continues, “but when I was a teenager, I started volunteering for many of the programs the youth project had to offer.”
Those programs included the long-running Christmas Toy Drive and the annual Haunted House. He also regularly worked in the 2-acre, naturally grown Winyan Toka Win garden throughout the growing and harvest seasons, becoming a familiar face to staff members and long-term volunteers — and a regular presence with young people at the Main (the contemporary facility opened in 1999) and the Cokata Wiconi teen center (dedicated in 2006).
Anthony was hired as a CRYP youth programs assistant in 2012, and he says his time on staff proved to be an amazing experience.
“I got to meet a lot of new people and really get in touch with young people in my community,” he explains.
In 2013, Anthony and his young daughter left Cheyenne River for United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck. There, the dedicated father is completing coursework to earn his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. But he says he’ll never forget his time with CRYP, which remains an ongoing presence in his life.
“The staff and volunteers at CRYP inspired me so much, and they showed me how important it was to further my education,” Anthony says. “Plus, I have so many great memories! Whenever I go home, I always stop in to check and see how things are going.”