The Cheyenne River Youth Project® announced today that it has received National Park Service funds in the amount of $2,250. These funds will allow the 26-year-old, not-for-profit youth organization to organize a two-day youth trip to Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming and Bear Butte State Park in South Dakota.
This NPS grant was made available to native not-for-profit and youth organizations so they could pursue initiatives that would connect young people to the places of their ancestors and introduce them to the work of the National Park Service. The funds provide vital assistance to offset the travel costs associated with getting native youth to NPS sites.
“It is a beautiful thing to see organizations like yours touching the lives of our native youth and working to connect them to the traditional and sacred places of their ancestors,” said Carol L. McBryant, program manager for tribal interpretation and tourism, in the CRYP award letter. “These young people deserve the very best the National Park Service has to offer.
“Thank you for the good work you do every day to create life-changing experiences for our young people in Indian country,” she continued. “It is my hope to expand this program and to continue to make these experiences a reality as we work to build true and meaningful relationships between the parks and their tribal communities.”
CRYP is planning to take 15 teens and five adult chaperones on NPS site visits, which will have both recreational and educational purposes. According to Julie Garreau, executive director, the youth project’s first two priorities are Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming and Bear Butte State Park in South Dakota, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1981.
Both parks are sacred sites for the Lakota Nation. South Dakota’s remote 2.8-million-acre Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation is home to four bands of Lakota: “Mnikoju,” Planters By The Water; “Owohe Nupa,” Two Kettle; “Itazipa Cola,” Without Bows; and “Siha Sapa,” Black Foot.
“We’re eager to introduce our teens to Devils Tower National Monument and teach them about its cultural significance for the Lakota people,” Garreau said. “The same goes for Bear Butte. While we’re there, we’re hoping our youth enjoy the beauty of our sacred Paha Sapa, the Black Hills.”
Exercise also is a key component of the CRYP visits to both parks. CRYP staff encourages hiking as a healthy activity and actively promotes it through its ongoing diabetes prevention program.
“We’d like to see our kids actively hiking both parks,” Garreau said. “After all, the best way to experience a place is not to just stare at it through a car window or camera lens. You need to get out in the natural world, fully engage all your senses and feel grounded in your body and being.”
CRYP staff members are hoping to visit both sites in one trip. The tentative plan is to visit Bear Butte State Park on the first day, spend the night in Rapid City, and visit Devils Tower on the second day. NPS staff will work closely with CRYP to plan the youth visits, including any special activities while on site.
“We’re hoping to do this in late May or perhaps early June,” Garreau said. “In addition to enjoying the beautiful natural surroundings, getting some exercise and learning more about the Lakota connections to these places, our young people also will have an opportunity to learn about NPS management of these important sites and how they can build their own outdoor leadership skills in preservation, recreation and education. We’re very excited to share these experiences with them.
“When we can connect our youth with respected elders, tribal historians and experienced NPS rangers, they can begin to reconnect to the power of place,” she continued. “They can more fully understand the stories in their oral tradition, and appreciate the sacrifices of their ancestors. Our young people are our future, and for them to truly shine, they need to feel proud of who they are — and know that they are as resilient as those who came before them.”
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.