The Cheyenne River Youth Project® will host its 3rd annual Harvest Festival dinner this Friday, September 25, 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 to start at 5:30 p.m. and is open free to the public.
The evening’s festivities will include a large-scale community feed, board games, fun and fellowship. On the the menu: cucumber and tomato salad, melon salad, roast bison, harvest vegetables, veggie panini, peach and banana smoothies, and baked goods such as peach pie, chocolate zucchini cake and banana bread. Recipes will be available, and as always, CRYP staff and volunteers will incorporate fresh, nutritious, organically grown produce from the youth project’s 5-acre Winyan Toka Win garden into the various menu items.
And it’s no small amount of produce. Last year, the 130 community members who attended the Harvest Festival dinner enjoyed a whopping 200 pounds of cauliflower, carrots, onions, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, squash and pumpkins. This year’s meal will be on a similar scale, further evidence that Winyan Toka Win has evolved from a modest community garden to a veritable micro farm.
“We originally created the Harvest Festival to kick off our yearlong 25th anniversary celebration, and it’s become a popular addition to Cheyenne River’s annual events calendar,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “However, it’s also become an annual celebration of Winyan Toka Win that demonstrates our gratitude for a bountiful harvest, our dedication to reconnecting with the Earth and our Lakota traditions, and our commitment to practicing sustainable agriculture right here in Eagle Butte.
“Through our sustainable agriculture initiatives, we hope to show 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 continued. “A commitment to lifelong wellness in a community can have lasting economic and educational benefits as well.”
CRYP was founded in 1988, making its first home in a former bar on Eagle Butte’s Main Street. In the years to come, 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, CRYP 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); the 5-acre Waniyetu Wowapi Art Park (2014); 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 27 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.”
To stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@waniyetuwowapi).
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.