In recent years, the Cheyenne River Youth Project® has devoted significant resources to its wellness programming. We believe the best way to serve our children and provide for a positive, healthy future is to address their holistic well-being — from nutrition and fitness, to community service, to connecting with the land and Lakota traditions.
These efforts have resonated with Cheyenne River’s young people, particularly with our teens. One of them is Elijah Brown Wolf, 17, who started participating in CRYP programming as a small child at The Main youth center for 4- to 12-year-olds, and he began attending the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center in spring 2011. His involvement at Cokata Wiconi has inspired CRYP staff members on multiple levels.
Elijah has completed a sustainable agriculture summer intern, during which he was responsible for sowing, maintaining and harvesting the 2-acre, naturally grown Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) garden and preparing fresh, nutritious produce for meals in the Keya (Turtle) Cafe and meals and snacks at Cokata Wiconi and The Main. He also became a regular supporter of CRYP’s annual Haunted House, serving as both builder and “scarer.” And, he takes part in athletic opportunities on a regular basis.
“I love that CRYP has open gym hours, because that gives me something to do,” he says. “Basketball and running are my hobbies; actually, my favorite activities at CRYP are the 5K runs. I love competing and winning road races!”
According to Tammy Eagle Hunter, CRYP’s youth programs director, Elijah definitely has found a positive outlet in sports.
“He’s excelled tremendously,” she says. “He’s an unbelievable athlete, a great runner. You see him running wherever he goes. He even runs from home to get here each day.”
When CRYP took a group of teens to visit sacred Lakota sites in summer 2015, Tammy says Elijah ran around Mahto Tipila (Devils Tower in Wyoming) in just a little more than 10 minutes. But the teenager’s interests don’t stop with athletics; Tammy notes that Elijah regularly attends programming at Cokata Wiconi, including cooking classes. And, he provides assistance wherever and whenever it’s needed.
“He’s so helpful,” Tammy says. “Our youth programming staff is always able to get him to help when they need extra support with activities.”
“He’s very involved with volunteering, leadership, wellness programming and helping us get the word out to other teens,” agrees Jerica Widow-Rivers, youth programs assistant. “He’s opened up so much, and he’s gotten out of his comfort zone. He’s an all-around great kid.”
When he’s not at CRYP, Elijah says he enjoys studying algebra at school, and he already has his sights set on higher education. His plan is to attend United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, North Dakota, and then transfer to Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota.
Wherever his journey may take him, Elijah says he has great affection for the Cheyenne River community and the reservation he calls home. He says he can’t quite put his feelings into words.
“I just love how it is,” he says.