While the Cheyenne River Youth Project has provided programming and facilities for 13- to 18-year-olds since we opened our Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center in 2006, we’ve been serving our reservation’s 4- to 12-year-olds since the very beginning. They eagerly came through the doors of The Main youth center when we first opened in 1988, and they’ve kept coming for nearly 30 years.
“Our young kids will always find us,” says Julie Garreau, our executive director. “That’s why we have to be here for them. They depend on us.”
It doesn’t take much to bring these children through the door. In the case of then 6-year-old Jeremiah Dwayne Tiger, it only took a sign that read, “The Main is open.” Three years later, Jeremiah, now 9 and about to enter the fourth grade at Cheyenne-Eagle Butte Elementary School, is still coming to The Main regularly.
“It’s a cool place,” he says. “I like it.”
Like so many other children, Jeremiah relishes the opportunity to play basketball in Cokata Wiconi’s full-size gymnasium, which is next door to The Main.
“It’s fun to play with other kids,” he explains, adding that he’s very much looking forward to becoming a regular at Cokata Wiconi when he turns 13 — so he can play basketball with the older teens, and so he’ll have a safe place to play and hang out with his friends.
It’s not all about the basketball at CRYP, though. When asked what he’s learned since he’s been part of the youth project, Jeremiah is thoughtful.
“To respect the staff,” he says. “And, be kind to others.”
Jeremiah says he’d like to work for the National Basketball Association one day, and he might like to live in California. Then again, White Horse, right here on the Cheyenne River reservation, sounds pretty good too.
In the meantime, CRYP’s doors will always be open.