When Juell Twite was a young child growing up in Eagle Butte, she wanted to join the other kids at CRYP’s The Main youth center for 4- to 12-year-olds. Sadly, health issues kept her close to home — until one summer day, when she was a teenager.
“I was sitting at home feeling sad, because it was summer, and I had nothing to do,” Juell remembers. “Then my mom asked me if I wanted to try something new at the youth project’s teen center. She said there would be other kids my age.”
So Juell went to CRYP’s Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life), where she discovered the teen internship program and its four tracks — art, wellness, sustainable agriculture, and social enterprise. She dived right into the art internship, which is organized through CRYP’s Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Lakota Arts Institute.
“It was appealing, the idea of doing something new, even though I was scared,” she says.
To date, Juell has learned about graffiti and street art, Lakota cloth- and ribbon-skirt-making, and traditional smudging. This month, she also had the opportunity to attend art camps with two accomplished guest instructors: Sicangu Lakota artist Lynn Burnette Sr. and Oglala Lakota/Northern Cheyenne artist Molina Parker.
“I’m having so much fun, expressing my feelings and being creative,” she says. “I also enjoy the internships because I get to see (Youth Programs Coordinator) Jerica Widow all the time, meet new people, and make new friends.”
Juell acknowledges that it has been challenging to learn so many new art skills, but she’s eager to learn more. And she says she loves being part of such a special place.
“CRYP teaches you personal responsibility, and respect for both your tribe and your community,” she observes. “It’s such a positive place for youth to go, and to learn.”
When she’s not creating art at Cokata Wiconi, Juell enjoys sports such as archery, volleyball and basketball. She also likes sewing and making crafts on her own.
After high school, she plans to attend college and pursue a career. Although she would like to live in another state someday, the teen says she’s proud of her Cheyenne River community.
“I love the 7th Generation Cinema, and the murals (from CRYP’s annual RedCan graffiti jam) on the buildings around Eagle Butte,” she explains. “I love that most people help one another. And I love that we still exist on the map.”