From Jan. 11 to Feb. 2, teen interns at the Cheyenne River Youth Project had the exciting opportunity to participate in a series of indigenous cooking classes at Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life). The young people enjoyed 17 classes that incorporated the history of the foods; their relationships to traditional Lakota medicines and ceremonies, as well as contemporary uses; and hands-on kitchen time.
The teens learned to make ceyaka tea, flat cedar tea, chokecherry juice, wojapi, chokecherry patties, dried buffalo meat, wasna, ba’pa soup, squash flour and more. They documented their experiences in journals, and they created their own spirit dishes/smudge kits to conclude the three-week session.
According to Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director, the idea for the classes came from one of the teens.
“Daniel Semon is one of our longtime interns,” she said. “He has participated in several tracks of the art internship. One day, he said to me, ‘I know it’s not art, but it would be cool if you did a baking or cooking internship.’ That motivated me, because our kids really do guide our programming here. They let us know what they need.”
While this was not technically a full internship, it did serve as an effective test for a possible cooking internship. The classes gave the teens opportunities to strengthen their connection to their Lakota culture, express their creativity in a new way and enjoy a little confidence boost along the way.
“In the end, they were so proud of themselves,” said Jerica Widow, CRYP’s youth programs director. “The journal entries are fun to read, too, especially when they reference how much work our ancestors had to do back then.”
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.