CRYP is offering teen internships in Native Wellness, Native Food Sovereignty (formerly Sustainable Agriculture), Indigenous Foods & Cooking, and Social Enterprise this summer. Twenty-one Lakota teens are already participating, with 13 more starting on June 11.

Altogether, CRYP will host three cohorts in Native Wellness, three cohorts in Native Food Sovereignty, five cohorts in Indigenous Foods & Cooking, and five cohorts in Social Enterprise. Through these innovative internships, Lakota youth learn job and life skills that will serve them well all their lives while also gaining significant hands-on experience — not only as employees, but also as creators, mentors, and youth leaders.  

“In 2013, the first year of the teen internship program, we graduated 10 interns,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “At the end of last year, our teens had completed nearly 500 internships, and we’re excited to see that interest continues to grow.”

The nonprofit, grassroots youth organization has invested significant resources into enhancing the curriculum for each existing internship; Garreau and her staff also added the new Indigenous Foods & Cooking track in 2017.

“We did a couple of test runs, and they were incredibly popular,” Garreau said. “At CRYP, we’ve always listened to our kids when it comes to programming, and we let them lead the way. If this was important to them, we were going to find a way to make it happen—together with our partners Honor the Earth, Running Strong for American Indian Youth and DARE (Diabetes Action Research and Education).”

For Garreau and her team, it’s all about providing opportunities to young people on South Dakota’s remote Cheyenne River reservation. Not only will the CRYP interns become certified in First Aid and CPR, participate in educational workshops such as financial literacy and financial aid, enjoy hands-on experience in CRYP’s facilities, and earn money for their new savings accounts, they also will be able to explore their interests, pursue their passions, cultivate new skills, and strengthen their connections to their Lakota culture along the way. 

“Teens who are given opportunities like this, and who receive guidance and mentorship as they navigate those opportunities, are more likely to stay in school, pursue advanced education and work toward specific career goals,” Garreau explained. “They also are more likely to make positive choices that foster good health and holistic well-being, and become their community’s next generation of leaders, culture bearers and role models.

The Native Food Sovereignty Internship was the first internship track CRYP developed, graduating 10 teen interns in 2013. Teens learn to plant, maintain and harvest CRYP’s 2.5-acre, naturally grown Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) Garden and process food in the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) commercial kitchen. They also spend time in the classroom, learning from expert speakers and strengthening their connection with Lakota traditions, values and life ways.

In the Social Enterprise Internship, teens work within and even manage CRYP’s social enterprise initiatives, which include the Keya (Turtle) Cafe, Keya Gift Shop, and seasonal Leading Lady Farmers Market. They learn to prepare food and beverages, handle money and serve customers in real operating businesses, and earn their Customer Service and Food Handler’s certifications.

In the Indigenous Foods & Cooking Internship, teens learn about traditional Lakota foods as well as the techniques to produce, process and cook them. And in Native Wellness, interns focus on how to nurture healthy minds and bodies through physical fitness, nutrition, diabetes prevention, healthy lifestyle choices and, perhaps most importantly, Lakota values and life ways.

Learn more about CRYP and its teen internships, as well as their real-life impact, through the documentary film “Lakota in America,” commissioned by Square and produced by Even/Odd Films. The documentary is available at

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.