The Cheyenne River Youth Project will host its annual “Thanks for Kids” celebration next Monday, Nov. 19 at Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life). The special event is open free to the community, and this year, the nonprofit youth organization has a few extra treats for its guests.

“Each year, we host a holiday-themed feast for our friends and neighbors here on Cheyenne River, inviting them to come celebrate the Lakota Nation’s greatest resource—its children,” says Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “This year, because it’s the fifth anniversary of our teen internship program as well as the 30th anniversary of CRYP itself, we’re going all out to make this an evening to remember.”

The fun will kick off at 4 p.m. with a youth art project in the Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Art Park, weather permitting; the activity will be moved indoors if necessary. Visiting artist Sadat will work with CRYP’s eight current art interns on the project, while younger children ages 4-12 can enjoy seasonal arts and crafts in Cokata Wiconi.

An Oklahoma native, Sadat has experience in multiple mediums, although his artistic roots specifically lie in graffiti culture. Over the years, his work has graced public spaces across the country; he also has contributed to national initiatives with larger artist collectives. One of these is “Water Writes,” an international mural campaign to raise awareness for water rights around the world. 

This past summer, Sadat participated in CRYP’s RedCan invitational graffiti jam for the first time. He makes periodic trips to the youth project’s campus to teach youth art classes and workshops.

At 5:30, CRYP will host a special honoring and drum song for its current and former teen interns, along with a Lakota dance exhibition. Local elders will be invited to speak, and the five teen “Growing Into Wowachinyepi” champions will help emcee the program.

“We’re looking forward to recognizing our teens for their enthusiasm, dedication and hard work,” Garreau says. “In our first year, we graduated 13 interns. That number is now approaching the 600 mark, and it’s a testament to the tremendous power that lies within these kids. As they seize new opportunities and create a future in which they will thrive, we’re honored to bear witness to the journey.”

The evening will conclude with the annual Thanks for Kids feast for the community. Many of the homemade menu items will incorporate locally grown, nutritious produce from the Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) Garden, shining a spotlight on another critical area of CRYP programming: native food sovereignty, which strengthens the connection Lakota people have with the earth and their own traditional life ways.

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.

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