This week, the Cheyenne River Youth Project welcomed local youth to its new learning space in the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) gymnasium for three days of sewing classes. From Tuesday, May 26 to Thursday, May 28, youth learned to sew protective face masks under the direction of native artist Michelle Reed.
Due to popular demand, CRYP will be hosting a second set of classes with Reed next week. They are scheduled for 12-4 p.m. daily from Tuesday, June 2 to Thursday, June 4; call (605) 964-8200 to learn more and reserve a spot.
 “When the kids come to Cokata Wiconi, we set them up at appropriately spaced work stations in the gymnasium,” explained Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “We have plenty hand sanitizer and masks on hand, and after every session, we thoroughly clean the work stations and learning space. Our kids are so precious to us; we’re strictly adhering to public health guidelines and taking every possible precaution.”
Thanks to the newly installed Internet line, class instructor Reed is able to teach her sewing students remotely through the Zoom platform. An enrolled member of northern Wisconsin’s Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe Nation, Reed is dedicated to sharing her culture and artistic skills.
“Michelle is a well-known native artist, and she’s multitalented,” Garreau said. “We’re grateful to her for sharing her time and expertise with our kids, and for encouraging them as Cheyenne River continues to fight Covid-19. 
“It’s important that we work together to protect our community during this crisis — especially our elders, who are so vulnerable,” she continued. “They’re our grandmothers and grandfathers, yes, but they’re also the keepers of our Lakota language, culture, and stories. We hope that our young students will wear the masks they’re hand-crafting, and that they’ll inspire family members and friends to wear them as well.”
As Cheyenne River’s young people return to Cokata Wiconi for the second session of mask sewing classes, the next cohort of teen art interns will be arriving to begin the summer session. CRYP is keeping cohort sizes small, and it also has overhauled the Cokata Wiconi art studio to adhere to social distancing and public health guidelines. 
“It’s important for us to continue giving our young people access to opportunities, resources, and guidance during this difficult time,” Garreau said. “Not all of our kids have smartphones and tablets, nor do they all have access to dependable Internet service. They rely on us, and we must be here for them, so we’ve found new ways to adapt and innovate.”
To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or visit And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@lakotayouth and @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.