My name is Shayne Case. I am 43 years old, and I am an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, with many beloved family members living on the reservation. My parents are both from South Dakota — my father from Eagle Butte, and my mother from Gettysburg. 

I was born in Germany, and I grew up living there and in South Dakota. I now live in Portland, Oregon, with my 7-year-old son.

After I graduated from Smith College, a small liberal-arts women’s college in Northampton, Massachusets, I moved to Portland and worked as an AmeriCorps volunteer in elementary schools. I was a teacher of young children for many years before I returned to school and studied a variety of subjects, including herbal medicine, consciousness, spirituality, divinity, and counseling. I have been working for the past 20 years as medicine person, educator, and storyteller in my community. 

I have a project—called the Toki Amanwani Project—that aims to conserve native species plants on tribal lands through making low-impact medicines and then educating the community about their uses for helping with addictions, trauma, and the prevention of suicide. I also am the North American regional manager for the Herbal Anthropology Project, which is a funding agency that helps put resources in the hands of indigenous people worldwide who are working in their communities to preserve traditional knowledge.

My cousin, Julie Garreau, is the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s executive director, and many of my cousins have gone through CRYP’s programs. I knew since I was very little that I would return to the area to give back; I love my Lakota family, and it means everything to be able to visit, spend time with them, and do something for the community that is helpful. I plan on coming as often as I can, for as long as I can!

I recently volunteered with CRYP for a week, bringing three other volunteers with me. During that week, we worked mainly with the young children in The Main’s after-school program. During the day, we took care of the space by cleaning, organizing, and tending to the playthings. We also had the opportunity to work in the Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) Garden and prepare meals using the fresh, naturally grown produce. 

While the children were with us, we played sports and introduced them to some planned activities such as zine making, storytelling, and flower essence making. We also had the opportunity to throw the children a big September birthday party! I loved all parts of my time at CRYP, but some moments that stand out were making medicine with the children in the garden and preparing nutritious meals for them.

I love working with plants, making medicines, and teaching people about the effectiveness of traditional medicine for emotional and spiritual support. I love watching the children learn how to engage with the natural world in this way.

I think CRYP is important to the Cheyenne River community for so many reasons. First, it provides a safe place for children to play and be children after school before they go home. Second, it exposes youth to opportunities and builds skills so they have more options for work and livelihood once they leave high school. CRYP also provides a structure for people who want to volunteer and give to the community.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I first arrived as a volunteer. I guess I thought I would be more responsible for coming up with organized activities for the children, but when I got there, I realized they just needed unstructured play and a place to blow off steam. I learned to follow their lead, and then do whatever project I was going to do, and see who showed up to do it with me.

One last thing: I really loved the tour of all the RedCan murals around Eagle Butte. That was so much fun!