In collaboration with the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute, the Cheyenne River Youth Project is bringing back the popular “Growing into Wowachinyepi” program for 2021. CRYP and CNAY are currently accepting applications for this second cohort, which will commence March 29 and remain in session until the fall.

The program is open to residents of Cheyenne River, ages 14-18. Applications are due Monday, Mar. 8, and five champions will be selected to join the 2021 cohort.

CRYP first held Growing into Wowachinyepi at its Eagle Butte campus in 2018 (the first cohort, above, L-R: Claudia Iron Hawk, Jaymalee Turning Heart, Oliver Miner, Daniel Semon, and Randi Little Star). Designed to honor youth leaders on South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in a culturally relevant and respectful way, this innovative initiative also gives teen participants valuable opportunities to continue their leadership journeys.

“The program was modeled on CNAY’s acclaimed ‘Champions for Change’ program,” explained Jerica Widow, CRYP’s youth programs director. “We created ‘Growing into Wowachinyepi’ specifically for our Lakota youth, in keeping with the Lakota Nation’s traditional value system.

The word wowachinyepi means “one who the people can depend on.” The CRYP program promotes that distinctly Lakota view of leadership while honoring and recognizing young people who exemplify their community’s values.

“Our community has its own unique outlook on what it means to be a leader, and what it means to achieve,” Widow said. “Many of our youth take actions every day that reflect that outlook, and that demonstrate meaningful leadership, but they may not realize it. We want to recognize their actions, honor them and the roles they play in our community, and provide support as they pursue their goals.”

Throughout the program, youth participants take part in trainings that cover policy, leadership, tribal leadership, indigenous values, and public speaking. After the spring trainings conclude in May, the five champions will attend a CRST Tribal Council meeting and enjoy a special community celebration to honor their achievements.

Depending on the situation with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, they also may have opportunities to visit CRST tribal buildings and safely travel to the State Capitol in Pierre.

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, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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.