The Cheyenne River Youth Project’s 9th annual Harvest Festival Dinner is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 23 at the nonprofit organization’s campus in Eagle Butte. Due to the rise in Covid-19 cases, CRYP will host a free drive-thru meal for the second consecutive year.
Staff members will be preparing individual boxed meals for up to 250 people, which Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe community members may pick up outside the Čhokáta Wičhóni teen center between 4 and 6 p.m. As always, menu items will incorporate fresh, organically grown, local produce from CRYP’s 3-acre Wiŋyaŋ Toka Wiŋ (Leading Lady) Garden.
“This year’s menu will include beef pot roast with carrots, potatoes, celery, and onions, and cabbage roll soup,” said Jerica Widow, CRYP’s youth programs director. “We’ll also have corn, eggplant parmesan, potato squash slices, cabbage rolls, spaghetti squash with pasta sauce, and biscuits with sausage gravy. Dessert is included as well — carrot cake, chocolate zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”
What’s more, the youth project staff is thoughtfully curating wellness kits for each family to take home with their meals. The kits are designed to encourage families to get outdoors, and play and exercise together.
“We’re hoping our families will enjoy a delicious, hearty, holiday-themed meal and then head outdoors for some jumprope fun, sidewalk chalk art, or a game of kickball,” Widow said. “We’re also looking forward to celebrating another successful growing season with our community.”
CRYP started the Harvest Festival tradition in 2013 as a way to showcase its Native food sovereignty initiatives and the bounty of its organicgarden. According to Executive Director Julie Garreau, the Harvest Festival was a natural fit for the youth project.
“Our teen center’s name, ‘Čhokáta Wičhóni,’ means Center of Life, and we chose it because our vision was for CRYP to become a intergenerational community gathering place,” Garreau said. “Sharing a meal together is a bonding experience in Lakota culture, and in creating this annual meal using the fresh produce from Wiŋyaŋ Toka Wiŋ, we’re setting a powerful example for our community — how we can embrace food sovereignty and security, how we can take charge of our own wellness, and how we can do it together as Lakota people.”
In recent years, the garden has yielded up to 10,000 pounds of produce. Last year, CRYP experienced one of the best harvests in its history. This year, unfortunately, the ongoing drought in the western Great Plains contributed to the loss of the corn crop.
“It was a sad loss, but we are a resilient people,” Garreau noted. “We nurtured the other crops to the best of our ability, and we’re still able to harvest nearly 5,000 pounds of produce this year. Our tomatoes and cucumbers did very well.”
In addition to the Harvest Festival Dinner, CRYP incorporates this produce into meals and snacks for local youth, shares it with the CRST Elderly Nutrition Center, and processes it so food items may be sold through the Keya (Turtle) Gift Shop. The store is a CRYP social enterprise, so not only does it serve as a living classroom for the youth project’s teen interns, its proceeds directly benefit youth programming and services.
The Keya Gift Shop currently carries wasna; lilac, sand cherry, and watermelon jelly; nectarine jam; “cowboy candy”; pickled, sweet, and hot and spicy banana peppers; mild, hot, and zucchini salsa; wild plum syrup; chokecherry patties; apple butter; pickled beets; and bruschetta. To place orders, call (605) 964-8200.
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 www.lakotayouth.org. 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.