Thirty-five years ago this month, a little volunteer-run youth center opened its doors in a Main Street bar in Eagle Butte South Dakota. The mission of “The Main” was simple: to provide a safe spaces, nutritious meals and snacks, and positive role models and mentors for children on the remote, 2.8-million-acre Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.
Today, the nonprofit Cheyenne River Youth Project has a busy 5-acre campus on East Lincoln Street, which includes “The Main” youth center, Čhokáta Wičhoni teen center, Waniyetu Wowapi Art Park, and Winyan Toka Win Garden. It has garnered national and even international recognition for its innovative, resourceful work, which includes the 10-year-old Teen Internship Program and the award-winning RedCan invitational graffiti jam.
While a lot has changed, CRYP remains a local, grassroots, Native-led organization. And its core mission remains the same.
“Today, we are serving our second generation of Lakota youth, and we’re offering programs that we couldn’t have imagined in those early days,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “Our kids now have access to internships, art fellowships, traditional art workshops, Lakota culture camps, financial literacy classes, First Aid and CPR training, wellness education, and so much more.
“Yet it all comes down to one simple principle,” she continued. “We are still dedicated to providing the resources and opportunities our kids need to thrive. That’s why they trust us. They know they can rely on us to be here for them — now and in the future.”
To celebrate CRYP’s milestone 35th anniversary, CRYP will host a Harvest Festival Dinner for the community on Friday, Oct. 20. Free and open to the public, this festive seasonal meal will include beef roast, buffalo roast with roasted veggies, cabbage rolls with tomato sauce, squash, eggplant parmesan, green bean casserole, Three Sisters stir fry, stuffing, biscuits, wojapi, peach cobbler, plum cake, and cupcakes.
“Each fall, we invite our community to share the locally grown, pesticide-free produce from our Winyan Toka Win Garden, and thank Unci Makha (Grandmother Earth) for a bountiful harvest,” Garreau said. “This year feels even more special, because we’re also gathering together to celebrate 35 years of supporting our children, our most precious treasure.”
CRYP is preparing a 35th anniversary banner for all Harvest Festival guests to sign, and Wakinyan Maza will be on hand for a drum song and blessing.
“We encourage community members and visitors alike to join us on Oct. 20,” Garreau said. “CRYP wouldn’t be here today without the support of the Cheyenne River community, our many partners, and our friends near and far. We would like to take this time to acknowledge how far we have come, and express our heartfelt gratitude to all those who have helped us — and lifted up our young people — along the way.”
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, 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.