The Cheyenne River Youth Project has announced that its new documentary film, titled “Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count),” is a featured film at this year’s Latino & Native American Film Festival. The groundbreaking festival at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, now in its 12th year, is dedicated to the recruitment and retention of Latino and Native students and furthering their education at the university level.
“Waniyetu Wowapi” is among 337 films from 10 countries selected for this year’s festival, which had more than 2,500 submissions — and it’s one of just 23 films from U.S. filmmakers. All featured films are available for free online screening until May 5 at 11:30 p.m. Simply visit https://www.southernct.edu/lanaff, and click the Xerb TV link for registration and to access the streaming platform.
“We’re grateful to LANAFF for this opportunity to share our story,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “For more than three decades, we also have been dedicated to providing our Native youth with access to the opportunities they need for a healthy and vibrant future.”
When CRYP originally commissioned Steinberger Films to produce “Waniyetu Wowapi” in 2021, the intention was to share the nonprofit organization’s remarkable journey in arts programming through the lens of its award-winning RedCan invitational graffiti jam. According to Garreau, it turned into so much more.
“When we started talking to our elders and families, as well as Native funders from across the country, we quickly realized that we are part of a much larger story,” she explained. “Art lies at the heart of our traditional indigenous cultures, and it has tremendous power to reclaim spaces, revitalize language and life ways, and lift up our communities.
“Waniyetu Wowapi means winter count, the practice of recording our stories from winter snow to winter snow,” she continued. “Art is a practice and creative outlet that gives us a contemporary version of the winter count, allowing us to bring to life our stories, truths, and messages for our people.”
A highlight of the film is the groundbreaking ceremony for CRYP’s new Waniyetu Wowapi Institute, a community art center that will stand in the center of the youth project’s art park. A public capital campaign seeks to raise $1.5 million to complete this innovative facility, which will open its doors in 2023.
Designed by Boulder, Colorado-based Ferguson Pyatt Architects, the new art center will incorporate circular exhibition galleries, a photography dark room, a recording studio, a screen-printing studio, a pottery studio with kiln room, multipurpose space with doors opening to the outside, individual artists’ studios, and much more. What’s more, the building will be net zero, meaning it will produce as much or more energy than it uses in a year.
Not only will Cheyenne River’s youth have opportunities to learn and grow here, the new facility also will welcome local artists and community members as instructors and mentors.
“We want this to be a community gathering place, where people of all ages can come together to learn from one another and support each other,” Garreau said. “We’ll also encourage our artists to share their work on the building itself, to make it live and breathe with creative energy that reflects our people.”
For more information about the art center project, to make a contribution to the public capital campaign, and to view the documentary film, visit:
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 is dedicated to giving our Lakota youth and families access to the culturally relevant, enriching, and enduring opportunities we need to build stronger, healthier communities and a more vibrant future together.