Hopa Mountain, in partnership with the National Park Service, has announced that the Cheyenne River Youth Project is a 2019 awardee of the “Connecting with our Homelands” travel grant. The grassroots, nonprofit youth organization is one of 21 indigenous organizations, schools and nonprofits that have earned travel funds for trips to national park unites across 12 U.S. states and territories.

CRYP is arranging to take Cheyenne River Lakota youth to Wind Cave National Park near Hot Springs, South Dakota, on July 11-12 and again on August 15-16. Prior to the trips, staff will invite Lakota elders to speak with the young people and tell them the Lakota creation story.

For these young people, that emergence story will come to life at Wind Cave, which is currently recognized as the densest cave system in the world and one of the longest in the world as well, with nearly 150 miles of explored passageways to date. The national park also includes the largest remaining natural mixed-grass prairie in the United States.

“The opportunity to provide traditional storytelling to our youth through our elders, and then to bring them to the root of that story, will have a lasting impact,” says Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “Our hope is that this experience will instill in them the importance of strengthening the connection they have with their elders and their Lakota culture—and keeping traditional stories alive for future generations of Lakota people.”

“By the end of this trip, our young people will not only know more about their culture, their ancestors, and this critical piece of nature, they also will know a little bit more about themselves,” she continues. “That is essential for them as they grow to become healthy, strong, well-rounded adults.”

“Connecting with our Homelands” is an annual NPS program open to applicants from native tribes, Alaska native communities, and native Hawaiian organizations. Recipients are able to use these travel funds for intergenerational trips to ancestral lands now located within national park unites. The goal of this program is to provide support for youth and elders to travel to a national park, where they can share indigenous knowledge, cultural heritage, traditions and epistemological healing.

In 2015-17, this NPS program provided funds to 55 organizations, bringing 2,250 young people on trips to their ancestral homelands. Beginning this year, it is managed in partnership with the nonprofit Hopa Mountain as part of a five-year cooperative agreement with NPS. Hopa Mountain is dedicated to investing in rural and tribal citizen leaders who are improving education, ecological health and economic development.

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.