For more than 30 years, the Cheyenne River Youth Project has been dedicated to strengthening the connection Lakota youth have with their culture. In recent years, culturally relevant programming at the nonprofit youth organization has expanded to include an Indigenous Cooking internship for local teens and special trainings for adults in the Cheyenne River community.

Although CRYP has offered teen internships in Native Wellness, Native Food Sovereignty, Social Enterprise and the Arts for several years, it recently added an Indigenous Cooking track at the request of local teens. Eight young people have just completed the winter internship, and staff members are expecting a full house for the next cohort as well.

In this track, interns learn the history of various foods, their relationships to traditional Lakota medicines and ceremonies, and their contemporary uses. They also get plenty of hands-on kitchen time, learning to make ceyaka tea, flat cedar tea, chokecherry juice and patties, wojapi, dried buffalo meat, asna, ba’pa soup, squash flour and more. 

“The teens track all of their experiences in journals, which gives them the opportunity to dig a little deeper and reflect on the connections they feel with traditional Lakota life ways, and with their ancestors, who worked so hard to provide for their families without modern conveniences,” says Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “To conclude their internships, they created their own spirit dishes and smudge kits. That meant a lot to them—and to us.”

Staff members also had the opportunity to delve into indigenous foods, food handling and meal preparation through a recent two-day training courtesy of Partnerships with Native Americans. The training included knife techniques, how to properly cut and prepare vegetables, how to make a salad with homemade dressing, how to make a corn and hominy mixture, how to butcher a chicken, how to cut and prepare buffalo roast, and how to correctly use and cook quinoa.

According to Deputy Director Meghan Tompkins, CRYP will host an indigenous-cooking training for the Cheyenne River community on Saturday, May 4. Limited spots are available, so interested youth and adults are encouraged to call (605) 964-8200 to register.

“Thanks to PWNA and our dedicated staff training, we are now able to teach these indigenous cooking methods to others,” Tompkins says. “Our students will learn how to make the salad and the cedar-braised buffalo roast, and everyone will go home with a dehydrator and a knife.”

She noted that each minor must be accompanied by an adult to participate in the training.

To stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@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.