This fall, the Cheyenne River Youth Project offered healing workshops for young men and women ages 13-16 at its Čhokáta Wičhóni (Center of Life) teen center. The young women’s workshop took place on Sept. 19-23, with the young men’s workshop following on Sept. 21-23.
According to CRYP Art Manager Wakinyan Chief, these workshops are important additions to the youth project’s teen programming, as they teach the youth healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with the hardships they face on a daily basis. Without those tools, and without the ability to fully face and feel their emotions, young people are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, participate in violence and vandalism, and get involved with gangs.
“It’s been my experience that emotional suppression is at the root cause of many of these choices young people make,” Chief said. “They’re attempting to avoid or release their emotions, and they’re doing it in harmful ways. This is essential teaching. We need more of these programs, and more safe spaces where we can open up to one another.”
CRYP’s guest instructor for the young women’s workshop, Collins Provost-Fields, focused on herbal and root medicines. She said her goal was to teach the youth to put their health and care into their own hands.
“We accomplished this by identifying the plants we worked with, and what they were used for,” Provost-Fields explained. “Then we made tea and incorporated storytelling. Some of the youth said they were dealing with anxiety and depression, and the tea helped them with that.
“A few of the kids said they were able to sleep through the night for the first time in months,” she continued. “It’s an overall success when these babies are noticing changes right away. I enjoyed my workshop and would love to do another one.”
Provost-Field’s husband and partner, Jeremy Fields, led the young men’s workshop. (Both are accomplished artists and have been involved with CRYP programming for years; they created the mural pictured above during RedCan 2020.) Fields’ goal was to help young men find their path, learn about their purpose within Lakota culture, and set goals so they can lead powerful and resilient lives.
During the workshop, participants made painted parfleche earrings with rawhide. They also engaged in talking circles with the CRYP’s male staff members, who shared their experiences related to emotional and mental health.
“CRYP is so grateful to those who wish to share their knowledge with our young people,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “When they share, it’s more than just a transfer of knowledge. It’s a message for hope and healing. It says, ‘You are sacred.’ Gifting information is a way of honoring our children.”
“When our guest instructors and staff members are sharing their knowledge and stories with our young people, they also are serving as mentors and positive role models for living Wólakȟota (the Lakota people’s sacred way of life),” added Jerica Widow, CRYP’s programs director. “We keep Wólakȟota at the heart of all of our work, because we know that this is the only way to create an environment and a future in which all may thrive.”
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.