In collaboration with Generations Indigenous Ways and with support from the National Institutes of Health, the Cheyenne River Youth Project was able to take five youth ages 14-16 to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for Lakota Winter Camp last month. The camp took place on Feb. 17-19 in Yellow Bear Canyon southeast of Kyle, South Dakota.

This is the third installment in CRYP’s new seasonal camping program, which allows Lakota youth to strengthen the connections they have with traditional culture and the natural environment. Last year, Cheyenne River teens attended Spring Camp in April and Summer Camp in August.

“Our goal is to offer these camps four times each year,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “Our sacred Lakota life ways move in rhythm with Unci Makha (Mother Earth) and the four seasons, and taking part in an immersive program like this is an essential part of reclaiming their ancestral rights as Lakota people.” 

During camp, the group learned to build a tipi. They shared and discussed the Lakota creation story, something that is traditionally done during the winter months. They also engaged with the world around them, viewing it through a distinctly Lakota lens.

“The kids explored star knowledge, harvested traditional tobacco, and learned about local flora and fauna,” explained Jerica Widow, CRYP’s programs director. “In particular, they engaged in the study of birds; they’re winged but also two-legged, so they are our close relations.”

An important part of the camp experience was learning to care for the camp itself, from building the tipi to building and tending the campfire. Traditionally, women in camp were responsible for the fire. 

“The girls learned a lot,” Widow said. With a laugh, she added, “We got smoked out a couple of times! But they did it. They kept getting up, and they kept that fire going.” 

The group experienced true winter conditions. Temperatures hovered in the teens, and at one point, their vehicle wouldn’t start.

“We were a little worried, but it was OK,” Widow said. “It was super cold, but it was a good experience.” 

Generations Indigenous Ways is a community-based Native nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering American Indian youth with the knowledge of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education enhanced by Oglala Lakota values and way of life using Indigenous Sciences. It provides year-round education programs for American Indian students from the large land base of the Seven Council Fires, which covers the state of South Dakota. To learn more, 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 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.