On Thursday, May 19, Americans for the Arts presented its 2022 Selina Roberts Ottum Award for Arts Leadership to Julie Garreau, executive director of the Cheyenne River Youth Project. The national nonprofit organization’s awards presentation was part of its annual conference, which took place at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. on May 18-20.

The award recognizes an individual working in arts management who has made a meaningful contribution to their local community and who exemplifies extraordinary leadership qualities. Garreau said she was honored to accept on behalf of her entire team at CRYP, which is based in the heart of South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.

“I’m deeply grateful to receive this, because it’s an award for all of us at CRYP,” she said. “The hard work we do simply wouldn’t happen if we didn’t have such a dedicated team. Every day, our staff members are mentoring and nurturing kids, serving families, taking care of our 2.5-acre garden, preparing and processing food, arranging multidisciplinary workshops and community events, hosting performances, building partnerships, guiding volunteers, and handling all the day-to-day operations, from facilities management and groundskeeping to adminstration and communications. Each person plays a vital role.”

Garreau, whose Lakota name is Wičhaȟpi Epatȟaŋ Wiŋ (Touches the Stars Woman), is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Since 1988, she and her team have taken CRYP from a small youth center to a full campus that includes “The Main” youth center, Čhokáta Wičhóni teen center, Waniyetu Wowapi Institute & Art Park, Winyan Toka Win Garden, Leading Lady Farm Stand, and Keya Gift Shop & E-Store.

As CRYP has grown over the last three-plus decades, its profile also grown as well. In 2017, Garreau and her team received the prestigious Robert E. Gard Award from Americans for the Arts. This award recognized the innovative Waniyetu Wowapi Institute & Art Park as well as the RedCan invitational graffiti jam, the first and only event of its kind in Indian Country. The 8th Annual RedCan event is scheduled for July 5-10; also this summer, construction will begin on a 8,655-square-foot facility that will become the art institute’s permanent home.

“We knew we needed a bold, inclusive, hands-on space for our community to come together to express themselves freely, learn alongside one another, share ideas, and deepen their connection to our Lakota culture,” Garreau said. “We’re looking forward to giving our young people, in particular, an environment in which they can learn art and life skills in a cutting-edge, relatable, and contemporary way while also beautifying the community we all call home.” 

In addition, Americans for the Arts recognized the CRYP team in 2019 with its Arts Education Award, and in 2018 with the David Rockefeller pARTnership Award for the teen internship program. This popular program, which began in 2013 with just a handful of teens learning about Native food sovereignty, now features additional tracks in social enterprise, indigenous cooking, Native wellness, and the arts — and it has graduated more than 1,500 interns to date. A new track in Lakota culture will be introduced this year.

“We are humbled and honored by the attention CRYP has received in recent years,” Garreau said. “It’s a testament to what you can do when you join together with people who are willing to work with you to serve, empower, and lift up your community. 

“The work we do in Indian Country is challenging, and it’s critical,” she continued. “We’re building the next generation of leaders and culture bearers, and it wouldn’t be possible without the relationships we’ve built locally, across the country, and even around the world. We’ve created an enormous CRYP family, which really is the Lakota way.” 

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.