The Cheyenne River Youth Project has released a new mini-documentary film to add to its growing library. Titled “Owášte,” which means “to be beneficial or of help in one’s healing” in Lakota, the short film explores how CRYP serves as a healing force on the remote Cheyenne River reservation.

It does this through the lens of RedCan, an award-winning invitational graffiti jam that remains the first and only event of its kind in Indian Country. The 10th annual RedCan is just four weeks away; on July 10-13, the Native-led nonprofit organization will welcome 14 graffiti and street artists, a variety of guest performers, and hundreds of participants of all ages to Eagle Butte, South Dakota. 

CRYP’s roots go much deeper than RedCan, however. Since 1988, the youth project has served children ages 4-18 on the Wakpa Waste Oyanke (Cheyenne River reservation). According to Julie Garreau, CRYP’s chief executive officer, working with two generations of children over nearly four decades revealed an important truth: Colonization continues to drive intergenerational trauma in the community, and the only way to beat it is to actively foster healing.

“Colonization severely damaged our connection to our culture, which is essential for our health and well-being,” she said. “So, we see our work here as medicine. Our primary focus is to serve as healers in our community and contribute to our nation’s cultural health.” 

CRYP provides safe, creative spaces for children, and in those spaces, role models and mentors nurture them as they explore their identities, deepen and strengthen their relationship with Lakota culture, and express themselves in positive, healthy ways. 

“In a way, we see ourselves as the opposite of the old boarding schools,” Garreau said. “Children are not just numbers here. Every child has a name and a face, hopes and dreams, and they play a vital role in our future. They are our greatest hope, and our most precious treasure.”

Through the years, Garreau said she and her team have let the children lead the way when it comes to developing youth programs that will have a meaningful, lasting impact. RedCan is one important example.

“We meet the kids where they are, and we quickly learned that graffiti and street art resonate with them,” she explained. “In Lakota culture, we share our stories through visual art. When we’re creating art, we’re being cultural, so it makes sense that graffiti would prove to be a powerful, positive force.”

When the Lakota youth collaborate with artists and create art of their own at RedCan, they are reclaiming space and revitalizing culture. They also are growing into the next generation of Lakota leaders and culture bearers.

“Our children are yearning for stronger connections to our culture and healthy ways to find their voices,” Garreau said. “RedCan brings Lakoliyapi (Lakota language, values and stories) to life for them. And that is part of their healing.” 

View “Owášte” at

To learn more about RedCan 2024, this year’s featured artists and special guests, and how to help support this groundbreaking event in Indian Country, 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.