This winter, the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s first youth advisory council, Tȟeča Hótȟaŋiŋpi (Youth Make Their Voices Heard), visited Washington, D.C., as part of the Center for Native American Youth’s 2023 Champions for Change Week. On Feb. 19-24, CRYP took six young people to the nation’s capital for four full days of learning, collaborating, networking and sightseeing. 

In joining the council, these Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe teens have embarked on a leadership journey that is grounded in Lakota culture and dedicated to serving their community. They are: Nation Cowins, 15; Braylee Dog Eagle, 17; Clarence Lawrence, 16; Natalie Marshall, 13; Sheridan Miner, 14; and Wambli Gleska Quintana, 17.

Executive Director Julie Garreau, Art Manager Wakinyan Chief and Internship Manager Morgan Robinson chaperoned the trip. When asked if the trip was a necessary and important experience for these young community leaders, Garreau said yes, absolutely.

“Tȟéča Hótȟaŋiŋpi means ‘Youth Make Their Voices Heard,’ and our kids really stepped up and made their voices heard,” she explained. “They were in completely new surroundings and meeting new people, yet they were engaged, positive and open. They took risks, sharing their feelings and thoughts. We were so proud of them. Our kids need more investment like this.

“And hats off to CRST Alcohol and Beverage Commission for giving the kids some spending money,” she added. “They felt so supported by our community.” 

During their stay, the youth council members had opportunities to connect with CNAY representatives and visit The Aspen Institute. They also took the D.C. Indigenous Tour and saw iconic landmarks such as the U.S. Capitol, the White House, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the Embassy of Tribal Nations, which is the center of operations for the National Congress of American Indians.

“During parts of our trip, including advocacy training, we were with CNAY youth and NCAI youth, who came from Native communities across the country,” Garreau said. “It was very exciting. Our kids were amazing; some even introduced themselves in Lakota.”

During the trip, the CRYP team attended a public event at the Aspen Institute to celebrate the 2023 Champions for Change and hear Angeline Boulley, author of “The Fire Keeper’s Daughter,” speak about her journey. At the U.S. Department of Treasury, they met Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, the 18th chief of the Mohegan Tribe. She is the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history and the first Native person to serve as Treasurer of the United States.

The teens participated in policy strategy and advocacy training at the NCAI General Assembly. This included brainstorming a possible legislative initiative to present to Rep. Gabriel Vasquez (D-NM) and Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola (D-AK).

They also participated in a Hill Day / White House Roundtable, where they met with members of Congress and Congressional staff to discuss priorities and build connections. And, at NCAI’s Tribal Youth Summit, the CRYP youth advisory council joined other young people to identify problems in their communities and devise ways to solve them.

“They had to present their plan to the public,” Garreau said. “All the kids were ready to talk about solutions to the problem that they identified for their community. They carried and expressed themselves with confidence.

“We’re so grateful to NCAI,” she added. “They were incredibly generous with their time and their resources throughout this experience. They also arranged several meals for us, which was so thoughtful.” 

One evening, the kids enjoyed an evening meal courtesy of the Casey Family Foundation, which CNAY organized. Another evening, Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP (also known as Native Law Group) arranged a meal at the Capital Grille for the youth advisory council and chaperones.

“Much gratitude to Jeremy Patterson, an enrolled CRST member who also serves as our wonderful board president, and Rollie Wilson from Native Law Group,” Garreau said. “They arranged many exciting experiences for us, including our visits to the White House and the U.S. Capitol. 

“They also helped us meet one of our goals for this trip,” she continued. “We wanted to be adventurous, which also meant having fun trying new foods. We had such a good time at the Capital Grille.”

After the meal, the CRYP team walked 2.7 miles back to their hotel. On the way, they enjoyed a little sightseeing and even ran foot races in open public space. Then, Garreau said, something special happened. 

“Our kids met a homeless person,” she remembered. “They stopped to talk with the person, and they gifted their food from the restaurant. We couldn’t have possibly been more proud of them. In this act, as in so many others during their time in Washington, D.C., our young people demonstrated what it means to live wólakhota, in keeping with our sacred Lakota way of life.

“This is Lakota leadership,” she continued. “It’s not about commanding others. It’s showing others how to live wólakhota through every choice you make and the way you move through this world. It’s about being a good relative. These young people understand that it is their responsibility to safeguard and uphold our Lakota values as they serve as role models and mentors for their peers.” 

At CRYP, each youth council member is be responsible for 20 volunteer hours. They will assist with fundraising, community distributions, special events, and even youth programming at The Main, the youth project’s center for 4- to 12-year-olds.

In addition, they are expected to maintain a 2.0 or better grade point average, attend school regularly, attend each council gathering prepared to engage, and represent CRYP and Cheyenne River on field trips.

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.