On the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s own version of the winter count, October is Lakol Wichohan Wi, or the Moon of Lakota Traditions and Culture. For the nonprofit youth organization, that means it’s a month of harvest festivities, teen fall internships, and family-focused services and events.

On Oct. 8, CRYP celebrated its 8th annual Harvest Festival with a free drive-thru community dinner. Staff members served 170 meals, which incorporated hamburger-vegetable soup, mashed potato squash, Brussels sprouts with barbecue sauce and seasonings, Mexican-style cojita corn, and pumpkin pie.

The Harvest Festival commemorates the end of the growing season in CRYP’s Winyan Toka Win Owózu (Leading Lady Garden), which yielded nearly 10,000 pounds of nutritious, pesticide-free, locally grown produce this year. It also is a powerful demonstration of the Lakota value of generosity, as the community gathers to take care of its own.

“With the pandemic, we had to come up with a whole new way of doing a community meal,” said Dawn E. LeBeau, CRYP’s deputy director. “It went really well. Everyone helped, and we worked really well together. The food was delicious, and (Youth Programs Assistant) Khalid Garreau put together amazing recipes.”

Also this month, cohorts of teen interns are working their way through internship tracks in Native Wellness and Indigenous Foods & Cooking. At press time, staff members also were gearing up to welcome two new Social Enterprise interns, and two cohorts of Arts interns who will operate on alternate schedules.

CRYP has developed additional creative programming this month, seeking to engage youth of all ages. On Oct. 15, the youth project kicked off its “Celebrating Natives TikTok Contest” for ages 8-18. Themes are native humor and indigenous uplifting messages, and first-, second-, and third-place winners will receive $100, $75, and $50 respectively.

“We’re looking for the most funny and most original videos, along with the best lip-sync videos,” said Jerica Widow, CRYP’s youth programs director. “We thought this would be a fun way to celebrate Lakol Wichohan Wi here at CRYP this month, and Native American Heritage Month in November.”

The contest ends Nov. 2. For more information, call (605) 964-8200.

In collaboration with the South Dakota Arts Council, CRYP is offering a “Creative Journaling” workshop as well. Scheduled for Oct. 20-22 at 2-5 p.m. each day, the workshop is open to teens ages 13-18.

In addition, October marked the return of monthly Family Services distributions at CRYP’s Fourth Street campus in Eagle Butte. Distributions will resume on Wednesday, Oct. 21 by appointment; CRYP is asking each Family Services member to contact the office at (605) 964-8200 to request needed items and arrange a pick-up time; each member may use this service once per month.

“We appreciate our families’ patience with us as we navigated the pandemic this year and worked to find appropriate protocols to keep our staff and our families safe,” LeBeau said. “We look forward to serving our families again!”

That’s not all. Staff members are preparing for a special Walking Club that will be open to all community members. They’re planning the annual Thanks for Kids Dinner on Nov. 19, and they’re continuing to provide daily sack meals and monthly drive-thru birthday parties for all local children who are in need.

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 lakotayouth.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@lakotayouth and @waniyetuwowapi).

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.