My name is Brooke Voss Linsenbardt. I’m 29 years old, and I’m from suburban St. Louis. My professional and personal trajectory starts, and ends, and starts again with the Cheyenne River Youth Project.

I first heard about CRYP from Debbie Wills, a family friend from church. I volunteered in 2004, and my relationship with CRYP grew from there—I try to return as often as I can, both to volunteer and simply to visit my CRYP family.

Since I usually stay for shorter amounts of time, my responsibilities vary. I do what I’m told! On any particular visit, I might work on organizing the Family Services warehouse, creating decorations for special events or activities, and preparing snacks and meals. 

I would say my favorite task its building relationships, which is a multifaceted, ongoing endeavor. It means preparing those snacks and meals, but it also means playing on the playground at The Main, attending Midnight Basketball at Cokata Wiconi, or walking in the Waniyetu Wowapi Art Park. I love building relationships, and I love being an ambassador for CRYP.

Since I first worked with CRYP as a short-term volunteer in 2004, it has grown tremendously in terms of programs and both physical and nonphysical spaces. But its focus has remained firmly on how best to work with and serve Lakota youth—their youth, the community’s youth. And, through them, supporting and lifting up the Cheyenne River community as a whole. 

Although I knew quite young that I wanted to be an educator, I did not know or understand back in 2004 how CRYP would change my life. Partially due to my work there, I pursued an undergraduate degree in history and a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in history. I’ve taught high school in St. Louis. I earned my Ph.D. at Texas A&M. It’s now 2019, and I’m currently at Michigan State University for the year as a fellow with the American Indian and Indigenous Studies program.

Looking back, I owe so much to the CRYP family and community, and I have the deepest gratitude. Due to the history of settler colonialism, the U.S. government and non-indigenous peoples have attempted, and continue to attempt, to erase indigenous presence and communities like Cheyenne River. Despite this history, I think people might be surprised to recognize the beauty and love and resiliency of the Cheyenne River community. And this is in part, because of CRYP.