The Cheyenne River Youth Project announced today that Wakinyan Chief has joined its full-time staff as art manager. In this role, Chief is responsible for overseeing programming at the nonprofit community development organization’s Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Institute & Art Park.

According to Executive Director Julie Garreau, the timing was perfect for Chief to join the CRYP team. Not only is the 8th annual RedCan invitational graffiti jam coming up on July 6-9, the youth project is moving forward with construction on a new facility that will serve as the permanent home for the art institute and its ever-expanding offerings for community members of all ages.

“We’re thrilled to have Wakinyan with us,” Garreau said. “We’re looking forward to working together on multidisciplinary, community-based, culturally relevant programming for our institute and our art park — initiatives that will strengthen the connection our youth and community have with our Lakota culture and with each other.” 

The Waniyetu Wowapi Institute & Art Park currently incorporates CRYP’s Lakota Fellowship program, the Teen Art Internship program, a free public art park, a variety of community workshops and special events, live performances, and the award-winning RedCan, which is the first and only graffiti jam in Indian Country.

An enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Wakinyan Chief is of Mnicoujou and Hunkpapa descent. During the Indian Relocation Act, his Até (father) was sent to California, where Chief was born and raised. While in California, he learned the art of graffiti, which inspired him to experiment with multiple disciplines, mediums, and styles. 

“When I was 23, I moved back to South Dakota to dedicate my life to the betterment of the Lakota people,” Chief said. “For roughly two years, I worked as a youth mentor with Generations Indigenous Ways, a year-round Lakota youth camp that strives to educate and empower the Wakanyeja (little sacred ones) with the knowledge and skills our ancestors possessed, incorporating those traditional ways and teachings with western science methodology. I’m proud that CRYP is currently working with GIWays to bring these camps to Cheyenne River, to benefit the Wakanyeja here.” 

Chief also has worked with the Oglala Lakota Cultural & Economic Revitalization Initiative, which hosted the Indigenous Wisdom & Permaculture Skills Convergence in Slim Buttes on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This annual event brings permaculture experts and participants who want to learn permaculture skills to Pine Ridge from around the world. 

Over the years, Chief has participated in multiple art shows and graffiti jams, taught graffiti workshops, designed and sold his personal art, and worked as a commissioned artist. He continues to enjoy painting graffiti and creating multimedia art.

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 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.