Cheyenne River Youth Project seeks contributions

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Cokata Wiconi History Wall takes shape

EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. - At the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte, work continues on the ambitious History Wall taking shape in the main corridor of the Cokata Wiconi teen center. According to curator Ben Cranham, more than 100 of the 140 photos, maps and pieces of commentary have been completed for the project, which runs chronologically along the corridor;s northern wall, from its eastern end to its western end.

The History Wall is designed to be a permanent exhibition of documents, photographs and other materials that tell the history of the four bands of Lakota who comprise the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. The wall's timeline will start circa 1500, before the Lakota made their home along the Cheyenne River, and trace the four bands' major events and personal stories through more than 500 years until the present day.

While the wall already incorporates substantial information and artifacts relating to the older historical time frames, the sections relating to the 20th century need additional materials to properly complete the wall's timeline. CRYP is encouraging Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe members and reservation residents to search their own records and possessions for original photographs and documents that might be appropriate.

''We're looking for photographs relating to everyday life, photographs from the old Cheyenne River Agency village, of people in military service, photos relating to tribal government - any photos of cultural or historical significance,'' said Cranham, a resident of London, England, who recently worked for six months in Eagle Butte as a CRYP volunteer. ''Any documents or letters from the same period also would be enormously helpful.''

Cranham will make copies of all contributions to the History Wall so the originals may be returned to their owners in a timely manner.

Once completed, the wall will present a broad range of subject matter, including major national or international events with particular significance to the development of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe; major local events involving the tribe or the area covered by the Great Sioux Reservation; traditional Lakota stories; information about Lakota religion, politics, practices and lifeways; and personal stories and experiences.

As part of Cokata Wiconi's main corridor, the wall will be an engaging visual reminder to Cheyenne River youth of their shared history. It also will have an interactive component, as CRYP is encouraging local children to provide their own artwork for the contemporary portion of the History Wall. The youth project has already received one piece of art from a 10-year-old in the community that focuses on the seven council fires.

Cranham said he expected all the original commentary pieces to be in place by early April, and the first phase of the wall itself will be complete soon afterward. Once it is ready for viewing, the CRYP board of directors will review its layout and materials.

From that point forward, Cokata Wiconi's History Wall will continue to develop and evolve.

''The History Wall will become part of Cokata Wiconi's wider cultural function, a physical and permanent record that will tie in with the library, projects such as the oral history program, the drum group and so on,'' Cranham noted.

Short-term developments will include adding display cases, creating a written guide with further reading materials, and consideration of multimedia opportunities such as audio tours. Since CRYP does not have a budget for the wall project, the youth project welcomes contributions from individuals, businesses and other not-for-profit organizations.

''We still need to acquire outstanding materials such as display cases and frames, produce a background mural, re-hang the wall and schedule a formal dedication ceremony,'' said Julie Garreau, CRYP's executive director. ''We also hope to create a second history wall on the corridor's southern wall, which will reflect the wider story of all the Americas' indigenous people. So we would be thrilled to receive financial support and even in-kind donations that will assist us as we move forward. We would be happy to provide a wish list for those who would like to make in-kind contributions.''

To contact Cranham regarding potential materials for the History Wall, e-mail him at bencranham@lycos.com. For more information about making tax-deductible financial or in-kind contributions, call (605) 964-8200 or e-mail julie@indian youth.org. Online payment through PayPal is available at www.lakotayouth.org.