Cheyenne River Youth Project
In the Lakota language, November is Waníyetu Wí, the winter moon. Nature turns inward as the weeks slide toward the winter solstice, but at the Cheyenne River Youth Project, youth programming is heating up.
In November, the nonprofit youth organization is hosting a series of Lakota arts workshops in honor of Native American Heritage Month. It also launched the fall semester of its acclaimed Main University, and it is preparing to welcome the Cheyenne River community for the annual “Thanks for Kids” dinner.
Native American Heritage Month at Cheyenne River Youth Project incorporates seven workshops. Hide Moccasin Making with Jozee Campos took place on November 4-7, and Sip & Paint with Shaila Peterson started on November 2 and will take place every Tuesday at 4-5:30 p.m. through November 23. Still to come: Wasna Making with Loretta Bad Heart Bull at 4-6 p.m. on November 9; Smudge Kit Making with Wakinyan Peta at 4-5:30 p.m. on November 12; Applique Ribbon Skirts with Bonnie LeBeaux at 4-8 p.m. on November 12, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on November 13; Inipi Presentation with Wakinyan Peta at 4-5:30 p.m. on November 17; and Soap Making with Dawn E. LeBeau at 4-5:30 p.m. on November 18-19.
“The workshops are open free to youth ages 13-18,” said Jerica Widow, Cheyenne River Youth Project’s youth programs director. “We’re offering them through our Waníyetu Wowapi Lakota Youth Arts & Culture Institute, and we’re grateful to our guest instructors for their willingness to share their time and skills with our young people. Not only will they have opportunities to explore new mediums, they will strengthen their connection to Lakota culture as they learn and create.”
Children ages 4-12 have their own special program as fall moves toward winter. On Tuesday, November 2, Cheyenne River Youth Project officially kicked off its fall semester of Main University, with staff members Wendell Nezzie, Tate Widow, Amber Grant, and Matthew Sutton teaching indoor gardening, art classes, and sensory and wellness activities every Tuesday and Thursday for five weeks.
Recipient of a “Champion for Children” award from the South Dakota Coalition for Children, Main University was founded by a long-term volunteer in 2002. Local children are familiar with the program due to its longevity at the Cheyenne River Youth Project campus, and according to Widow, they are eager to experience each new semester.
“Main University does so much more than simply provide opportunities to learn new subjects,” she explained. “It also helps our younger kids understand the importance of being responsible for their own attendance, their classroom work, and their take-home projects. It also opens a new door for them to explore their passions, as many of our subjects might not be offered in school. It’s fun for us to see how excited they are to learn these new things, and share that excitement with their friends.”
Finally, Cheyenne River Youth Project will host its annual “Thanks for Kids” dinner on Friday, November 19. Typically held at Čhokáta Wičhóni (Center of Life) in conjunction with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s Indian Child Welfare program, the dinner was a drive-thru affair in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Widow said she and her team are hopeful they can welcome the community back to campus in person this year.
“We’re keeping an eye on the situation here on Cheyenne River, because we’d love to welcome everyone to our first indoor gathering in two years,” she said. “As always, Thanks for Kids will feature home-cooked, holiday-themed dishes, as well as youth activities and special recognition for our teen interns, as we graduated our 1,000th intern this fall.”
If an in-person gathering is possible, Cheyenne River Youth Project will have public health protocols in place. These will include distanced tables, available hand sanitizer, and requesting that guests wear masks when not actively eating and drinking. Widow said more details about Thanks for Kids will be available in the next couple of weeks; interested community members are welcome to visit Cheyenne River Youth Project’s website and social media accounts, or to call the office at (605) 964-8200.
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 www.lakotayouth.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest Cheyenne River Youth Project 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.