EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. — The nonprofit Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte has been a cornerstone of the community for more than three decades.
“In the past I’ve had young people say, ‘I don’t know that I would’ve made it to adulthood without the Cheyenne River Youth Project’,” says Julie Garreau, founder and executive director of the Cheyenne River Youth Project.
Its five-acre campus includes two youth centers and is a safe space, fostering growth, healthy living, and addressing vital family needs.
“So when kids come to the Cheyenne River Youth Project, it’s safe. They’re surrounded by people who definitely care, who will go the distance for them,” Garreau says.
Offering paid internships in a variety of disciplines, CRYP boasts a strong social enterprise, including a café, food truck, and gift shop – allowing youth on the Cheyenne River Reservation the opportunity to gain valuable life and skills.
It’s a grassroots initiative anchored in Lakota culture.
“I would say culture and language and all of that is blended into everything that we are doing, whether it’s native wellness or whether it’s food sovereignty or whether it is – the arts, culture…is a big part of what we do here,” Garreau says. “And as a Lakota person, it’s a beautiful thing for me – and my staff feel the same way – that we’re able to be a part of raising the children of our community, because that’s how we did it traditionally…we’re always we are all a part of raising our kids.”
One of the most noticeable CRYP programs is Red Can, an arts festival that has left Eagle Butte awash in color for the better part of the last decade.
“I think one of the things that I heard one of the elders say is that when you see the artwork, and you see the artwork is our language displayed on a big wall in a big way, it really does invite people in and says, ‘you’re in,’ it says, ‘you’re a part of this…we’re including you and we’re inviting you in’,” Garreau says. “And it also just tells our story. It also reminds us about our language, and it’s a really beautiful thing.”
It’s an innovative, family- and culture-centered approach addressing unique community challenges.
“I think in the end, the honor is really ours, and I think that’s a genuine feeling from all of our staff is that we feel like, thank you, thank you for sharing your life with us and letting us be here,” Garreau adds.
CLICK HERE for more information on the Cheyenne River Youth Project.