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Cheyenne River Youth Project

12/6/13 in Eagle Butte, South Dakota under Schools & Youth Center

date

12/6/13

location

Eagle Butte, South Dakota

The Cheyenne River Youth Project® began in 1988 in Eagle Butte, SD. Local residents and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe came together to turn one of Eagle Butte’s most notorious bars into a safe, alcohol and drug free, community center for the Reservation’s children.

The Cheyenne River Youth Project® became known locally as “the Main” and thrived. With a staff comprised completely of volunteers, the center stayed open seven days a week, offered after-school programs, and worked actively with schools in the area.

Building the Billy Mills Youth Center:

In 1997, Running Strong and the Cheyenne River Youth Project® formed a partnership to build a new center for “the Main.” The new 4,224 sq foot facility, named the Billy Mills Youth Center, opened in 1999 and has a recreation room, library, kitchen, staff offices, and volunteer quarters.

Building the Ċokata Wiċoni Teen Center:

Teens on Cheyenne River have a hard existence. They must grow up in one of the poorest counties in the country, where they are geographically isolated with no movie theaters, shopping malls, or bowling alleys to keep them entertained.

In 2002 and 2003, the Cheyenne River Sioux community was shaken by 17 devastating youth suicides. People in the tribe realized the need to reach out to their young people and provide a safe place for teens.

With this in mind, the Cheyenne River Youth Project®'s Executive Director Julie Garreau (Cheyenne River Lakota) went to area high schools and spoke with teens about what they needed. She came away from these meetings with an outline of a new teen center where older kids who had outgrown youth programs at the Billy Mills Youth Center could go.

Plans for the new teen center, named Ċokata Wiċoni (pronounced Cho-kaw-taw Wee-cho-nee) began in 2002. Construction was completed in 2006 and the center opened in early 2007.

The building is 24,362 sq. feet and includes an internet café, library, dance studio, art room, classrooms, counseling center, and basketball courts.

The Cheyenne River Youth Project® is unique because it came from within the community and is a local effort, rather than part of a national project.

Activities offered for children and teens include:

• “Main University” which encourages youth to go to college by teaching them topics like biology, writing, history, and culture

• Homework help

• Camping trips and other outdoor recreational activities

• Tending to the 2 acre Winyan Toka Win Children’s Garden

• Healthy nutritious meals and snacks

• Midnight basketball tournaments

• Art Shows for community members and teens

• Passion for Fashion Events where teens can “shop” for a prom dress from gently used donated dresses

• Teen nights where older kids have a choice of activities at the new teen center

• College Nights where students from national universities visit and encourage local teens to pursue their education after high school

• Help at the holidays, including a toy drive that makes sure each child in the center receives at least one toy for Christmas

The Cheyenne River Youth Project® has received numerous honors including the 2002 Champion for Children by the South Dakota Coalition for Children, and was nominated for the 2006 Honoring Nations Award sponsored by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

Ċokata Wiċoni Teen Center

Teens on the Cheyenne River Reservation face a hard reality in their day-to-day lives:

• Cheyenne River Reservation is one of the 5 poorest counties in the US

• teens are geographically isolated; there are no movie theaters, shopping malls, or bowling alleys for them to enjoy

• the suicide rate for South Dakota youth is almost twice the national average

• alcohol related deaths among American Indian teens is 17 times that of the national average.

In 2002 and 2003, the Cheyenne River Sioux community was shaken by 17 devastating youth suicides. People in the tribe realized the need to reach out to their young people and provide a safe place for teens.

A Place To Call Their Own

With this in mind, Julie Garreau (Cheyenne River Lakota) of the Cheyenne River Youth Project® (CRYP) went to area high schools and spoke with teens about what they needed. She came away from these meetings with an outline of a new teen center where older kids who had outgrown youth programs at the Billy Mills Youth Center could go.

Plans for the new teen center, named Ċokata Wiċoni (pronounced Cho-kaw-taw Wee-cho-nee) began in 2002. Construction was completed in 2006 and the center opened in early 2007.

The building is 24,362 sq. feet and includes an internet café, library, dance studio, art room, classrooms, counseling center, and basketball courts.

Teens that have outgrown the Billy Mills Youth Center will have a place to go in the new CRYP teen center.  With the new teen center, the Cheyenne River Youth Project® will be able to:

• provide a safe space for teenagers

• create job and service opportunities for Cheyenne River teens

• recreate a community-wide suicide prevention hotline.

• increase fitness opportunities

Running Strong helped fund construction of the teen center and will provide support for year-long activities at Ċokata Wiċoni.


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