The Brave Heart Society on the Yankton Reservation in Lake Andes, South Dakota, offers cultural programs for Nakota, Dakota and Lakota Sioux women and girls, designed to revive their cultural traditions.
For 20 years, the Brave Heart grandmothers have been focused on the mission of “calling home the spirit of the culture.” Running Strong for American Indian Youth® has been partnering with the Brave Heart Society since 1996 and is proud to support the programs it operates.
Isnati Awica Dowanpi: One of the Brave Heart Society’s greatest accomplishments has been the reintroduction of the once forbidden and nearly lost Isnati Awica Dowanpi (Coming of Age) ceremony for girls. As one of the seven sacred rites of the Lakota, the purpose of Isnati is to teach young women to respect themselves, and educate them about their roles and their bodies as developing women through the instruction of elder women.
Nagi Kicopi: For those who have suffered the traumas of abuse and addition, Brave Heart’s Nagi Kicopi (Calling Back the Spirit) healing retreat, led by founding grandmother Faith Spotted Eagle, focuses on healing through the rediscovery of cultural identity.
Cante Waste Woju: The Brave Heart Society operates a 3-acre community garden, tended primarily by youth, which produces a wide variety of vegetables that are distributed to elders and families on the Yankton Reservation.
Waterlilly Storytelling Institute: For generations, the rich cultural knowledge of the Dakota people was passed down from parents to children, grandparents to grandchildren. Each year, at Brave Heart’s annual Waterlilly Storytelling Institute, more than 1,000 participants hear traditional stories told to them firsthand by Native storytellers at local school assemblies during a four-day period.
Dakota Language Nest: The Dakota words and phrases children learn at the Brave Heart Society’s Dakota Language Nest are likely among the first words children learn in their native language. The weekly language lessons are referred to as a “language nest” because symbolically, a nest is when a mother bird constructs it piece by piece so that young birds become strong.