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Culture Helps to Heal Communities

Culture Helps to Heal Communities

For decades, Running Strong for American Indian Youth® has been supporting programs that promote culture and tradition in Native American communities throughout Indian Country.

Coming of Age and Native Storytelling

For example, for 25 years, Running Strong has been providing funding support to the Brave Heart Society in Lake Andes, South Dakota, founded by Native American activist Faith Spotted Eagle to enhance the cultural knowledge of her Yankton Sioux Nation people.

With grant funding from Running Strong this year, the Brave Heart Society will continue its Waterlily Storytelling Institute, Isnati Coming of Age Ceremony, lacrosse camps, Cultural Learning Circles, and more.

Rites of Passage

Another of our longtime partners, Sacred Healing Circle, just held its Wakanyeja Gluwitayan Otipi: Rites of Passage for Oglala Youth in August for boys and girls and youth ages 10 to 20 years old on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Executive director Yvette Running Horse Colling explained that during three days of rites of passage activities, all participated in Inipi (a sweat lodge purification ceremony of the Lakota people), with girls taking part in workshops on sacred food preparation, traditional storytelling, and ribbon skirt making, while the boys learned tipi raising, drum making, storytelling and ceremonial instruction (how to keep a ceremonial fire) and more.

On the final day, all were honored in a ceremony where they were bestowed with their Lakota names.

The goals of the rites of passage activities are for Oglala youth to learn their culture and traditions (specifically targeting those events and teachings that are tailored to the “Rites of Passage” age), introduce the art of sacred foods preparation, and teach the skills necessary to understand this cultural foundation, create opportunities for elders to mentor youth, provide gender-respectful learning spaces and topics, provide culturally appropriate learning spaces for the transmission of Lakota creation stories and provide ceremonially appropriate venues for Lakota naming ceremonies.

In addition, activities are designed to create a solid foundation for youth who may be interested in becoming more committed to a ceremonial road and provide elders with an opportunity to strengthen relationships with other elder teachers and stimulate the possibility that they will commit to developing other teaching events.

“It is our hope and expectation that this Rites of Passage cultural program will help elders, other mentors, and youth to develop strong relationships and a deeper respect for the Lakota culture and traditions,” says Yvonne.  “We expect that a commitment to helping these events regularly may develop.

“Such a commitment will aid in the healing our communities need and deserve.”

Oyate Ta Kola Ku Community Center to hold classes this fall and winter on regalia making and more.

And this year, on the first anniversary of the opening of our Oyate Ta Kola Ku Community Center on Pine Ridge, we are pleased to announce a list of slated cultural activities to be held in the coming months, including classes in making dance regalia, shawls, concho belts, yokes, leggings, breastplates, fans, beating, moccasins and hair ties as well as new workshops in head “roaches” (a type of traditional headdress for Native American men that could be made from hair of whitetail deer, moose, porcupine, horsehair or a combination of these) and traditional and fancy youth bustles.

Other upcoming cultural events include a buffalo kill. “We want to teach our children how to harvest and process traditional foods – the buffalo, berries, and the drying of vegetables.”, programs on Native Leadership Skills and the purchasing of three tipis and showing the youth how to set them up.

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