The Keya Foundation is in the process of producing a series of eight children’s books with stories told by Lakota elders on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation for its Intergenerational History project, funded with a grant by Running Strong for American Indian Youth®.
Each story will include pages with Lakota translations to aid in the language revitalization movement with illustrations created by Cheyenne River youth. Through this project, the Keya Foundation aims to cultivate “stronger intergenerational relationships” among youth and elders.
The students have finished their first book, “Three Hunters and a Bear,” a Lakota story of the Big Dipper which was distributed to schools in the area, and they are currently in the production stages of their second book, “Inyan and Skan.”
“Our health and our DNA come from the land,” said one elder involved in the project. “We’ve been here so long, everything that grew out of the ground went into the animals and as we ate, into us. Once we die it goes back into the land.
“Everything comes from the land. The cycle continues and continues.”
Caitlin Gourneau further elaborated on this message, highlighting that the elder was encouraging children “to take an active part in maintaining our lands and learning more about where we come from.
“The land will tell us that story.”
After the elder finished telling the story of Inyan and Skan, a student began asking question after question until every one of his many questions were answered, reported Caitlin.
“Wow! This is so cool to know where our Native people all began,” the young boy exclaimed, thrilled with his newfound knowledge.
“This project has already brought so much knowledge to our youth on Cheyenne River,” said Caitlin in April. “The knowledge the students have learned from the elder’s creation stories has made big impacts on our children.
“The youth are learning about where we came from and they want to learn more! You can see the yearning to learn more in their faces.