Since the start of 2023, at least since the notoriously brutal and frigid weather on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on the Great Plains of South Dakota finally relented, the Oyate Teca Project’s Oyate Ta Kola Ku (Friend of All Nations) Community Center, constructed by Running Strong for American Indian Youth®, has been offering a wide variety of arts classes to develop and enhance interest in Lakota culture, tradition and arts for reservation residents.
The Oyate Teca Project provides art classes as a means of safeguarding the Lakota culture
Among the class offerings have been:
*A graduation cap beading class held on April 29 and 30 for 2023 graduating high school seniors with all supplies provided, the only thing the seniors needed to bring was their graduation caps to decorate.
*A youth concho belt class held on April 26 for children and youth old enough to work with the necessary tools – including awls, hammers, leather strip cutters, riveters, hole punches and more – to make their own.
For the younger children, parents/guardians only needed to bring in the child’s waist measurements and the belts were made for them. (Concho belts are a Native tradition. The word concho comes from the Spanish word meaning shell. Some of the first conchos were made of melted silver dollars and resembled a shell which is commonly thought how the name came about.)
*A series of baby star quilt classes were held in March. For the Lakota people, the star quilt — wičháȟpi owíŋža — represents honor and generosity. The pattern is made of small diamonds pieced together in eight sections which join together to create the eight-point star. The pattern of the star quilt is inspired by the Morning Star, the last and brightest star in the eastern horizon before dawn.
The star quilt’s tradition of honor grew as the quilts were draped around the shoulders of Lakota warriors and hunters when they returned from battle, a successful hunt, or at the start of Haŋblečeya — Vision Quests. It was also presented at funerals to honor loved ones on their final journey.
Today, star quilts are one of the most valued gifts of the Lakota people and are still draped over the shoulders of the recipient to symbolize protection on their journey through life.
Generosity is an important virtue among the beliefs and traditions of the Lakota people. The image of a star quilt serves as a reminder of the significance and honor that comes from giving to others.
*A series of Lakota Shawls & Bells classes were held on Thursday evenings this spring where participants of all ages learned Lakota dance and songs along with pow-wow etiquette during the two-hour sessions. Pine Ridge residents were encouraged to “just come and have fun.”
Most recently the community center hosted a ribbon skirt class in May which quickly filled up. The Lakota Times notes that the ribbon skirt is a symbol of womanhood among Native communities.
“The history of ribbon used to adorn clothing within indigenous peoples has been documented for more than 400 years,” reports The Lakota Times. “Silk ribbons, brought to North America by European traders, inspired a new, uniquely Native American art form.”
Pine Ridge residents are looking forward to other cultural offerings at the community center through planned art classes on breast plate, hair ties, hand drums, moccasins, and more in the coming weeks and months.