2019 marked the 25-year-long journey of culture restoration between Running Strong for American Indian Youth® and the Brave Heart Society on the Yankton Reservation in Lake Andes, South Dakota.
“This long-range vision and financial support has assisted Brave Heart to become a national leader in cultural protections of land and water, youth, language, indigenous games, rites of passage, Dakota storytelling, trauma healing, food sovereignty and sacred sites,” states Brave Heart coordinator Faith Spotted Eagle, a founding member.
Thanks to the supporters of Running Strong, over the past 25 years the Brave Heart Society has been able to organize and operate its Waterlily Storytelling Institute, conduct Coming of Age Ceremonies, protect Sacred sites and much more.
“The base funding from Running Strong every year makes it possible for Brave Heart to accomplish at that it does,” commented Faith. “Without it, our constituency would be in need.”
“As elders and teachers we are preparing younger Brave Hearts to continue our mission, which is to create safe spaces to preserve, enhance and restore the good medicine of Dakota culture in all aspects of our community.
“We provide role models who can share a pathway for youth seeking a healthier way of living and loving, not just surviving.
“Our Isnati, Coming of Age Parents, are demonstrating a new generation of leadership, as we hoped for when we laid our prayers in the He Sapa/Black Hills of South Dakota in November, 1994.
“It has come to fruition.”
“We appreciate Running Strong allowing us to remain a traditional society under the fiscal sponsorship arrangement, thereby retaining our indigenous framework.
“We firmly believe that the long-range funding of Running Strong has enabled us to more effectively deconstruct and decolonize many aspects of our community.
“Running Strong is a rare funder that demonstrates that with longevity, generational change can happen. Long-range funding allows a long range strategic plan to play out and for us to provide cultural care that is healing intergenerational trauma.”
Patrice (not pictured)
Patrice first encountered Brave Heart through its annual Waterlily Storytelling Institute, where the old Dakota stories continue to teach morals, values and appropriate behavior in a fun and humorous way.
Patrice had recently dropped out of college and was discouraged when she went to the Waterlily Storytelling Institute to learn more about her culture.
Although she had grown up in the tribal community, she was not exposed to cultural teachings.
After her Waterlily experience, she immersed herself in Brave Heart activities and participated in the Isnati Coming of Age Ceremony and returned to college.
“I’m looking forward to the experiences that lie ahead of me,” says Patrice today. “I’m so thankful that Brave Heart gave me the support I needed to find myself.”
Leanne (not pictured)
At just 15-years-old with a newborn, Leanne knew she could not raise her child in a home plagued by alcoholism and abuse.
She took refuge at the Brave Heart Society, getting strength through cultural practices such as the Isnati Coming of Age Ceremony for girls.
At the Brave Heart Society lodge, Leanne cared for her young son and finished high school under the supervision of the Brave Heart grandmothers.
She found a job, enrolled in college and was able to provide a stable home for her son and gain custody of her sister.
Leanne also returned to the lodge with her family to participate in a week-long storytelling event the connect youth like her to their culture.