Since 1988, Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP) has worked diligently to give children and families on South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Reservation opportunities that wouldn’t normally be available to them. Founder and CEO Julie Garreau says the nonprofit strives to create and maintain engaging youth programs that not only bring hope and opportunity to children on the reservation, but also directly address larger community issues.
CRYP’s Winyan Toka Win (“Leading Lady”) garden is one of many examples of their approach in action. The two-acre organic garden doesn’t just teach kids how to maintain a garden—it also addresses a need for access to nutritious food on the Cheyenne River Reservation, a USDA-designated food desert.
Life on the Cheyenne River Reservation can be hard. As on many other reservations, lack of employment opportunities and the harsh realities of historical trauma combine to create an endemic sense of hopelessness. Many turn to substances for escape. Some go farther: According to Indian Country Today, more than one in 10 girls on the Cheyenne River Reservation have attempted suicide.
CRYP is committed to virtue, honesty, and the truth. This includes addressing hard truths. “We have to prepare our kids for what they may encounter,” Garreau says. “We have to talk about race, meth, sex trafficking… we have to talk about so many things here that most people probably would be uncomfortable with.”
Simply said, Cheyenne River Youth Project deals in hope. Thanks to grants and strategic planning assistance from South Dakota Community Foundation and private philanthropists alike, CRYP can provide healthy food, growth and learning opportunities, and a positive sense of community to the people of the Cheyenne River Reservation.
As for the future, Garreau is optimistic. “I hope that organizations like ours continue to thrive. I hope we’ve inspired our youth to a point that they’re ready to stand up and take a leadership role. I hope that our community continues to thrive. I hope that our culture continues to grow healthier,” she says. “People have poured their energy and their love into this place so that we can do our work. That’s remarkable. I’m as much in awe at people’s generosity now as I was 20 years ago.”