Published April 5, 2016
EAGLE BUTTE, SOUTH DAKOTA — In keeping with its ongoing commitment to holistic youth wellness, the Cheyenne River Youth Project is developing engaging new programming that it hopes will inspire young people on the remote Cheyenne River Lakota reservation to live healthier, more vibrant lives.
Teens recently took part in an ambitious “Cooking with Commodities” class at the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center, and preparations are under way for the Spring Bike Club at The Main youth center.
“Our children aren’t going to be able to make better choices when it comes to their nutrition and physical activity if we don’t show them how,” said Tammy Eagle Hunter, CRYP’s executive director. “We need to demonstrate how to make those choices, and how to incorporate good decision-making into daily life.”
Through “Cooking with Commodities,” teen chefs learned how to create a healthy meal with the commodity foods Cheyenne River families typically receive. The class took place on Wednesday, March 23, in CRYP’s Keya (Turtle) Cafe.
“When the teens arrived, our diabetes educator, Ann Maher, talked with them about the effects of food choices on our bodies and how to make healthier meals,” Eagle Hunter said. “Afterward, we got everyone involved with making homemade tortillas, deboning and cooking chicken, measuring and combining ingredients, and seasoning the food correctly.”
The evening wrapped up with dinner, followed by basketball in the CRYP gymnasium. The teens were able to take handouts and recipes home.
“The kids were hesitant about cooking, because they really don’t have much experience,” Eagle Hunter reflected. “I think we were able to demystify the process a little, to make it seem less intimidating. And they took home a variety of tips that will help them make better choices when it comes to creating meals with the ingredients their families have on hand.”
According to Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director, “Cooking with Commodities” was very much in keeping with CRYP’s core mission — to provide youth with access to a vibrant and more secure future.
“A big piece of that puzzle is physical wellness, especially when you live in a community that’s being devastated by diabetes,” Garreau explained. “Not only can we help our young people navigate their way to a diabetes-free future, we can reconnect them with their cultural identity by showing them how to connect with their food, with the fresh ingredients, with the earth.”
Additional cooking classes are planned for the coming weeks and months, including a series of June workshops with Sean Sherman, an Oglala Lakota chef from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, who has garnered nationwide acclaim through his Minnesota-based business, The Sioux Chef.
CRYP staff also is gearing up for its Spring Bike Club, designed for the 4- to 12-year-olds who attend programs at The Main. The club will start at 6 p.m. on Monday, April 18, and participants will meet for one hour every Monday through May 20.
“We’ll be providing bikes, helmets and pads for all the kids,” Eagle Hunter said. “Kasten Carter, one of our youth programs assistant at The Main, will lead the club.”
That’s particularly special for CRYP staff, since Carter attended The Main as a child and aspired to work there someday.
“It’s wonderful to see our kids become leaders in their community,” Garreau noted. “Kasten has taken a great interest in our youngest participants and is eager to help develop programming that keeps them active and fosters a lifelong love of outdoor recreation.
“We’re deeply grateful to the support we’ve received from the NB3 Foundation, the N7 Fund, Diabetes Action and Research (DARE) and the Wellmark Foundation,” she continued. “These incredible organizations have made it possible for us to pursue wellness programming here on Cheyenne River that is making a real difference in the lives of our children.”
To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or visit www.lakotayouth.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.