Cheyenne River Youth Project Hosts Hopa Mountain’s “Strengthening the Circle” Youth Programming Conference

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The Native Nonprofit Youth Programming Conference Took Place at CRYP’s Eagle Butte Campus in Late April

EAGLE BUTTE, SOUTH DAKOTA— Late last month, the Cheyenne River Youth Project hosted a special edition of Hopa Mountain’s ongoing “Strengthening the Circle” training conferences at its East Lincoln Street campus. Twelve not-for-profit organizations attended the invitation-only April 27-29 event, which specifically focused on year-round, not-for-profit youth programming initiatives in South Dakota.

According to Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director, the goal for the Strengthening the Circle Youth Programming Conference was to bring together not-for-profit organizations that are pursuing similar missions in the face of similar challenges, and give those organizations a valuable opportunity to share information and best practices with each other. The conference also included a grant-writing element.

Conference participants participated in two webinars, shared their feedback and their thoughts on how to become stronger, and then completed grant applications. As Garreau noted, there were many teaching opportunities, but even more important was the event’s participatory, collaborative spirit.

“Really good things came from this gathering, and I think we all will be even more collaborative going forward,” Garreau said. “We were honored to invite fellow South Dakota-based, not-for-profit organizations to our campus here in Eagle Butte, and of course we wanted to share our story, our inspiration, and what has worked for us over the years in terms of what guides our work and how we center that work in shared community and cultural values. But it certainly wasn’t all about CRYP. We came together to learn from each other’s experiences.”

As conference host, CRYP proved to be an excellent choice. Founded in 1988 in an old bar on Eagle Butte’s Main Street, the organization now operates a youth center for 4- to 12-year-olds, a teen center, a family services program, a 2-acre organic garden, a farm-to-table cafe that is open to the public, and a free public art park. What’s more, the 26-year-old youth project is now serving its second generation of children, and it’s using the same model it developed so many years ago: address the needs of the whole person, spiritually, mentally, emotionally socially and spiritually.

“CRYP is a grassroots, native-led organization that has not only sustained itself for more than a quarter century, it continues to grow and pursue its long-term vision and mission in the Cheyenne River Lakota community,” said Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer, Hopa Mountain’s executive director. “Over the years, CRYP has developed a unique, holistic approach to youth programming that has a long-term, positive impact on children’s lives.”

Garreau said she hopes this Strengthening the Circle Youth Programming Conference is the first of many, noting that Hopa Mountain’s ongoing support of not-for-profit initiatives in native communities is priceless.

“Hopa Mountain’s Strengthening the Circle has always offered important opportunities to support native not-for-profit leaders,” she explained. “Every time STC comes together, participants go on to serve as valuable mentors and leaders in their home communities, developing more effective resources and building stronger organizations. Together, we hope to foster healthier, more well-rounded youth and stronger, self-sufficient families and communities.”

Indeed, Strengthening the Circle aims to build the capacities of experienced and emerging native nonprofit organizations that are working to improve economic development, education and social services on or near reservations, with particular emphasis on those that address the needs of native youth. It is a cooperative effort of Hopa Mountain, Seventh Generation Fund, Artemisia Associates, and WolfStar Productions. The STC Youth Programming Conference was made possible with generous support from an anonymous donor.

For more information about Strengthening the Circle and other Hopa Mountain programs, visit

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 And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.


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