A youth-driven restorative justice and adolescent enrichment summer program on the Cheyenne River Reservation

2018 was an immense success; with continued support from donations and in partnership with Simply Smiles Inc., we collaborated during arts workshops, foraging and farming sessions, a health and wellness night, and pop-up art gallery, and began a partnership with Social Justice Sewing Academy to create quilt squares that will be displayed in a museum! This new partnership is particularly exciting because it is the first Social Justice Sewing Academy quilt created by Lakota young folks. Check out their incredible work, and our collaborative efforts.


In July 2017, Lakota Youth Speak participants were given a disposable camera, and prompts to capture the everyday, over three weeks. Here are some of their images.


In 2015, Lakota Youth Speak began as a project focused on creating a safe, meaningful space for teens living in La Plant, on the Cheyenne River Reservation. Comprised of 150 community members, La Plant is located 2 hours away from the Standing Rock Reservation, and is home to individuals crucial to the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.


Like many reservations across North America, the folks living on the Cheyenne River Reservation face the challenges of  alcohol and drug dependencies, inadequate access to healthcare, poorly-funded public education, and disproportionately high rates of youth suicide. 

In 2015, the focus of the Lakota Youth Speak project was to address the high rates of suicide among adolescents across the CRST Reservation and recent deaths in the La Plant community by creating a safe space for teens to hang out. Working alongside non-profit Simply Smiles Inc, Lakota Youth Speak created a safe space for teenagers to meet, work with mental health professionals, and explore creative expression through art, writing, and music. 

From the Lakota Youth Speak Community Meal and Celebration, 2015. Pictured are four of the original Lakota Youth Speak participants, welcoming people to our event.

From the Lakota Youth Speak Community Meal and Celebration, 2015. Pictured are four of the original Lakota Youth Speak participants, welcoming people to our event.

Since the first summer, Lakota Youth Speak has provided teens and young adults with access to sacred Lakota sites (like the Badlands and the Black Hills), offered community member-led workshops focused on Lakota heritage and skills, and further connected indigenous grief and mental health professionals and activists with teens and adults. In it's third year, it expanded to include more male, female, and non-binary teenagers. 

During it's first year, Lakota Youth Speak was funded by a grant from the Davis Foundation; a $10,000 grant given to projects designed to create sustainable peace. Chosen as the Davis Projects for Peace from Connecticut College in 2015, these funds helped start this project, and after the challenges and successes of the first year, the community, and Simply Smiles Inc. asked for it to continue indefinitely.

In 2017, twelve adolescents participated in the bi-weekly workshops. Every Tuesday and Thursday, teens gathered at three-hour "Tipi Talk Workshops." Together, we worked through STEAM challenges, mental health and grief-related exercises, learned about Lakota uses of plants, volunteered in the community garden, and planned out the community celebration at the end of the summer. The funds that were raised throughout the year went towards bringing La Plant adolescents to work with Lakota artists, activists, wilderness experts, and horseback riders.

Designed by these teenagers, this curriculum was driven by the teenage participants. On Wednesdays after a town-wide community meal, teens would work with the manager of the community garden to lead community garbage clean-ups. At the close of the summer, Lakota Youth Speak took and outdoor education trip to the Niobrara River in Nebraska. Researching locations for where to camp, making the reservation for our campsites, developing the packing list, and purchasing supplies... the teens planned out the entire trip. We fished, hiked, and swam together. 

Now approaching it's fourth year, Lakota Youth Speak is supported completely through fundraising efforts. If you would like to support the next iteration of Lakota Youth Speak, you can do so at the bottom of this page.

Photos from Lakota Youth Speak 2015-Present