Our Stories

The Cheyenne River Youth Project Strengthens Connections to Lakota Culture While Embracing the Principles of Food Sovereignty and Security

Guided by traditional and spiritual principles, CRYP has incorporated the Lakota values of generosity, spirituality, wisdom, respect, courage, honesty and patience into the development of its Sustainable Agriculture initiatives. By integrating these values, the nonprofit youth organization’s 2.5-acre, naturally grown Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) Garden—and the many programs and classes it supports—can make a meaningful contribution to the Cheyenne River community and the future of the Lakota Nation.

CRYP’s Sustainable Agriculture initiatives are built upon a unique combination of spiritual, human and land-based resources. They are sustained by the participation and energies of countless partners, staff members, volunteers and children. They are cornerstones for our most beloved clubs, internships, workshops, classes and social enterprises, and they are highly effective for strengthening the connection our young people have with their Lakota life ways—and with Mother Earth.

Fostering a sense of connectedness has always been the primary goal of the Winyan Toka Win Garden. Decades ago, Iyonne Garreau (mother to Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director) developed the original vision for a community garden, which would fulfill elders’ desires for traditional foods and reacquaint Lakota children with the earth.

Iyonne approached tribal authorities and arranged to have a north-south plot on the west side of the Cheyenne River Elderly Nutrition Center, where she served as executive director. When the center ran short of room for its potato crop, she returned to tribal government and obtained an east-west section.

“My mom always strived for native food sovereignty and security, as well as for sustainable agriculture,” Julie Garreau explains. “She felt community gardens would begin to solve the many health issues Indian people have. She always stressed the importance of fresh produce in a daily diet; the significance of traditional foods for the Lakota people; and the powerful relationships that a naturally grown garden can foster between generations as well as between our people and the earth.”

When the garden became too much for the nutrition center to manage, CRYP staff and volunteers took on the responsibility for planting, maintaining and harvesting the garden. Its fresh, nutritious produce from the garden is incorporated into daily snacks and meals at The Main, CRYP’s youth center for 4- to 12-year-olds; the Cokata Wiconi teen center; and the Keya Cafe, one of the youth project’s three social enterprises.

The Winyan Toka Win Garden provides more than food items for meals and gifts. It offers hands-on learning opportunities to young children and teens, serving as an outdoor classroom for The Main’s Garden Club and Cokata Wiconi’s Sustainable Agriculture Teen Internship. Throughout the growing season, Cheyenne River’s children spend countless hours in the garden, planting seeds, weeding, watering and eventually harvesting.

While the 4- to 12-year-olds document their experiences in colorful journals, the teen interns move on to Cokata Wiconi’s commercial kitchen, where the produce is processed for healthy meals and snacks at both centers, menu items in the Keya Cafe, and gift items in the Keya Gift Shop.

What’s more, CRYP offers sustainable-agriculture workshops and classes throughout the year that are open to members of the general public. These include traditional “Three Sisters” gardening; natural/pesticide-free gardening; community gardens and food sovereignty; rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation methods and xeriscaping; hoop house gardening; canning and food preservation techniques; traditional/local plants and ingredients; healthy cooking methods and alternatives; and indigenous cooking and recipes.

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 (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@waniyetuwowapi).

The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.

*Photo credits: CRYP


Indigenous Seed Keepers March Update


Seeds are a vibrant and vital foundation for food sovereignty, and are the basis for a sustainable, healthy agriculture.  We understand that seeds are our precious collective inheritance and it is our responsibility to care for the seeds as part of our responsibility to feed and nourish ourselves and future generations.

We are excited to announce the launching of our Indigenous SeedKeepers Network. With generous funding from Christensen Fund and New Field Foundation, we are cultivating an array of educational resources aimed at uplifting and empowering seed sovereignty within tribal communities.

The mission of the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network is to nourish and assist the growing Seed Sovereignty Movement across Turtle Island ( North America). As a national network, we leverage resources and cultivate solidarity and communication within the matrix of regional grass-roots tribal seed sovereignty projects.   We accomplish this mission by providing educational resources, mentorship training, outreach and advocacy support on seed policy issues, and organizing national and regional events and convenings to connect many communities who are engaging in this vital work.  We aim to create a collaborative framework and declaration for ethical seed stewardship and indigenous seed guidelines for tribal communities to guide them as they protect their seeds from patenting and bio-piracy. We support the creation of solutions oriented programs for adaptive resilient seed systems within tribal communities to enhance the creative capacity to continue to evolve as the face of our Mother Earth changes.

ISKN is a shade tree of support to the essential work of regional and tribal seed initiatives , as we offer a diverse array of resources aimed at nourishing and supporting a vibrant indigenous seed movement, as a compliment to the growing Food Sovereignty movement within Indian country.

We have several initial projects that ISKN is working on, in collaboration with many tribal communities across Turtle Island.

First, we are working on a Seed Sovereignty Assessment Toolkit, which is an interactive publication that will guide communities in deepening their indigenous food sovereignty work to include caring for traditional seeds. This will be available by the end of 2018.  We will then begin to facilitate trainings to empower mentors within communities to begin to work on the creation of community seed stewardship plans and projects.

Second, we are excited to partner with one of the largest national public access seed banks, Seed Savers Exchange, in a project on Seed Rematriation. The seeds are coming home to us.  Across Turtle Island, there is a growing intergenerational movement of  indigenous people proud to carry the message of the grand rematriation of seeds and foods back into our indigenous communities. There is a healing and hopeful trend that is emerging at the cutting edge of the indigenous food/seed sovereignty movement and the social justice movement, which is in the Rematriation of Seeds. We are all familiar with the journey for the repatriation of cultural property within indigenous communities.  Within native communities we are very familiar with the word Repatriation, which is the return of treasures, ancestral remains and sacred objects of cultural heritage to their communities of origin and their descendants.  The displaced cultural property items are physical artifacts that were taken from this place and people of origin usually in an act of theft, whether in the context of imperialism, colonialism or war.  The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (Public Law 101-601; 25 U.S.C. 3001-3013) describes the rights of Native American lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations with respect to the treatment, repatriation, and disposition of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony, referred to collectively in the statute as cultural items, with which they can show a relationship of lineal descent or cultural affiliation. In the seed movement, we have begun to use the word “Rematriation” as it relates to bringing these seeds home again.  In many native communities, the responsibility of caring for the seeds over the generations is within the women’s realm.  Both men and women farm and plant seeds, but their care and stewardship are part of the women’s bundle of responsibility. So the word “rematriation” reflects the restoration of the seeds back into the communities and lands of origin. The Indigenous concept of Rematriation refers to reclaiming of ancestral remains, spirituality, culture, knowledge and resources, instead of the more Patriarchally associated Repatriation. It simply means back to Mother Earth, a return to our origins, to life and co-creation, rather than Patriarchal destruction and colonisation, a reclamation of germination, of the life giving force of the Divine Female.

Over the last few centuries of the disruption of our indigenous food systems, many of our traditional varieties have left our communities, only to be stewarded by non-native farmers or seedkeepers. In addition, many of these traditional seeds have been stewarded or stored within public or private collections, institutions and organizations such as public seed banks, universities, museums and seed companies.  As a part of the indigenous seed sovereignty movement, we are recognizing the need for these seeds to be back in living context.   In an era of displacement and acculturation, some of these varieties were completely lost in their communities of origin, and we are now locating derivatives of these seeds in such public and private collections.  Some were carried on long journeys in smoky buckskin pouches, upon the necks of peoples who were forced to relocate from the land of their births, their ancestral grounds.  Some of these seeds remained in the hands of our people, and some of the seeds left, sometimes by force or theft, and also by trade or gift.  Seeds move and migrate, just like people do.   Generations later, these seeds are now coming back home;  from the vaults of public institutions, seed banks, universities, seedkeeper collections and some laying upon dusty pantry shelves of foresighted elders, seeds patiently sleeping and dreaming. Seeds waiting for loving hands to patiently place them into welcoming soil once more so that they can continue to fulfill their original agreement to help feed the people.

In our own Seed Rematriation Project with Seed Savers Exchange, we have identified 25+ varieties of corn, beans, squash and other crops which SSE will be growing out for us this season, with the intent to engage in seed rematration with communities of origin once the growing season is complete.  This will be a trial year for such a collaboration, and will also provide a baseline project for the seed rematriation protocols and guidelines we will be crafting to assist the many other communities that are embarking on bringing their traditional varieties home.

Third, we will be hosting a couple of seedkeeper trainings this year in collaboration with regional Intertribal Food Summits.  The first will be at Meskwaki Nation in Iowa, from May 9-13,2 2018. The second will be at the Narragansett Community in Rhode Island, from August 21-24, 2018.  Please see our events pages for more information on how to register.

We are also hosting monthly calls to connect the many seedkeepers who are working on seed sovereignty projects across North America. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more about how to participate in our Monthly SeedKeeper Calls.

We look forward to connecting with you each month to offer vibrant updates of the diversity of indigenous seed work that is happening all over Turtle Island.  This is a hopeful path, as we seek to ensure that our children and grandchildren will have nourishing traditional food to eat for many generations to come.

In honor of the grand lineage of Seedkeepers who have faithfully passed down seeds for our nourishment, we make restored commitment to care for these precious seeds for those yet to come.


2016 Founding Council Meeting in Tamaya

At our recent Annual Meeting, the council decided to create committees for the internal work of NAFSA as well as develop external NAFSA Projects. Each project has a point person and will be open to participation from interested people.

The projects will include:

  • Create an Indigenous Seedkeepers Network
  • Develop a publication of the story of Food Sovereignty
  • Work with and focus on youth participation and a Youth Council
  • Culinary Arts and Chefs
  • Gatherings – attending conferences and hosting our own NAFSA Gathering
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