Over the summer 11 Cheyenne River teenagers provided 60 hours of service during the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s first teen internship program. They focused on youth wellness and the two-acre Winyan Toka Win (“Leading Lady”) garden in Eagle Butte, South Dakota.
The students earned a $500 stipend for their hard work
“Now I know what the different varieties of fruits and vegetables look like, and how to harvest [them],” Khalid Garreau, one of the interns, remarked in his exit essay. “Gardens are important to people on the reservation because the fruits and vegetables are good for you, you can grow whatever you want, and you can sell what you harvest.”
Garreau also said he was grateful for the diabetes prevention training, commenting that he was going to continue to eat right and exercise—and encourage his family to do the same.
Students learned the basics of gardening, processing and canning, and received CPR and food handler’s certifications. They also attended special training sessions in financial literacy, suicide prevention, drug and alcohol prevention, nutrition, and diabetes prevention.
Miles Livermont said the program taught him to have higher standards for himself and to do a better job of taking care of his body. He said everything he learned about diabetes nearly prompted him to go vegan. He didn’t, but other life changes are afoot.
“I’m going to start finding ways to get vegetables more, and eat less sugar, salt and fats,” he said. Fellow intern Theola Schad agreed.
“Now that I’ve learned more about diabetes, I’ll start trying to eat right and exercise to keep myself in shape,” she wrote in her essay. She also noted that a naturally grown, pesticide-free garden would be important to her family, because the produce would help keep everyone healthy, and tending the garden would teach respect and responsibility.
“I’ve learned that working in a garden can help a community get healthier,” she added. “I’ve learned that if you get involved in drugs and alcohol, your life will slowly go downhill. [And] I learned that if you cut a lot of onions, your eyes will be used to it and won’t burn as much!”
“We were so excited to have our first wellness interns, and they did a great job this summer,” said Tammy Eagle Hunter, CRYP’s youth programs director. “They also put in a lot of wellness and exercise time so they would form new, healthy habits… Their hard work and dedication was so inspiring.”
Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director, hopes to see the internship program return in next summer.
“We’re really looking forward to getting our teens even more involved in the garden and in our youth wellness programming,” she said. “Not only will they develop a strong work ethic and take on a valuable leadership role at the Cokata Wiconi teen center, they’ll learn so much about respecting the land, the water, the foods we’re growing, how to keep their own bodies healthy, and how to encourage their family and friends to live healthier lives as well.”
Schad is enthusiastic about the program continuing next year.
“It taught me a lot about patience and responsibility,” she said. “It taught me that to keep myself healthy is a big thing.”
She also observed that the CPR training helped keep her focused on her career goals; Schad wants to pursue a degree in criminal justice.
“I want to be a detective (or) forensic scientist,” she explained. “Plus, CPR can help in saving a life.”
Livermont is taking an even longer view when he considers the Winyan Toka Win garden and the role gardens can play on Cheyenne River.
“Gardens are important to the reservation because they keep us closer to old customs and a more natural way of life,” he said.
To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs visit LakotaYouth.org.