The Mitakuye Foundation was created in 2010 as a direct response to the teen suicide epidemic on Pine Ridge. Many of the difficulties that the modern day Lakota deal with – like suicide, alcoholism, poverty, and teen pregnancy – are not inherently part of Lakota culture. They are the terrible by-products of colonization, oppression, and genocide. We create programs and support programs that not only help the youth to survive – but to thrive. All of our programming is geared towards students fortifying their cultural identities so they can turn to their traditions to tackle the difficult issues they face.
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is located in one of the poorest counties in the United States. With the unemployment rate soaring towards 90%, it is a Third World country in our own backyard. Many kids live in desperately impoverished conditions, over a hundred miles away from the nearest city. Since 2010 the teen suicide rate on Pine Ridge has skyrocketed to staggering, epidemic proportions.
The Mitakuye Foundation was created to address this epidemic.
For several years there was a Youth Opportunity program that ran on Pine Ridge. While it was operational, suicide rates dropped to an all-time low. Due to funding shortages, that program did not last.
As artists and educators we knew the healing and transformative power of art and wanted to share that with the youth by creating original arts programming and working with local schools. We also saw the positive effects of several community and spiritual leaders on the front lines helping youth to improve their lives and understood the need to support their programs.
So our goals were formed: to create arts programming and opportunities, to support the work of spiritual and community leaders, and to restart a new model of the reservation-wide Youth Opportunity program.
Working with local community leaders and using our combined skills as artists, educators, filmmakers, producers, and long-time friends of the Lakota, we are providing resources and creating opportunities to empower the youth. But we need your support! Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today.
Rick Gray Grass, Spiritual and Community Leader, Educator, Substance Abuse Counselor.
Yvonne “Tiny” DeCory, Training Director for The SweetGrass Project, Creator and Founder of The B.E.A.R. (Be Excited About Reading) Program.
Saunie K. Wilson, Youth Advocate, Former Tribal Judge, and current Dean Of Students at Wolf Creek School.
Eileen Janis, Youth Advocate and Suicide prevention, education, and outreach provider.
Board of Directors
Jennifer Jessum, MFA, Artist, Director, Producer, Educator.
Simon J. Joseph, Ph.D., Producer, Writer, Educator.
Terry Pechota, JD, Attorney, First Lakota US Attorney, Youth Advocate.
Jillian Harris, MFA, Artist, Producer, Educator.
Stacey McKenzie, BSN, Artist, Educator, Registered Nurse.