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.
The Mitakuye Foundation was founded by Jennifer Jessum and Simon J. Joseph, Ph.D., who have been working on and traveling to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation since 1992. In 2010 they were in Pine Ridge finishing up work on their feature film HOLY MAN: THE USA vs DOUGLAS WHITE, when a wave of teen suicides hit. They created the Mitakuye Foundation as a response to the teen suicide epidemic.
Our Advisory Council is made up of local artists, community and spiritual leaders including: Rick Gray Grass, Yvonne “Tiny” DeCorey, and Saunie Wilson.
Our Teachers are noted and award winning local and visiting artists from around the globe.
Our Board is made up of Artists, Educators, and Youth Advocates.