The work of The Mitakuye Foundation focuses on three major areas: suicide prevention, arts programming, and sports & cultural programming.
Suicide Prevention is a top priority of The Mitakuye Foundation. Our suicide prevention programs are run by the trained volunteers of the B.E.A.R. Program, created by Yvonne “Tiny” DeCory, and The SweetGrass Project. In early 2015 we launched the 24 Hour Suicide Hotline – which we have re-named THE LIFE LINE. Members of the B.E.A.R. program run a number of weekly educational Suicide Prevention Workshops and Community Events for youth and provide food, clothing, support, and emergency services to kids in need. We sponsor numerous "safe" youth events for the B.E.A.R. program and other community leaders across the reservation. We are also in the preliminary stages of creating a program to provide counseling and crises management services on the reservation that will be available to all 24/7.
The Hoye Wayelo (“I am Sending a Voice”) Arts intensives launched in July, 2016. The pilot program served over 100 youth from all over the Pine Ridge Reservation. Professional artists from across the country taught intensives in film, dance, music, visual arts, and creative writing/poetry The two week workshop culminated in a group spoken-word music video project and a public exhibition of students’ work for their families and communities.
The Monthly Youth Arts Contest provides opportunities for young people to express themselves and invest their time and energy into cultivating their own voices and telling their own stories. Artists’ work is displayed online and winners receive prizes and mentoring from professional artists. Everyone who submits work to the contest is automatically enrolled in the Mitakuye Creators’ Club which rewards effort as well as merit. Participants earn points every month they submit that they can save up towards earning prizes.
The Arts Mentorship Program works with young artists one-on-one to help them foster their talent and produce their work. See the music video we produced for Tee Iron Cloud here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6PMnHi8qy8
Gray Grass Youth Programs
Rick Gray Grass, a community and spiritual leader, has dedicated his life to serving the youth and teens on Pine Ridge. He not only helps kids find ways to endure the ravaging effects of poverty and oppression, but more so to overcome them. He mentors youth and works with boys and girls of all ages. He creates ongoing opportunities for them to get involved in their Native traditions and has created several youth sports programs to help them learn discipline, increase self-esteem and give them something to focus on and look forward to.
Gray Grass is the spiritual leader of the annual 500-mile Sacred Hoop Prayer Run and oversees one of the several groups that participate. The event serves over 150 Lakota youth who run a 5-day, 500-mile relay that follows a sacred loop around the Black Hills and many other sacred sites in Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana. Along the way the kids participate in ceremony, prayer and teachings. The run is based on the Creation story of the Black Hills and the youth run in prayer for causes including: suicide, teen pregnancy, gang violence, sobriety, treaty rights, cancer, diabetes and to relieve the suffering of the people.
His boxing program, The Thunder Lake Boxing Club, includes boys and girls and has won several regional championships. Through our joint fundraising efforts he has been able to take kids to tournaments throughout South Dakota and neighboring states. He also runs summer ceremonial programs for youth, including the Isnati for young teen girls, and hosts art therapy programs for youth with visiting specialists.
Youth Opportunity Program
The highlight of our long terms goals is The Youth Opportunity Program which will establish Youth Centers in each village on the reservation and train staff to run them. The Centers will be safe places where youth of all ages can come to connect with peers, mentors and trained professionals. Tutoring, activities, and mentoring will be available for all.
Year-round extracurricular programs will include sports, art, music, sustainable living and traditional Lakota culture. The program will eventually include technical training, scholarship programs and in-school educational tracks for focused fields of study.
Other long-term goals include creating a reservation-wide transportation program, a performing arts center, and the construction of community ceremonial houses in many of the remote districts.