As many of you know this has been a particularly rough year for the Lakota youth as the suicide epidemic on Pine Ridge has reached staggering proportions. 23 young people have taken their lives in the last 12 months. Suicide attempts have reached up to 150 per month and ideations are twice that. Those are just the ones we know about. The Mitakupi Foundation was created to address this epidemic and to create and support programs that empower Native Youth.
We funded and initiated a lot of successful programs but as the evidence shows – there is so much more to do! Here is what we are working on for the end of 2015 and beyond:
New Years Eve Community safe events – to set up all-night safehouses for the youth on New Year’s Eve to keep them safe, fed, and cared for.
Upgrading the phones for the suicide hotline that we started at the beginning of the year.
Launching a new and more aggressive campaign to get the hotline number out to the youth – this includes a reservation wide contest for the youth to design the new poster for the hotline which has been given the new name of “THE LIFELINE.”The winner will receive a cash award and will get the opportunity to work with a professional graphic designer to get their artwork print ready for the campaign.
Helping the Sweetgrass Project to keep operations running. The Sweetgrass Project is the suicide prevention and response team on the reservation and they lost their funding for this year. They have back up funding for a short period so we will be working diligently throughout the next several months to help them find new grant opportunities.
Bringing in Resident counselors for the community: At present time if a youth – or anyone else – is in crisis there is no direct way for them to get immediate counseling. We are partnering with Elizabeth Warson, Ph.D. and American Indian Art Therapy to create a resident rotation for Psycholgy Ph.D.s to offer counseling for tribal members on the reservation whenever needed.
We will be launching the Mitakupi Monthly Art Contest in February! Lakota youth will have a monthly opportunity to submit art work for recognition on our website and awards. We are in the planning stages for the 2016 Hoye Wayelo Summer Arts Intensives which will debut this July. We are supporting the local BEARS program (Be Excited About Reading) which runs reading and suicide educational programming for reservation youth and provides emergency services to kids in need. We are also starting to raise funds for the 2016 500 mile Sacred Hoop Run – which serves over 150 Lakota youth and is at the center of our feature film Running On A Wing And A Prayer.
On the production side we are finishing post production on a new music video we shot over the summer as part of our Arts Mentorship Program and are in post production on Running On A Wing And A Prayer – which will be used as an educational and fundraising tool for the foundation.