The Mitakuye Foundation was created in 2010 as a direct response to the teen suicide epidemic on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Pine Ridge is located in one of the poorest counties in the United States. Most of the difficulties that 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.
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. Our work, guided by our stellar Advisory Council of community leaders and elders, is geared towards helping students fortify their cultural identities so they can turn to their traditions to tackle the difficult issues they face. All of our programs are designed to not only help the youth to survive – but to thrive.
Our Advisory Council is made up of Elders, Community and Spiritual Leaders, and Master Artists.
Our Teachers are noted and award winning local and visiting artists from around the globe.
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.