We created the Mitakuye Foundation as a direct response to the growing teen suicide epidemic in 2010. The work we do focuses on arts education, suicide prevention, cultural, and sports programming. All of our work is life affirming – a major factor in suicide prevention.
The Healing Power Of Art
Art heals. For many young people, who live in intense poverty, art can help to lift one up out of the daily task of survival. Self-expression and being heard are two vital elements of the healing process, particularly for marginalized populations who are often made to feel invisible. Having just one positive outlet can make all the difference between life and death. Through arts education and mentoring, our organization provides life-affirming programs and opportunities for kids to experience the healing power of art.
Hoye Wayelo (“I Am Sending A Voice”) Arts Immersion Programs bring local artists and visiting artists from around the globe to teach classes in Dance, Music, Music Production, Visual Arts, Filmmaking, Photography, Theater, Writing, and a full spectrum of Traditional Arts, including: Quillwork, Traditional Brain-Tanning, Beadwork, Plant Medicines, Sewing, and Music. The programs create a safe space for young kids to express themselves and give them tools to help them deal with some of the unimaginable hardships they are going through.
The Black Hills Arts Academy is our week long sleep-away program for kids who have expressed a serious interest in art. It provides students with an intensive and immersive program that allows them to experience the healing power of art combined with the healing power of nature in their sacred, ancestral lands. One of the highlights of the program are the many Lakota elders who come to teach and mentor the kids!
School Residencies bring the art into the schools!
Pop Up Programs bring art into local communities!
The School Art Supply program provides art supplies to schools so kids have consistent means and materials to create. We offer teacher training workshops to help teachers implement more arts curriculum into their lesson planning. We also partner with schools to sponsor in-school and extra-curricular art clubs for students.
The Creator’s Club is a year-round program that provides ongoing opportunities for young people to express themselves and invest their time and energy into developing their own voices and telling their own stories. Every month kids can submit work and earn points to save up towards great prizes. Several times a year we hold contests and give kids a theme to interpret. In addition to points – winners can receive art supplies, cash prizes, and have their work showcased online. In 2020 we are launching a platform where our winning artists can choose to sell their work.
Creator’s Club School Tours happen several times a year. We travel to schools across the reservation to hand out awards, share students’ artwork and get kids excited about and involved in the process of creating!
Other Arts Programs include: the Arts Ambassadors program – which brings small groups of students to art events, and the Arts Mentorship Program, which 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). In 2020 we will be inaugurating the Hoye Wayelo Magazine to showcase the work of these talented kids!
Suicide Prevention is a top priority of The Mitakuye Foundation. In addition to our life-affirming programs, our suicide prevention programs are run by the trained volunteers of the B.E.A.R. Program, created by Yvonne “Tiny” DeCory, and other notable community leaders.
The LIFELINE - our 24 Hour Suicide Hotline was launched in 2015. We ran a reservation-wide contest for students to design a poster.
Kids voiced a desire to have a text line as well so in 2019 we started a partnership with National Crises Text Line to add a text line into our program. This summer we launched another poster contest for the new text line. The winner will be working with a professional graphic artist this winter to design the new poster which will debut in early 2020.
We sponsor numerous Community Safe Events throughout the year and support Community Leaders who run educational Suicide Prevention Workshops and provide food, clothing, support, and emergency services to kids in need.
Physical & Cultural Programs
Gray Grass Youth Programs focus on helping kids strengthen their cultural identities. Run by community and spiritual leader Rick Gray Grass, they combine physical activity and discipline with traditional cultural programs to keep kids engaged, fit, and in tune with their Lakota language and culture.
The 500 MILE SACRED HOOP PRAYER RUN is an annual run that serves over 150 Lakota youth. Kids 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 traditional 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.
Mitakuye sponsors numerous other Prayer Runs throughout the year. Kids run for various causes, including memorials for lost loved ones, for the abolition of alcohol on the reservation, and against the DAPL pipeline and environmental harm.
The Prayer Run to Standing Rock was a memorable moment during the historic Oceti Sakowin Camp and was featured in Josh Fox’s Awake. Click HERE to see the short video.
The Thunderlake Boxing Club for Boys and Girls trains young people in the discipline of boxing. Kids participate in matches at home and travel regionally to tournaments in neighboring states. Mitakuye also sponsors several other programs Gray Grass runs including regular basketball and baseball tournaments for kids and a regular open gym night to keep kids safe and engaged.
Youth Opportunity Program
The Youth Opportunity Program is the highlight of our long-terms goals. The program 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 art, music, sports, 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.
*All photos are by Simon J. Joseph and Jennifer Jessum unless otherwise credited. All contents of this website are property of The Mitakuye Foundation or are used with permission and may not be replicated without written consent.