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Healthy Nations Initiative

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of the Cheyenne River Reservation

About the Program

Phase 1 of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s Healthy Nations Program included one hundred Task Force and Working Group Meetings, thirty-six community meetings, and data collection from individuals and programs. Our data collection continues from youth and other community sources. Data indicates the need for constructive, educational, cultural activities to occupy reservation youth during the non-school hours; afterschool, weekends, and summer.

These activities are provided through four major components in the Phase 2 Healthy Nations Program. These components are titled: Wolakota Yukini Wicoti (Lakota Youth Camp), Adopt-A-Horse, Prevention & Aftercare Transition, and Takoja/Keepers of Wisdom Video Productions.

Two basic principles guide our Healthy Nations Program: access and responsibility. We address access by providing services within each of our identified communities. We address responsibility by offering and promoting activities that teach responsibility, positive peer group influence across the age span, and substance abuse free behaviors.

We provide educational and lifestyle activities for youth with an emphasis on belonging, culture, and substance abuse free interaction and behaviors. It is our hope that many of the alternative lifestyles will be presented by our own community members.

The Wolakota Yukini (to make live again, culture, tradition, and language) is the theme of this phase of the Healthy Nations Program and is designed to implement the traditional values of the Lakota people into the field of the youth service providers. The lack of motivation by the youth population in reference to the basic need to identify positive alternatives to substance abuse has encouraged our traditional elders to take an active role in controlling the destiny of our youth.

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Host Community/Organization

The Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation was established by the Act of March 2, 1889, which divided the Great Sioux Reservation into five smaller reservations. The Cheyenne River Reservation boundaries include roughly 2.8 million acres of rolling prairie lands (about the size of the State of Connecticut). B.I.A. labor force statistics indicate that there are roughly 12,000 Indians on the reservation.
In 1908, the reservation was opened to homesteading, and about half of the reservation land was sold to non-Indians. The reservation boundaries were not diminished, however, and as a result, of the 18 reservation communities, the Cities of Dupree (population 500 -- 50% Indian), Isabel (population 350 -- 20% Indian), and Timber Lake (population 700 -- 35% Indian) claim to be non-Indian communities because a majority of residents are non-Indian. The City of Eagle Butte is the largest city on the reservation with roughly 2,500 to 3,000 residents and is 80% Indian. Overall, the population of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe accepted the provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act and adopted a tribal Constitution and by-laws in accordance therewith. The Tribal Council, made up of the Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, and 15 Representatives, is the governing body of the Tribe and the Tribal Courts function as an independent judiciary. As described above, the Tribal Council has established an extensive administrative branch of government.

Eagle Butte is the center of tribal government, and although the tribe provides government services throughout the reservation, many federal and tribal services are available only in Eagle Butte. The reservation is made up of six representative districts, each has its own community building, and the district councils have an advisory role in tribal government. The Indian residents from outlying communities, such as Cherry Creek, Red Scaffold, White Horse, Black Foot, and Swift Bird often travel to Eagle Butte for federal and tribal services.

The reservation encompasses both Dewey and Ziebach Counties in South Dakota, and the Indian population is very poor. Ziebach County was ranked the third poorest county in America in the 1980 Census, and the seventh poorest county in the 1990 census. There is 60 to 85% unemployment, and the economy is largely an agrarian farm/ranch and service based. Therefore, welfare is an important source of income for many families of unemployed Indians, and the economy is quite active on the first day of the month when checks are issued. Later in the month, the economy slows as people struggle to survive on the meager income.

Although Dupree, Isabel and Timber Lake claim to be non-Indian, a few economic services are offered in the smaller, remote Indian communities, and tribal members from Red Scaffold, Cherry Creek, and Thunder Butte often patronize Dupree, while tribal members from White Horse patronize Timber Lake, and tribal members from Green Grass patronize Eagle Butte. Thus, alcohol sales in those cities have a significant impact on the Indian population. The border towns of Gettysburg, 10 miles east of the reservation (population 1,500), and Faith, 5 miles west (population 800), have a similar relationship with the reservation’s Indian population.

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Strategy : Public Awareness Campaign

A Program Advisory Group was developed to assist the Healthy Nations Program in coordinating the Tribe's War on Alcohol Abuse. This was accomplished through monthly meetings and various activities held at the program headquarters in Eagle Butte, SD. Some of the issues addressed through this process included organizational structural discussions and actions, constitution and by-laws. This advisory group helped to plan these activities, which included the youthfest, honoring of youth, stipend for elderly and youth workers, staff evaluations and staff reports, receiving donations, adopt-a-horse, elections, budget revisions, scholarship selections, fundraising efforts and attendance at appropriate youth meetings.
The Seventh Generation Youth Council, a tribal youth organization, provided resources for a radio show broadcast from the KLND radio station in Little Eagle, SD, and additional shows were completed through remote broadcasts from Eagle Butte, SD. The topics discussed on the show included: sobriety issues, peer pressures, domestic violence, gangs, juvenile crime, drug alternatives, inhalant abuse, cultural values, traditional lifestyles, positive role modeling, tribal economics, school news, sports, media clubs, music, broadcast training, and tribal government. The KLND radio station is owned and operated by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

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Strategy 2: Community-Wide Prevention

The Healthy Nations Program worked with various agencies to study existing and needed areas of prevention planning, and to create an inter-agency referral network to provide services to youth residing on the reservation. The primary target being the low-income housing projects, secondary target areas are the other tribal communities. Referrals were made to the following agencies: Four Bands Healing Center Counseling Program, Juvenile Detention Center, Juvenile Courts, Juvenile Probation Office, Social Services, Emergency Shelter Homes for Boys and Girls, Cheyenne River Schools. Collaborations were made with the following: Cheyenne River Housing Authority-Drug Elimination Program, Sioux YMCA, Sitanka College, Sacred Heart Center, Single Mother's Program, Healthy Start, and Professional Consultation Services.

In an effort to provide substance-free activities for youth, the Healthy Nations Program worked in several outreach areas, including White Horse, Laplante, Timber Lake, Swiftbird, Blackfoot, Dupree, Isabel, Thunder Butte, Iron Lightning, Cherry Creek, Red Scaffold, Takini and Bridger, Eagle Butte, Green Grass, Sans Arc, Bear Creek. The activities provided were youth meetings, recreational games, movie nights, rap sessions, Lakota storytelling, culture nights, DJ dances, home visits, talking circles, volleyball, sweatlodge, nature walks, talent search, table games, art therapy, computer classes, grade incentives, health and wellness fairs, carnivals, pool league, tobacco awareness sessions, pizza parties, open gym, youth lock-ins, sleepovers, ecology sessions, wilderness survival training, weight lifting, music recitals, walking club, horseshoe league, fishing trips, cultural awareness sessions, youth play day, Lakota song and dance, White Bison Spiritual gathering, Red Road Counselor Training, and community service projects.

The Lakota Takosa/Keepers of Wisdom Video Production program was developed in order to collect and distribute essential materials to prevent the loss of the Lakota language and culture. These efforts included a youth camp, video training, creating resource list of tribal elders, storytime, Lakota language classes, a Christmas dinner, social dance exhibitions, Youthfest, Elder men's meetings, oral history interviews, cultural presentations and monthly sewing lessons in the Young Mother's Program. Bi-monthly cultural curriculum training to the Tiospaye Tops tribal school and the tribal Headstart Program was also developed and provided.
Additional activities provided in various communities include the Lakota language curriculum, elderly dinners, youth play day, summer youth food program, wrap-around training, elder's social, Adopt-a-Grandparent, cooking activities, computer training, Golden Oldies Social, dance regalia, star quilt project, health support groups, and nutritional seminars. These services were mainly provided at the Cultural Center in Eagle Butte, SD, Tiospaye Topa School in Laplante, SD, and the CRST Headstart programs at five different sites on the reservation. The Wings Camp was held in Eagle Butte, SD on June 28-30, 1999, and included fitness drills, indoor exercises and games, practice race competitions, fun run and community feed.

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Strategy 3: Early Identification, Intervention and Referral

The Wolakota Yukini Wicoti (To Make Live Again, Culture, Tradition and Language) Camps were developed to incorporate the ways of the Lakota culture into a moving camp designed for youth. The initial youth camp was held from June 20,1996 to September 4,1996 during which time the youth lived in traditional tipis and traveled on horseback. The second year, the youth resided in similar villages, but were separated by gender and the camps were held at one location for a period of two weeks per session. The third year involved a trail ride around the reservation covering over 350 miles in 14 days. The fourth year camp included 2 one-week sessions and was held in the sacred Black Hills of the Lakota people in western South Dakota at Bear Butte (Mato Paha).

The Young Lakota Artist project was created to provide monthly mentorship activities through art and host an art competition for youth. This was implemented by a series of primary art lessons, art classes, and 2 youth art competitions and artist receptions. The classes were presented at the program headquarters in Eagle Butte, SD. The Art Exhibit, Reception and Competition were held at the Super 8 Conference Room, Eagle Butte, SD. The Art Mentoring sessions were held at the Cultural Center in Eagle Butte (held in the Bear Creek community, SD). The following mediums were represented: pencil drawing, colored pencil drawings, charcoal, chalk pastels, oil pastels, watercolors, acrylic paints, and oil paints.

The Lakota Traditional Arts and Crafts project was implemented to coordinate the efforts of the 8 Outreach Communities in designing and completing social dance regalia. These activities were facilitated by the Cultural Liaison and the Elderly Liaison in the outreach communities of Eagle Butte, Cherry Creek, Red Scaffold, White Horse, Dupree and Timber Lake, and included dance regalia, arts and crafts, leatherwork, beading, quillwork, rawhide art, bone jewelry, drum making, dream catchers and woodcarving.

To increase the number of students participating in leadership activities, the Healthy Nations Program helped many youth attend the annual Youth 2000 Leadership Conference, was held on March 28-30, 1999 in Pierre, SD, and the 8th Annual Youth Leadership Conference on August 21-24, 2000 in Eagle Butte, SD. The youth participated in workshops, demonstrations, general sessions, motivational speakers, recreational events, DJ Dance, Powwow, and Information booths. The conference is held every year and hosted by the Cheyenne River Housing Authority’s Drug Elimination Program.

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Strategy 4: Substance Abuse Treatment and Relapse Prevention

In an effort to implement a horse program to provide basic riding skills and horse care to youth, the Adopt-A-Horse Program was created. The program was also designed to complement the Wolakota Yukini Wicoti project and to adopt 5 horses to youth. The activities completed were roping schools, riding lessons, Exceptional Education Riding Program, horse health care and grooming seminars, care and maintenance of riding tack, horse facility management, confirmation classes, adoption policies, horse showmanship classes, livestock judging, rodeo judging, leisure riding, horse training seminars, stable maintenance, trail riding, fencing, and an instructional video on horse trailing. The program also included participation in the Headstart Parade, Viet Nam Veterans Parade, Tribal Labor Day Fair Parade and Play Day.

An Aftercare Transition Plan was developed and implemented to address the issues of intervention and aftercare. These efforts were implemented through meetings of the Inter-agency Planning, Youth Rehabilitation Center Task Force, GONA Training, Red Road Counselor Training, Red Cross Training, Aftercare Meetings, Support Group Meetings, and Home Visits.

The Healthy Nations Program, in an effort to develop a holistic approach to providing structured recreation and alternative substance-free activities, coordinated many summer activities, to include swimming, basketball, a walking club, health fairs, and a fitness and diabetes prevention camp.

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Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe 
of the Cheyenne River Reservation
Healthy Nations Program

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Colorado School of Public Health

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