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Sitting Bull Youth Culture Camp History


The first camp was held July 11 -13, 2008, at Sitting Bull’s camp located near Little Eagle South Dakota.   The camp was a result of several individuals who believed the Standing Rock reservation youth needed strengthening of their cultural identity and language.  The site location and time was selected specifically to coincide with the annual Sitting Bull Camp Sundance ceremony.  The values inherent in the culture would be transmitted to the camp participants assisting with preparation of the grounds for Sun Dance. The coordinating committee had a shared belief that our strength as a people lies within our cultural values and world view. 

A coordinating committee was struck with the SRST Tribal Historical Preservation Office being the lead agency.   The committee consisted of representatives from the following programs: SRST Oniyapi, SRST Youth Wellness, SRST Chemical Prevention Youth Services, SRST Education Department, Sitting Bull College, Standing Rock High School, and Boys and Girls Club of Grand River.

There was no funding for the Culture camp nor did any program have a specific budget to cover the camp in its entirety.  The approach the committee used was to request funding and/or in-kind contributions from various programs and agencies.  The camp was held for four days just prior to the Sitting Bull’s camp Sun Dance. The various individuals from the community believed it was important to hold the “cultural camp” even though there was not initial funding and believe in the notion of our value of “sharing and generosity” and that this will be an act of community service that would be respected.  It would be an investment in our children and youth.

The format of the camp learning objectives and facilitators were identified.  It was a fundamental belief that the necessary human resources, cultural knowledge and values were alive and well on Standing Rock.  It was determined that all individuals identified as cultural resources would be drawn from within the larger Standing Rock community.  Tasks were assigned, equipment needed and access acknowledged, activities and teachers located, and available funding and resources identified. 
Issues such as security, liability, child protection laws with respect to criminal background checks, medication, nutritional requirements for menus, 24 hour supervision of camp participants, sanitation, first aid, insect bites, and emergency preparedness were addressed; and the coordinating committee exercised due diligence in ensuring that standards were met for a quality experience for the youth and children who participated.
The camp was able to provide 50 spaces for children and youth.  The committee recruited from each district on the reservation to ensure that the opportunity was available to all. This took coordination and vigilance but it was achieved that all districts had youth at the camp. Access to the camp and experience was a priority for the coordinating committee, and return transportation from each community to the camp was addressed.

Preparations of the camp site had to be done several days prior to camp.  The clean-up of the camp took two days.  An example of this included gathering nine tipis used, tipi poles and then returning all items to the rightful owners.  All equipment required and used had to be picked up and returned. 

An evaluation and report was completed with thank you letters to all participants sent out.  Based evaluations done by the children, youth, facilitator and coordinating committee members the following “One Heart One Mind, the People are One” – Cante Wanjin, Nasuna, Mita Oyate Wanjina – Dakota/Lakota Culture Camp is proposed.
The lead agency for this proposal is the Tribal Historical Preservation Office, with the coordinating committee from various tribal programs, and agencies.

Statement of Need:

There is a high need to provide alternative activities for youth on the Standing Rock Reservation.  The social conditions and issues that prevail in many of the communities have a detrimental impact on the youth.  The following data and statistics give a snapshot of the many challenges that children and youth face on the reservation.  This community at one point was designated a national “hot spot” for youth suicide in 1997-1998, and Congress appropriated emergency funds to assist the Tribe to come to grips with the issue. There were a total of 54 completed suicides in less than a one year period. The residual effects from the suicides are still evident in the community and there is a constant vigil of youth and children in the community. The latest depression screenings for teens taken at the Indian Health Service indicate that in 2007 there were 10 reported attempts per month.  The top issues identified in the Standing Rock Tribal Census for McLaughlin (a town within the reservation also referred to as the Bear Soldier District) in 2004 were alcoholism, gang violence, homelessness, unemployment, and activities for the children and youth.  At the National Conference “Gangs in Indian Country” held in Las Vegas, 2007, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe ranked third in the country for organized gangs, drugs and resultant crime that accompany such activity.

According to the last US Census and other agencies the following data Standing Rock reservation:

 The number of baby deaths was 4 for a three year period from 2001-2003.
 For the same period time as identified above there were 11 violent teen deaths, which include homicides, suicides and accidents.
 The unemployment rate is 88 %, according to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Census Data report 2005.
 41% of the members of the community live below the poverty level Standing Rock Reservation/
 49% of the people who live below the poverty level are under the age 18, with 42% children under the age of 5 in Standing Rock Reservation.
 That 33% of all families live below the level of poverty.
 Two out of three Standing Rock Tribal members are jobless and resident’s annual income averages $4,421.00 per year, according to the American Indian Relief Council website, 2007.
 According to the Standing Rock Tribal Children Court there were 1044 petitions filed with juvenile court with 1399 crimes committed in that two year period (2000 – 2001) by juveniles. 
 There are three Boys and Girls Club in two districts of the eight districts on the reservation.  The other districts literally have no programs or services for children and youth outside of school.

It is because of the prevailing conditions that this group formed and is holding a camp for the community’s children and youth.  Preservation of the Standing Rock Dakota/Lakota culture, values, language, life ways, and history are paramount to impacting positive change on the reservation.

Implementation Plan

SBYCC Mission Statement:  To provide a camp for the children and youth of Standing Rock Reservation that will enhance, entrench and teach the foundational elements of their cultural identity, namely Lakota and Dakota heritage.

Goals & Objectives:

 To provide a setting and conditions that will enhance, encourage, entrench and teach the cultural/spiritual values of the Lakota and Dakota heritage for the children and youth of the Standing Rock Reservation.
 To strengthen cultural identity and assist with the development of the self-esteem of the children and youth of Standing Rock Reservation.
 To provide a positive alternative to negative influences of drug, alcohol, violence and pre-mature sexual activity.
 Utilize community resources in the development of the camp and in the delivery of the Lakota and Dakota knowledge and history.

Camp Location and Dates:

The first camp was held on July 14 to 17, 2009 at the location of and after the Sitting Bull Camp Sundance.

Programmatic Oversight:

The Tribal Historical Preservation Office had programmatic oversight as was charged with the cultural, historical preservation and perpetuation of Standing Rock Lakota culture. THPO supervised and coordinated the camp. 

Programmatic Plan:

All campers were grouped into societies and attended the sessions with their societies.  This system worked well for the camp in 2008.  Each society had 2 counselors that were with their groups at all times.  Each tipi had 2 counselors assigned to sleep in a tipi.

All camp participants were given the option of attending a sweat lodge ceremony and be part of the naming ceremony that was held during the camp.  Part of each day focused on the teachings, origins and purposes of these two ceremonies.

There were physical activities, hands on activities like the atlatl, archery, horses and Lakota culture, buffalo tanning sessions, star observations, and story telling.

The Camp coordinator was largely responsible for ensuring the program agenda was well rounded and reflected the resources of the community.  The end product work as recommended by the youth the previous year was more focused on the program for physical activity.

Recommendations included providing sleeping bags and personal to the campers as there were campers in 2008 that did not have these items. It was decided by the coordinating committee to hand out survival kits on the first day of camp to not single out any child who does not have these items.

Transportation of campers was necessary as it ensured access to all Standing Rock youth who may wish to participate. 

The camp is for youth ages 9 – 13 or grades 5 to 8.  This age group appeared to be the most receptive to the camp experience.  To offer to ages younger or older, would require another camp or more volunteers and staff.

The camp was held after the Sundance ceremony is over as this allows control of adults interacting with the youth campers.  This is an assurance to parents and guardians of the youth.  Holding the Culture camp after Sundance ensures the control of adults who have cleared their background checks.