Since our inception in 1990, one of Diabetes Action’s highest priorities has been to support health improvement for the American Indian population that has been so severely impacted by the diabetes epidemic.
Our partnership with the Cheyenne River Youth Project continues to help make it possible for families living in one of the highest poverty areas in the country look forward to a brighter future. On the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, funding from Diabetes Action’s American Indian Diabetes Prevention Program supports the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s Native Wellness Program, which featured a new spring group of teen wellness interns in 2016. This group spent a month focusing on how to nurture healthy minds and bodies. This was just one component of CYRP’s ongoing holistic wellness initiatives, which incorporates physical fitness, nutrition, diabetes prevention, healthy lifestyle choices and Lakota Sioux values and traditions. Many of these teens have enrolled in the summer Sustainable Agriculture Internship Program which began with 11 students in 2013. The incredible success of this program inspired so many teens that the graduating class of 2016 increased to 44 teens. By gaining valuable job and life skills, these teens are able to pursue their dreams for college, vocational skill, employment, or even entrepreneurship after high school.
In June, 2016 the teen interns and community members of the Cheyenne River Reservation welcomed a famous Lakota Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman, who provided a cooking class focused on traditional native foods, including bison, and healthful preparation techniques. Efforts to provide healthy food for the Cheyenne River Community starts with the Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) garden, which has grown from the original 40x60 plot to a two-acre micro-farm operation. Working on this garden has interested many children to become gardeners and farmers. In addition, benefits of these wellness programs extend to teaching families healthier eating habits while creating many physical activities for the children, which not only keeps the children healthy but has also reduced juvenile crime on the Cheyenne Reservation.