Lakota Youth Development Educating Tribe on COVID-19 Pandemic

Program Funded by SDHC Grant

Lakota Youth Development, a youth organization on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, is promoting tribal health across Lakota country in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Dakota Humanities Council awarded Lakota Youth Development a $4,373 grant to host "A Lakota Culture Symposium." On June 6, a group of Lakota elders and other experts will gather with community members in a quiet, rural setting 12 miles from Herrick, SD, at the Lakota Youth Development's amphitheater.

During the event, designed for ages 12-25 but open to all tribal members, speakers like Joseph Marshall III, 2011 One Book South Dakota Author, will educate audience members about using traditional and tribal healing techniques to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery process.

"The humanities are extremely important to our work, and sharing our elders and traditional scholars with the general public helps our youth and our organization educate the local community about the importance of understanding the unique gifts Lakota culture has for society and the greater good," said Lakota Youth Development Executive Director Marla Bull Bear.

Elders, Community Members Help Educate Youth

Lakota elders, knowledge keepers, herbalists and community members from across Lakota country will discuss practicing Lakota spirituality and integrating traditional medicines into the modern-day lives of tribal members.

Lakota Youth Development is a Native nonprofit organization in Gregory County on tribal lands of the Rosebud Sioux Indian reservation. The purpose of the organization is to assist Lakota youth by reinforcing culture, language and spirituality and to promote education and healthy lifestyles for youth through culturally based strategies.

"We believe that Native youth need to know their culture and have access to people, places and environments that help them develop healthy lifestyles, without alcohol, drugs or violence," Bull Bear said. "Our goal is to re-establish a sacred circle of support for Native youth in this stage of life to give them direction by demonstrating cultural values and a depth of commitment not always available to them."

During the one-day symposium, both in-person and virtual attendees will experience the humanities through a Lakota perspective, both past and present, increasing awareness of Lakota culture and history.

Each participant will receive a small bag of traditional medicines to practice at-home techniques discussed during the symposium.

The Symposium will feature:

  • Jerome Kills Small - Traditional medicines and their healing properties and spiritual uses
  • Joseph Marshall III - A comparative look at Lakota people's relationship with plants and food throughout the pre-reservation and reservation eras
  • Wayne Weston - Lakota relationship with the natural environment
  • Carmelita Sully - Proper harvesting, preparation, and storage of traditional medicines
  • Lisa Iron Cloud - Preserve of traditional medicines and practices

Established in 1992 for Advocacy

Lakota Youth Development was established in 1992 as Native American Advocacy Program to educate tribal communities about mental illness. The program became one of the first Native independent living programs in the nation and began providing alcohol and drug prevention services to native youth in 1994 to address the increase of permanent disabilities in Native youth in area communities.

The organization provided disabilities services up until 2017, when a decision was made to "move upstream" and concentrate on ways to decrease preventable disabilities in our youth.

Lakota Youth Development now helps youth rise through cultural camps, weekend retreats, leadership societies and youth-led social enterprises.

Visit for more information about Lakota Youth Development.

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