Blog

Honoring Native Youth Voices! #LegendsandHeroes!

This October, LCE honored our long-awaited winners of the 2016-2017 Writing and Art Challenge: Legends and Heroes with two banquet ceremonies where we celebrated the students, their families, and their friends. The students were honored with their awards, custom plaques, and a healthy dinner. One award ceremony took place at Red Cloud Indian School to accommodate families who live on the South side of the reservation, and the other ceremony took place at the Cloud Horse Art Institute, to accommodate families who live on the North side of the reservation.

Communications Coordinator, Willi White accepted a $1,000 grant for writing and art supplies on behalf Red Cloud Indian School for Lane Anthony Bordeaux’s grand prize win in the middle school category. Dan Snethan, science, poetry, and acting club teacher also accepted a $1,000 grant on behalf of Little Wound High School for Wasu Janis’ grand prize win in the high school category. Advisory Board members and Local Pine Ridge band, Scatter Their Own: Juliana Brown Eyes-Clifford and Scotti Clifford performed at the award ceremony. Juliana who was an art judge for this year, and the 2015 grand prize winner of the #WeAreHere art challenge gave an inspiring speech to the students on the power of art and encouraged students to keep writing, creating, and expressing themselves.  

This was the first year that we chose to award the winners of the writing and art challenge through a banquet style award ceremony. Many parents thought this was a great way to celebrate the youth and hear their work. In the past we celebrated our winners through a school-wide assembly. This was a wonderful way to celebrate the students, however, because the ceremony took place during the school day, parents were not able to attend. For the Legends and Heroes theme, many students wrote about their family members, so we thought they should be invited to also be celebrated for being Legends and Heroes to the students!

Each award ceremony ended with an open mic for students to share their work with the group and they got a huge applause! Check out these photos of Lane Anthony Bordeaux and Thea Dubray reading their pieces for the group!

Our Executive Director, Autumn White Eyes also reflected on this year’s writing and art challenge:

I got involved with LCE as a participant in the Voices of The Land challenge. This challenge pushed me to share my spokenword piece with my community and I felt incredibly honored when I won the grand prize award in 2014. Through writing and art, Lakota students can express themselves and share their stories with the world. As a Lakota person, our history and our stories often feel invisible to wider society, however, I believe this challenge works to amplify the stories of Lakota youth to be shared with our allies who invest in the future leaders of the Oglala Lakota Nation.

Next year, our writing challenge is Mní Wičhóni, meaning Water is Life. We are encouraging Lakota youth to share their stories on how they protect water and their reflections from the movement at Standing Rock that shook the world. Stay in touch with us for more information on next year’s challenge and please consider supporting our efforts.

We encourage our allies and supporters to sponsor our annual Writing and Art Challenge by making a tax deductible donation at the link below:

Celebrating Summer Internship Success!

The summer of 2017 brought Lakota Children’s Enrichment a new Executive Director, tons of sunshine and a new intern: Aimee Cheng! Throughout the month of August, Aimee worked diligently to get the word out about Lakota Children’s Enrichment’s work and events, and managed social media networks to raise awareness about the success of Native youth! Aimee is a rising freshman who is entering the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ this coming fall.

Before she heads back to school we want to take the time to thank her for volunteering her time with us this summer!  

Please read Aimee’s reflections of her internship with us and join us in celebrating her successful internship!

Aimee’s Reflections

My name is Aimee Cheng and I am excited to be part of the volunTEAM at LCE! I have volunteered previously with other charitable organizations, but until discovering Lakota Children’s Enrichment, I did not have the opportunity to work so closely with the behind-the-scenes aspects of a nonprofit organization.

Before working with LCE, my knowledge of Native American history and culture was very limited to what I learned through history classes in my high school — which usually did not amount to even a day’s worth of lessons. Within the short time I have been at LCE, I have learned so much more about Native culture, history, and current events; however, the ways in which the Native community thrives seems to be almost invisible to most of our country.

There is so much social injustice not only in our country but all over this world right now and making sure that people’s voices are heard is very important. Learning about the experiences and perspectives of others can help motivate more people to help fight against injustices. 

As an intern for LCE, I was part of the social media team: I searched for articles that help spread awareness about the presence, culture and perseverance of Native Americans within this country. Looking through all these articles, I was truly inspired by what Lakota and other Native Youth are doing to make their voices heard and how they combat obstacles in the path to success.

Entering my collegiate years, I hope to continue to utilize what LCE has taught me to speak up in the face of injustice as well as to not be afraid to share my own thoughts on what is right.

I have high hopes for LCE to continue in its support of Native Youth all over the nation and I will continue to support LCE in its endeavors!

Fun Fact: Aimee was accepted to Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy’s Pharm.D. program directly from high school. At the end of the 6-year academic program, Aimee will receive her Doctor of Pharmacy degree!

Way to go Aimee! Good luck in college this fall!

Want to intern with LCE this fall? Learn more at and apply TODAY!

If you would like to join LCE’s efforts to amplify the voices of Native Youth, then please consider making a tax deductible donation at this link.

 

Summer Soiree Success!

Last Thursday, August 10, 2017, Lakota Children’s Enrichment hosted a Summer Soiree at a spectacular private residence in a brownstone in Gramercy Park, NYC. Approximately 50 supporters attended the intimate gathering to learn about LCE’s work and to meet our new Executive Director, Autumn White Eyes. Maggie Dunne, LCE’s Founder and Board Chair, welcomed the group and gave the history of LCE’s founding. Autumn followed Maggie’s introduction by speaking about growing up in Pine Ridge, as well as LCE’s impact on her life and the lives of Lakota children. Autumn further set forth her vision of creating more arts, enrichment and mentorship opportunities for youth on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

This event was hosted by LCE’s board of directors:
Cindy Dunne, Esq.
Maggie Dunne, Chair of Board
Timothy Chilson Dunne
Paul Goldenberg
Ujju Mahatme, Esq.
Susanne Pari
Brenda Schad, Choctaw/Cherokee
Nora Steinman
Jonathan Ungar
Anna Elise Walton
Janet Whiting, Oglala Lakota

LCE wants to thank its host committee and everyone who made it the event to support our work. We cannot do this work without our supporters. Executive Director Autumn White Eyes said, “The night was a huge success! I loved meeting new friends and catching up with old friends to share about our work. I am really excited to be leading LCE this year and would love the extra support so that we can grow our team and expand our programs! Thank you to everyone who came out.”

Check out some of the photos from the event in the slide show above. If you were unable to make it to this event, but would like to make a tax-deductible contribution, then please head on over to our donate page.

If you would like to host an event like this in your community, then please contact us at info@lakotachildren.org

An Interview With Autumn White Eyes

Autumn White Eyes

We thought that you might want to learn a bit more about our new Executive Director, Autumn White Eyes, so we sat down and asked her some questions. Read all about it!

Can you tell us about your background and how and where you grew up?

I am Oglala Lakota on my paternal side, and Turtle Mountain Anishinaabe on my maternal side. I was born in Rapid City, South Dakota and my family and I moved to Pine Ridge when I was five years old and this is where I call home. I am an alumna of Red Cloud Indian School and this was a very important community in my life for my k-12 education. I went on to college at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire where I studied Native American Studies and English with a concentration in Creative Writing, and received my bachelor’s degree in 2014. I spent the next several years after college doing work in nonprofits both directly with youth and through development. I am recent graduate of Harvard Graduate School of Education where I received my Ed.M. in Arts in Education.

Autumn at Harvard University graduation: Graduate Degree in Arts in Education

What was the experience or factor that most impacted your desire to continue in education?

At a young age, I saw my parents working diligently in college while also struggling to make ends meet with their four children. I was present for both of their college graduations and this set a high expectation of the importance of education. My father is a Lakota Language teacher and my mother volunteers in our community, so they both would emphasize the importance of education and giving back to our community. This really inspired me to continue to reach for my goals. I also had a few mentors and teachers who helped me along the way and encouraged me to apply to college.


What was the transition to Dartmouth College like?

The transition to Dartmouth College was difficult at first, because I attended a school that was thousands of miles from my home with a very different culture. The reason that I chose to attend Dartmouth was due to its large Native American community. While at Dartmouth, this community helped me to feel at home. I was lucky to also go to a school with a renowned Native American Studies program and was able to learn from Native American role models and mentors.


How were you introduced to spoken word poetry?

I was introduced to spoken word poetry through an opportunity to attend Brave New Voices in 2010 through First Peoples Fund. Before attending this poetry slam competition, I wrote poetry but was unfamiliar with the style of spoken word. Attending this large international poetry slam competition was my first exposure to the world of spoken word poetry.  In 2011, I was a part of the first team from Pine Ridge to compete at Brave New Voices. Team Pine Ridge (Dances with Words) is now in its 7th year with Brave New Voices!

 

Why were you drawn to spoken word as a form of performance and writing?

Autumn presenting at LCE Award Ceremony, Pine Ridge, SD, 2015

I was drawn to spoken word because I felt that it was a very powerful artform to learn and empathize with other people. Spoken word reminded me of the importance of storytelling and passing down history through oral traditions, a practice that is a part of Lakota culture. When I performed spoken word poetry, I felt connected to the audience, and empowered to share my story and truth as a Lakota woman who experienced injustices growing up in Pine Ridge. I also felt that spoken word was avenue where I could learn about my personal experience in relation to injustices impacting Indian Country, and find healing through writing.

What do you gain from your work in the arts? Why is advocating for the arts important to you?

Advocating for the arts is important to me because of the impact that it had on my life. I think that the art can be a very important tool for connecting people, as well as learning about oneself and the world around them. I find that my engagement in artwork has been cathartic and thus healing for me. I also find that the arts can be an invaluable tool in education that can help students become well-rounded students and creative thinkers.


What drove you to apply for the position as Executive Director of LCE?

I was driven to apply to the Executive Director position because I was inspired by LCE in my past work through my role as a writing challenge judge. I was really energized by student participation, their artwork, and their writing, and wanted to continue to be a part of this type of work in a full-time capacity. I also saw that it could be a good opportunity to introduce more programming for youth on the reservation.


What do you want to be your biggest accomplishment in the new job?  Where do you want to be in 5 years?

In my position as Executive Director, I hope that my biggest accomplishment will be to create more art education programming on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that will bring the community together and centers our Lakota youth as our future leaders. In 5 years, I hope to be growing the work of LCE and reaching more Lakota youth across the state of South Dakota. I also hope grow the team of LCE to make this possible!


Who do you root for? What is your favorite saying?
I am rooting for Indigenous peoples all around the world and support their work towards environmental justice and equal rights. My favorite Lakota phrase is Mitakuye Oyasin, which translates to “We are all related.” I love this phrase because it is a reminder that we are all connected to one another.


What advice do you have for Lakota youth? What advice would you give your 13 year old self– if you could travel back in time?

My advice for Lakota youth is to always remind yourself of your dreams and make that your motivation to continue reaching for your goals. To do this you can you write it down in your notebooks or post it in your locker, by seeing your dream frequently, you are reminded that you have big plans for your family, community, and for yourself. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help, because there are people in your community who care deeply about you and know you can do anything you put your mind to. I would give my 13 year old self the advice to keep being creative on the ways to give back to your community. I truly believe that social justice starts at home so that if you feel like that there is injustice or if you want to be heard, just keep speaking out loud and telling your story.

If you would like to support Autumn’s efforts, you may make a tax deductible donation at this link.

Get to know our new Executive Director Autumn White Eyes via Twitter Chat July 20th at 11am MT!

 

Do you follow Lakota Children’s Enrichment on Twitter? If not, sign up today and tune in for our Twitter Chat with our new Executive Director Autumn White Eyes at 11am MT Thursday July 20th!

Do you have questions for Autumn? Tweet at us @Lakota_Children and use the hashtag #MeetAutumnLCE to submit your questions today!

Can’t join us tomorrow but want to support our work? Please consider making a donation today.