Building a better future for indigenous youth

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 6:30 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - After recent tragic events in Rapid City’s indigenous community, there is optimism about how young people could change the trajectory of their communities.

Generation after generation, more and more traumatic events weigh on members of indigenous communities across the country, and Rapid City is no different. The trauma is evident in the violence and rising drug issue.

Johnathan Old Horse, the pastor of Woyotan Lutheran Church, said that there is hope for future generations to live in peace and understanding. But it requires non-natives to show compassion in a way that makes a difference.

“As Sitting Bull says, ‘We need to put our minds together and see what kind of life we can give to our children.’ That is what we need to be focusing on, not ‘Oh, I feel bad for these Indians, but I’m just going to give them some money and let them go on their way,’ Old Horse said. “But, coming up with real ideas, coming in, and putting in some work.”

The Rapid City Police Department’s liaison to the north Rapid Community Tyler Read said that the youth are taking a stand, and leading the charge in their communities.

“They can be a leader in the community and someone who holds compassion in their heart for others and being someone other can depend on because that is the greatest source of identity,” Read said. “Knowing that you are there for others.”

Chris White Eagle started Wombli Ska Teen Center during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a safe place for troubled youth to have a meal and hang out.

He said that many of the children who pass through the doors face this trauma, and finding a safe place to be with others in their community has made a difference in their spirits.

“For them to let us be involved and invite us into our space, and for them to function and hang out. That’s an honor for me,” White Eagle said. “Because, you know this may be Wombli Ska Center, but this is theirs.”

Jace DeCory the Professor Emeritus of American Indian Studies at Black Hills State University said these young people achieving their dreams is truthfully what’s most important.

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