Cultivating Culture with the Boys & Girls Club of Lower Brule

Integrating culture into programming can be a challenging task for busy Native Clubs. It is a challenge that the Boys & Girls Club of Lower Brule, located in Lower Brule, SD, has taken head on. In fact, culture is central to both programming and their organization as a whole.

“We integrate culture in a variety of ways from playing Lakota Bingo to making Wasnai during cooking experiences in the T.R.A.I.L. program,” the Club’s Chief Professional Officer Tonya Derdall said. “We are blessed with a staff that has a working knowledge of the culture and are willing to share with the next generation.”

Through the dedication of staff, Club participants have taken part in cultural experiences while making memories that will last a lifetime. This fall, Club members worked with one of the Club’s youth supervisors, who is also a well known teepee artist, to create and design their own small-scale teepees as part of a project funded by the Dakota Indian Foundation. Club members constructed the full model, including details like a bundle of wood, a fire, and a blanket.

Such careful craftsmanship shows that small-scale isn’t synonymous for easy. Youth spent many hours making their personal teepees. From learning how to secure the poles used for the structure to paint their canvases to make a waterproof covering for their model, youth have created a product that is meaningful.

Building replica teepees has been more than an art project for the youth. They built an appreciation for their ancestors’ craftsmanship, understanding how their people survived and the skills required to make these impressive structures.

In the next phase of the project, Clubs members will work together to make a full-size teepee of their own. “We will be utilizing what the youth learned in creating their replicas,” Derdall said. “They will be painting and learning to put together a full size teepee over the next year.”

Check out these photos to see some of the great models that the kids of the Boys & Girls Club of Lower Brule put together!

Pictured above from left to right: Club members LaCosta B. , Rianna R. , and Teijah E. present their teepees.