Cheyenne River Youth Project
The Cheyenne River Youth Project announced that its executive director, Julie Garreau, has received the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s prestigious Tim Wapato Public Advocate of the Year Award. Garreau accepted the award at the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s annual Indian Progress in Business gala on Tuesday, March 26 in Las Vegas.
Each year, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development honors outstanding individuals and companies for their contributions to economic parity and the betterment of native communities. This year’s 43rd annual awards gala also commemorated the organization’s 50th anniversary, and the bestowing of the Tim Wapato award was a highlight of the evening.
“I’ve known of Tim’s work in Indian Country for a long time, so to be chosen for this award is humbling to say the least,” Garreau says. “It’s an honor, and we’re both amazed and grateful to be recognized this way as we continue doing the work we love in our community, as we have done for more than three decades.
“To know that Tim’s work had such an impact on our indigenous communities,” she continues, “and then to receive the award that honors his legacy — it’s just so special, for all of us at Cheyenne River Youth Project.”
An enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Tim Wapato served in the Los Angeles Police Department until 1979; following his retirement, he went on to become executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans, and the first executive director for the National Indian Gaming Association. He passed away in April 2009.
At Wapato’s memorial service, National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr. called Wapato “a tireless advocate” and “one of Indian Country’s most honorable warriors.”
“Tim was a visionary who lived by the rule that Indian Country came first and foremost,” Stevens remarked. “He didn’t seek his role to promote himself and never took one day for granted.”
According to A. Gay Kingman, executive director for the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, Cheyenne River Youth Project,’s Julie Garreau was the perfect candidate for the award named after her late husband.
“I was just so happy she got it,” Kingman says. “Julie has done a phenomenal job for more than 30 years, working so hard to build an organization for youth that covers absolutely every opportunity, from sports and internships to the garden and social enterprises. This is what Tim stood for — developing and building our own businesses, and pushing to fund more youth opportunities. Julie is doing all of that, together with the community’s young people.”
Cheyenne River Youth Project’s story began in 1988, and Kingman was president of then-Oglala Lakota College in Eagle Butte at the time. Garreau also was working in Eagle Butte, as an education services specialist for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, when local kids came to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council to complain about the defunct Little Brown Jug bar on Main Street.
“Tribal council agreed it was an eyesore, but what to do about it?” Kingman recalls. “So the youth joined with the elders, and they all rose up to say no way, no more. They went back to the council, who ultimately bought the bar and gave it to them for a youth center.”
Garreau founded Cheyenne River Youth Project, in that former bar, which kids affectionately called “The Main.” When the nonprofit youth organization outgrew that facility 11 years later, it moved to its current 5-acre campus on 4th Street.
Today, Cheyenne River Youth Project, incorporates “The Main” youth center, Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center, Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) organic garden, Keya (Turtle) Cafe and Gift Shop, seasonal Leading Lady Farmers Market, and the innovative Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Lakota Youth Arts & Culture Institute, which also includes a free public art park.
“It’s been a long process, but she stuck to it,” Kingman says. “She’s a true leader; she has that tenacity, drive, and upbeat attitude. This year’s award definitely makes me happy, because Tim had that same kind of vision and drive.”
To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or visit www.lakotayouth.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest Cheyenne River Youth Project news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@waniyetuwowapi).
About Cheyenne River Youth Project
The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.