Suzette Brewer
On Monday, January 27, the Cheyenne River Youth Project hosted the grand opening of Keya Cafe located inside the Cokata Wiconi Teen Center.

Cheyenne River Youth Project Turns 25, Launches Endowment and Keya Cafe Featuring Homegrown Food


Twenty-five years ago, Julie Garreau (Cheyenne River Lakota) developed the Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP) from  a converted bar on Main Street in the tribe's capital Eagle Butte, South Dakota. For 12 years she volunteered her time to get an after-school program off the ground.

“People in the community didn't think we'd make it,” said Garreau. “They just knew we'd crash and burn. And they even told me they would find me a job if it didn't make it. But we just kept going because we knew that we had to find a local solution to our needs, something that addressed the specific needs of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation. It was a measure of our sovereignty as a community that we create and sustain a program that met the needs and fulfilled our obligation to our children in ways that we feel are culturally appropriate and necessary. I believe in our sovereignty with all my heart.”

When the grassroots nonprofit opened it doors in 1988, it filled to capacity each day as a safe place for children to have a snack, read, finish their homework or participate in an activity.

Today the major community organization spans 60,000 square feet, boasting a two-acre organic garden, a professional kitchen, a full-sized indoor basketball court, a gymnasium, an art room, a dance studio, a library, computer rooms, living quarters for volunteers, and the newly opened Keya Cafe.

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On Saturday, January 25, dozens of local community members, board members, current and former CRYP youth, community partners and tribal council members celebrated the Youth Project's 25th anniversary and commemorated the launch of a new endowment to ensure the project's sustainability for decades to come. The Cheyenne River Youth Project Endowment Fund's goal is to raise $25,000 to grow and strengthen its many programs and services dedicated to the health and well-being of the community. CRYP's Endowment Fund is accepting donations via its website, or through Garreau at [email protected].

CRYP's physical activity programs range from basketball and running to ballet and yoga. Among its myriad enrichment courses, tailored to specific age groups, are art, science, reading, writing, geography, financial literacy, nutrition and healthy cooking—even Chinese language and comic books.

CRYP also runs a farmer's market; a family-services program offering winter coats and school supplies; Passion for Fashion, a prom dress event for local teen girls; and a Dear Santa program that delivers gifts to about 1,000 kids each Christmas. Member families can also apply for heating and home repair assistance through CRYP's Heat Match Program.

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Everything at the youth project has multiple purposes, Garreau told ICTMN. From the garden, corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, chilies, greens and berries are donated to elders and a women’s shelter; sold at a farmers market by teens learning about entrepreneurship and nutrition; or canned or dried and sold in the project’s gift shop.

RELATED: Cheyenne River Teens Learn Healthy Eating and Diabetes Prevetion

Now the garden will also supply the produce for Keya Cafe, the latest addition to the CRYP campus, located inside the Cokata Wiconi Teen Center. Keya Cafe hosted its grand opening on Monday, January 27.

The coffee house offers a full range of coffee beverages, drinks, smoothies and pastries, as well as a full-service breakfast menu. All ingredients are locally sourced and from CRYP's organic garden whenever possible. Everything on the menu, including the pastries and granola, are made fresh, on-site every morning.

“The Keya Cafe is an excellent venue for the produce from our garden and offers our community a new place to gather and eat breakfast,” Garreau said. “At the same time, it is providing local jobs, skills training and a sustainable source of income for our organization's programs and services. We are proud to begin this new venture which all of us have worked so hard to bring to life.”

The cafe features coffee beverages, juices, smoothies, breakfast burritos, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, as well as homemade zucchini bread and banana bread, to name just a few delicious items on the menu.

Keya, which means "turtle" in the Lakota language, represents fertility, family and community. The Turtle, who lives in two worlds—on land and in water—also represents Native people, who live and work side by side with their neighbors in the world. Start-up funding for the cafe was provided by a grant from the John T. Vucurevich Foundation.

Additionally, the cafe will sell Keya Cafe-brand coffee beans and mugs for customers who may not live in Eagle Butte but want to support the cafe through its retail sales.

Keya Cafe's normal hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 7:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m. for breakfast; 7:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. coffee shop will be open; closed Sundays.

For more information on how to purchase specialty beans and mugs, email [email protected]. For updates and special offers, follow the cafe on Facebook at Follow CRYP on Facebook and Twitter, via the group’s website,, and on the YouTube channel,

Seating at the newly opened Keya Cafe. Over the Christmas holidays, staff created the stars hanging from the ceiling. (Suzette Brewer)

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