Lakota Youth Development

Report date
August 2016

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

Meeting with coaches , elders and mentors to keep the cultural integrity as be developed the enterprise model and how we communicate that as value added products to the public were instrumental in our progress. As a result were able to develop marketing tools such as brochures, enhanced labeling and leverage new resources to tell our "honey story" and our youth led enterprises in an effective way through media messages and social media. Through making adjustments to our marketing materials and focusing our value added message we were also able to gain interest from the tourism industry and museums. This was also possible as we maintained regular connection to elders and mentors with regular monthly gatherings in order to gain ongoing advice and direction as new relationships were built in promoting our products. Other venders began promoting our products via word of mouth and brochures and were able to director business to us. Several potential long term business relationships are now be cultivated.
The 3 apprentices were extremely valuable as they quickly were able to gain the knowledge and confidence to become promoters and educators about our products as well as them becoming able to be our cultural ambassadors, answering questions about Lakota culture, history and our connections to the products we offer through vendors table at local farmers markets, booths and events and visitors and tourism groups from other states with one group from Germany that proved to be a cultural experience for our youth apprentices as well.
Through the immersion of our elders into this process, we were able to create "new" traditions in the way of welcoming our winged relatives ( bees), welcoming new youth members into our group and creating sufficiently elaborate public ceremonies that also educate and give an opportunity for the public to experience how a living culture adapts and adopts new ways of being as times change and new aspects of life develop.

Key lessons learned

A lesson learned is that as much as we wanted each of the three entrepreneur initiatives to advance at the same pace, we could only focus on one at a time, which resulted in slower progress for the other two initiatives. Our first focus was the bee keeping and honey sales and that one is doing the best of the three efforts. We have learned that by marketing outside our local area we were getting the best responses and interest from Tourism in our state has been good with those sites that focus on Native art and history. We were able to leverage additional resources for marketing but struggled with support for youth employees beyond what we had set aside in this budget. We also had relied too much on leveraging additional support to install an irrigation system for our restoration garden. We also relied too heavily on outside experts that did not follow through with their pledge to offer technical assistance. We need to build our expertise from within to ensure that we are able to initiate and maintain our efforts without outside expert intervention. Training will be a significant goal for our medicinal and traditional herb sales initative.
We struggle to call anything a "failure" rather we accept them as challenges to be overcome. One of the challenges is to obtain the permaculture and irrigation techniques training in order to be able to move forward with our restoration garden. We were not able to plant the large gardens of traditional medicines and edible plants as we initially intended . We were only able to move forward with small areas that we were knowledgeable about and could obtain remote TA via phone. This also let our youth to become discouraged and lose interest as they could not see much in the way of successes.

Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving

Resourceful has been the most important as we have been able to repurpose existing resources such as land , buildings, mix in entrepreneur skills training within the other trainings and activities we were already doing thus making this more effective and efficient and less burdensome on the core organization to initiate these new strategies for youth entrepreneurship and leadership. We have found people with multiple expertise that can share their knowledge with our youth in a way that makes it meaningful and progressive. We have found local neighbors and commercial honey producers willing to partner with us to offer support supplies and advice.

Other key elements of Community Innovation

One key element that has been critical to our success is cultural grounding of our primary stake holders - our youth. this has allowed them to maintain healthy personal choices, focus their overall vision for the future and maintain intergenerational mentorship and perspectives . This allowed the group to establish value added products that is healthy and pursues more and more ecology friendly aspects to its business plan.

Understanding the problem

This process has helped develop a clearer picture of the extent our Lakota youth are in need of developing positive work ethics, basic job skills and a safe place to acquire these skills. NAAP staff that serve as job coaches and lead mentors were able to recognize gaps in ethical and critical thinking and offered direction to help you to learn and experience what healthy employment expectations are while being allowed to correct mistakes and demonstrate appropriate work behavior. Also through intense mentorship youth were able to envision and set future employment and education and training goals.

If you could do it all over again...

To look immediately for ways to built internal expertise and not rely on outside resources that may or may not follow through with your partnership. This would have been important to know so that more emphasis and funding support could have been directed into staff and youth training and less on consultants.

One last thought

Nothing at this time.