Last summer, my colleague Barbara Lopez and I traveled to South Dakota to document the great work two Native American Tribes were doing to feed their children during the summer months. Feeding children during the summer is crucial in fighting childhood hunger because children are out of school and are not getting the school breakfast and lunch they normally receive when in school.
The Cheyenne River Sioux and Rosebud Sioux Tribes both have long-running summer feeding programs that have helped many families in these tight-knit communities keep their children well fed and physically active. Watch the videos that we created from our trip below.
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe's summer feeding site in Eagle, Butte, South Dakota.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe's summer feeding site in Mission, South Dakota
The first thing that struck me about South Dakota was the uninterrupted grassland stretching for miles in all directions. I had many opportunities traveling from Rapid City to the reservations to imagine what these prairies would have been like 200 years ago. Perhaps Sioux warriors would be tracking the large buffalo herds that used to roam the open grassland. Perhaps we would have been able to spot the pointed tops of temporary Lakota tipi dwellings on the horizon as the community followed the migratory buffalo herds.
Indeed this is most likely the romanticized imagery many people have of the Lakota Sioux. The current, less idealized imagery of life on the reservations we visited is of abject poverty. My visit to the Cheyenne River and Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservations helped to reconcile the two images. There were many families on both reservations who were living well below the poverty line. However, in my interactions with the Sioux people I found that they are still very proud people who look out for one another in their tight-knit communities. In my interviews with students, I found that they are very aware of the many problems in their community and yet they are hopeful for the future and have a quiet confidence that can only come from living in a strong community with a rich culture.
It was important for us to capture positive moments for our video in order to show that even seemingly insurmountable problems can be overcome by simple community actions that serve to inspire and nurture the next generation of leaders. We got images of a teenage drum group who played traditional Lakota songs taught by their Lakota language teacher. We captured video of children swimming at the community pool as part of the Youth Diabetes Program before they went next door to get a nutritious summer lunch that included a salad with bright pink radishes and a juicy plum. We interviewed a hard-working teenager employed at a summer feeding site through his community's summer youth work program. By teaching these young people about their culture, giving them work opportunities, and making sure they receive a nutritious meal every day, the Tribes are helping to ensure that the future will be brighter for their people.