RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Honoring their youth, the Ateyapi Program of 23 years celebrated Saturday with a powwow for the community and parents to stand behind their young people.
"We uplift and really help encourage the students to finish school, also to for their identity. I know with some of recent struggles we've been seeing with some of our youth locally. This is a good way to get them out and help them to recognize their songs, their dances, part of their culture so that they can be celebrated and it really helps their self esteem and it really kind of helps them to feel part of the community," said Whitney Rencountre, Ateyapi Youth Powwow Coordinator.
Using song and dance to rise above the negativity their youth can be faced with day to day.
"Nowadays living in the area that we live in and the kind of world that we live in today, dancing for me is a type of healing for myself," Hannah Reddest, 2018 Miss Wanbli Ska.
16-year-old Reddest says she dances jingle dress, a dance with a spiritual meaning.
"I'm praying for myself and for everybody who needs it and a lot of people," Reddest said.
A message to her peers, breathing life into the Lakota culture she says, is a decision they themselves have to make.
"You have to be the one to make a change and be a leader within your community. That can be your teenage community, your family your school. It's all up to you to where you decide where you want to take this, where you want to take it and how you want to use it to become a leader," Reddest continued.
As for the Lakota tradition, these meaningful practices are way more for the youth than a source of entertainment.
"These songs, these dances, they're centuries old and we're still carrying them on and we still recognize that without your identity, you might challenge to find your place in society today," Rencountre said.
The Ateyapi Program touches the lives of more than 1,000 students each year and say they are blessed to have a significant partnership with Rapid City Area Schools.