Be the Change: Oceti Wakan helps Lakota children remember their roots

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PINE RIDGE, S.D. (KEVN) - A Pine Ridge non-profit is helping Lakota children remember their roots.

The Pine Ridge Reservation is the poorest county in the United States and has the highest infant mortality rate on this continent.

Oceti Wakan wants to change that through the children.

Cindy Catches, executive director, Oceti Wakan, says, "If they live in a family that is just full of pain, they learn that behavior. Our curriculum is designed to break the cycle of addiction, to help them to understand that they've been created noble."

The volunteers of Oceti Wakan are trying to prepare Native kids for the future by helping them remember their past.

One thing they're doing is teaching kids how to speak Lakota.

They also want students to take care of themselves physically, focusing on a whole body medicine wheel approach.

Cindy Catches says, "What does a human being need to do to keep their physical body healthy? Life is about relationships. How do we have healthy relationships? How do we heal the trauma, the inner generational trauma that we hold inside of ourselves?"

And the kids are not only developing their language skills.

They're learning how to be better people.

Tatumn Sitting Holy, 15 years old, Oceti Wakan attendee, says, "I've learned a lot growing up: respect, being kind to others, being thoughtful of others, watching out for my little brother and my little sister."

Kiya Winters, 15 years old, Oceti Wakan attendee, says, "I like coming because I get to learn new stuff every day when I come. I like learning about our culture."

Cindy's husband and father-in-law started Oceti Wakan in 1989.

Although her husband passed away last summer, his memory and work live on through Cindy, their children, and their grandchildren.

Cindy Catches says, "It feels like my husband and I were destined to do this work. I feel very humbled and very proud."

If you're interested in learning more about the nonprofit or donating, visit ocetiwakan.org.

If you know someone who's making a difference, send an email to katrinal@blackhillsfox.com.