"Our hope with the project, “Lakota in America,” is to shed some light on an organization that is providing young people access to fundamental tools that create opportunity for a vibrant and more secure future. Access is not purely a means of generating financial wealth. The program places strong emphasis on the value of cultural wealth through art in an apprenticeship model. By honoring heritage, CRYP is empowering the next generation of Lakota and fostering a collective sense of self-worth among the youth."
– Kevin Burke, CMO, Square
“We’re deeply grateful to Square for commissioning the ‘Lakota in America’ film project, and for working so closely with us to help raise awareness and generate support for Cheyenne River’s young people. They showed us so much respect, and they honored us by giving us the opportunity to tell our own story.”
– Julie Garreau, Executive Director, Cheyenne River Youth Project
Square, Inc., the payment and financial services company led by CEO Jack Dorsey, has changed the way businesses process transactions. Square products have become commonplace in many American businesses as point of sale hardware and software help businesses grow through managing inventory, locations, and employees—as well as providing access to financing, invoicing, appointments, and more.
Armed with an essential understanding of corporate responsibility and funding to make a difference, Square has been partnering with various organizations that aim to empower the entrepreneurial spirit. In 2017, Square launched a film series, “For Every Kind of Dream,” which highlighted the stories of small businesses that are working towards success. Thus far, the company has shared four stories: “Yassin Falafel,” “Made in Iowa,” “Sister Hearts,” and “Lakota in America.” The latter focuses on Genevieve Iron Lighting in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, and her participation in the Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP), a nonprofit on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation that provide youth and family services to its community.
After years of discrimination and prejudiced policies against American Indians, Cheyenne River community members continue to be greatly impacted by poverty and unemployment.CRYP, founded by Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member Julie Garreau, intends to empower the next generation of community members while instilling a sense of pride in Lakota culture. Through its innovative teen internships in social enterprise, native food sovereignty, indigenous cooking, wellness and the arts, Cheyenne River teens learn critical job and life skills while also embracing Lakota culture and values. According to Garreau, “[The more] viable economic skills to go along with an appreciation for their powerful heritage [young people have], the better the odds are that this generation of young people will be able to pull the whole tribe up.”
Through economic and cultural empowerment, these teens are prepared to make a difference in both their own lives and in their community. Due to her participation in CRYP’s teen internship program, Genevieve Iron Lighting was hired for her first job in the organization’s Keya Cafe (where they use Square) and continues to perform traditional Lakota dance. “I just feel like when I dance I can help keep my culture alive; I feel like I’m in touch with my ancestors and the past generations,” she explained.
In 2016, CRYP announced the opening of its Waniyetu Wowapi Lakota Arts Institute. The Eagle Butte campus offers dance and art studios, regular classes and workshops with guest and local artists, and the public Waniyetu Wowapi Art Park, which features an outdoor stage. CRYP also hosts the annual RedCan invitational graffiti jam, a celebration of both graffiti and Lakota culture. This groundbreaking event has received the Robert E. Gard Award, which is presented by Americans for the Arts to programs that are working at the intersection of arts and community life.
By collaborating with organizations such as CRYP, Square is able to share meaningful stories of the dreams of business owners across America. Square is using its platform to to spread awareness for the arts and to foster economic empowerment.