Reclaiming Futures Initiative from a Sicangu Lakota Tribal Perspective

The Rosebud Sioux reservation, home to the sovereign nation of the Sicangu Oyate (Burnt Thigh People) occupies 5,000 square miles in extremely rural south central South Dakota. In many areas of social, behavioral, health and economic determinants, Rosebud Tribe members are at or near the lowest of state and federal well-being indicators. The poverty rate on the reservation is 57 percent, compared to 13 percent for the state of South Dakota. Many youth suffer from substance use and mental health issues.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe was the only tribal site selected as part of the original 10 communities in RWJF’s Reclaiming Futures national program. The project, called Oyate Teca Owicakiya (Helping Young People), developed programs to provide substance abuse assessment for teens and their parents to determine appropriate treatment and counseling services—from prevention to treatment, aftercare and referrals. The initiative created opportunities for community members to share their cultural traditions, traditional arts, skills, spiritual knowledge and life experiences to help youth and families overcome substance abuse, expand their positive social network, and strengthen their tribal identity.

The Reclaiming Futures model was adapted to the local setting, building on existing community networks, and tribal systems, beliefs and traditions.

This article is part of a special issue of Children and Youth Services Review on the RWJF-funded Reclaiming Futures program.