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Nonprofit Friends of the Children establishes He Sapa chapter

Oglala Sioux Tribe Vice President Alicia Mousseau signs the OST resolution of support.
C.J. Keene
Oglala Sioux Tribe Vice President Alicia Mousseau signs the OST resolution of support.

The Oglala Sioux tribe is supporting a new non-profit youth mentorship organization called Friends of the Children – He Sapa.

The new group acknowledged its official opening at a recent tribal signing ceremony.

Tasha Fridia, national director of tribal programs for Friends of the Children, said this represents an intentional step into Native communities.

“We’ve always served Indigenous youth, but never in the way we are doing here at Friends of the Children – He Sapa," Fridia said. "It’s grounded in cultural life ways, the staff is indigenous, and culturally competent in understanding of the life ways and incorporating that in every level.”

Tribal leaders worked to ensure Friends of the Children would be a good addition to the community. Oglala Sioux Tribe Vice President Alicia Mousseau said it’s an important step.

“We also want to thank Friends of the Children for recognizing the potential and seeing the connection between our ways of living and ways of knowing, and the importance of relationships, and we’re really excited to carry that on with you all,” Mousseau said.

The He Sapa chapter’s executive director is Val Big Eagle. She said she's humbled by the support of the tribe.

“When non-profits come in, we just are a little wary, right? Making sure that they are here for the right reasons and doing things the right way and working with the community," Big Eagle said. "Not saying ‘hey this is what you need to do to heal yourselves,’ but asking the community ‘what do you need from us to make sure this can happen’ and ‘what healing practices would you like to see?'”

The chapter aims to support sixteen mentorships, open to Native or non-Native children. They will start working with young kids 4 or 6 years old, and continue through high school.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture