Wakinyan Chief has joined the Cheyenne River Youth Project as full-time artistic director. In this role, Chief is responsible for overseeing programming at the non-profit community development organization’s Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Art Park and Institute.
According to General Manager Julie Garreau, the timing was perfect for Chief to join the CRYP team. Not only will RedCan’s 8th Annual Invitational Graffiti Jam take place July 6-9, 2022, but the youth project is moving forward with the construction of a new facility that will serve as a permanent home for the graffiti institute. art and its ever-expanding offerings for community members of all ages.
“We are thrilled to have Wakinyan with us,” Garreau said. “We look forward to working together on multi-disciplinary, community-based and culturally relevant programming for our institute and art park – initiatives that will strengthen the connection our youth and our community have with our Lakota culture and with each other.”
Waniyetu Wowapi Institute & Art Park currently incorporates CRYP’s Lakota Fellowship Program, Teen Art Internship Program, a free public art park, a variety of community workshops and special events, live performances, and the RedCan award-winning, which is the first and only graffiti jam in Indian Country.
A registered member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, Chief Wakinyan is of Mnicoujou and Hunkpapa descent. During the Indian Relocation Act, his Ate (father) was sent to California, where Chief was born and raised. While in California, he learned the art of graffiti, which inspired him to experiment with multiple disciplines, mediums and styles.
“When I was 23, I moved back to South Dakota to dedicate my life to the betterment of the Lakota people,” Chief said. “For about two years, I worked as a youth mentor with Generations Indigenous Ways, a year-round Lakota youth camp that strives to educate and empower Wakanyeja (little sacred ones) with the knowledge and skills that our ancestors possessed, incorporating these traditional methods and teachings with Western scientific methodology. I am proud that CRYP is currently working with GIWays to bring these camps to Cheyenne River, benefiting the Wakanyeja here.”
The Chief also worked with the Oglala Lakota Cultural and Economic Revitalization Initiative, which hosted the convergence of Indigenous wisdom and permaculture skills at Slim Buttes on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This annual event brings together permaculture experts and participants who want to learn Pine Ridge permaculture skills from around the world.
Over the years, Chief has participated in several art shows and graffiti jams, taught graffiti workshops, designed and sold his personal art, and worked as a commissioned artist. He continues to enjoy painting graffiti and creating multimedia art.