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Conscious Alliance continues the fight against hunger

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By Brandon Ecoffey

PINE RIDGE— One challenge facing families on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is finding nutritious and affordable sources of food. One non-profit fighting hunger on the reservation has secured funding to expand its operations.

Conscious Alliance, a Boulder, CO based nonprofit organization, has announced that it has secured funding for two initiatives that will help to address food insecurity issues for needy families on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The Cancega Woksape (Knowledge of the drum) program will be the first of the two initiatives that is set to continue on through next year.

The program will teach boys, ages 10 and up, the life skill of making their own hand drum. The project that is based in traditional Lakota practices will include a series of three-day camps where students will be taught how to harvest and carve a wooden frame, tan a deer/ elk hide, lace the hide over the frame, and paint their own design on the finished drum. Throughout the workshop students will be taught traditional Lakota songs and language.

“When the Lakota Hokshila (boy) prepares for the initiation ceremony into that of Koskalaka (young man), the teachings of the drum plays an important role in this ancient rites of passage.” stated Warren “Guss” Yellow Hair, an instructor with the program.

Conscious Alliance Field Director and Lakota Country Times staff writer, Natalie Hand, will work with facilitators Melvin Young Bear and Warren “Guss” Yellow Hair to designate four schools to benefit from the program intended to promote youth empowerment.

The second initiative that has recently secured funding will be an expansion of a community garden project that Conscious Alliance has already established at their headquarters located near Oglala.

The establishment of the garden is part of a larger project housed at the organization’s Food Sovereignty & Youth Empowerment Center, which opened last August in the Lakeside Community.

The organization currently has a similar program at the Pine Ridge School campus, which just recently celebrated its third growing season.

“Through the garden at Pine Ridge School, we facilitated classes and summer programs for youth during the last three growing seasons, and each year we have seen the teachers and staff’s commitment and interest in the Learning Garden grow. We are looking to expand this approach at our new center. We will use the garden to supply families with fresh vegetables, host workshops at the garden to teach families about the importance of fresh food, and how to grow their own.” stated Hand, in an email to Lakota Country Times.

Conscious Alliance built its first emergency food pantry on Pine Ridge in 2005 and has steadily expanded its operation to include a school meal back pack program and is expected to continue to grow. For more information on Conscious Alliance, visit their website at (Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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