The SEEDS Project-
Social Empowerment through
Economic Development Strategies
Honey Lodge Youth Enterprise is a Lakota Youth Development (LYD). This non-profit organization serves Rosebud Indian Reservation located in south central South Dakota, and presently includes within its recognized border all of Todd County. Todd County ranks as the second poorest county in the U.S. The unemployment rate is over 80% due to lack of opportunity. About 76% of the employed labor force on Rosebud lives below poverty level. About 58% of people under the age of 18 in Todd County live below poverty level (on and off reservation). Regarding lodging, about 29% of the people on the Rosebud Reservation are homeless and 59% live in substandard housing. About one-third of students on the Rosebud Reservation have a high school diploma. Sadly, the Rosebud Reservation is one of two reservations with the lowest life expectancy rate.
When Lakota Youth Development was facing lack of funding for youth programs and also looking at the unemployment challenges facing Lakota youth, they turned to their own youth members to participate in creating solutions. The Mato Tasunka Wakinyan Okolakiciye, Bear Horse Thunder Youth Society, was formed in 2011. This group has grown to over 20 members of both genders, ranging in age from 12 to 25 years. All members are key stakeholders and their purpose is to empower each other and other youth through awareness and promotion of Lakota culture. This work is on-going and continually growing.
Knowing that they needed to look beyond bake sales and raffles to fund their own activities, the Society began discussing actual business ideas that could fund programming to fit their needs and desires and not be beholden to the funding organization. The Society wanted to develop their own social enterprises that reflect work they are interested in and capable of doing to support activities they design and desire. Out of these discussions the Society, with LYD's consensus, came up with 3 realistic and feasible ideas: Cultural Tourism, Bee Keeping and honey sales, and a Medicinal Herb Trail and sales.
All members of the Society will participate in the development of these social enterprises and apprenticeships will be available to Society members ages 16 to 24. All participants will discover vital skills of business and service alongside seasoned staff, mentors, and Elder advisors and learn how to be good employees, how to run a bee/medicinal herbs/tourism business, and what it takes to sustain their Society activities.
Keeping sustainability in mind from the beginning, LYD will have members of the Society serving as apprentices for 18 months. Though all Society members will be involved in the enterprises, these apprentices will have added responsibilities and duties. The apprenticeship will provide the opportunity to gain skills in: writing, computer and media technology, and fiscal management. The training program will require hands on work while participants are teamed with experienced mentors from within the organization and its circle of partners.
The implementation team is made up of a board member/elder advisor, staff and youth society members. They work with community and statewide resources to develop and implement a business plan that includes becoming a local supplier so that interested youth and families can start their own Hobby bee project while providing honey for our camp programming and nurturing our environment.