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Rising Above: Highlights from an Interview with Dr. Clayton Small

In our work, we get to work with legends, and we recently met with Dr. Clayton Small (Northern Cheyenne) to talk about his work on the Intergenerational Connections Project (ICP). AKA was privileged to evaluate the project and work alongside four communities over a five-year period.

Here are some highlights from the podcast and paper.

Using culture as the framework

to address stress, trauma, and difficulties, the ICP approach includes peer mentoring, youth helping youth, and adults helping adults. During this five-year project with ANA, we were given the opportunity to bring in elders to spend time with our youth. We built in visiting sacred sites and facilitating opportunities for youth to participate in ceremonies and rites of passage.

Rising Above COVID-19 with Culture-based Programming

COVID-19 impacts were evident, we documented significant grief, loss, decreased physical activity, and depression.

We gathered together with AKA’s help and started bringing our partners together, we had virtual planning sessions, and we figured out that we could do this. It’s difficult to support communities, they are rural, and we made it with, good planning, imagination, and ideas. We provided a platform for youth and communities to persevere when crisis situations come up.

Little Wound School is a good example on the Pine Ridge Reservation of SD. They have a therapeutic model, with mental health and cultural prevention specialists in the schools. Their school board and school administrators are very active and supportive. Little Wound School uses culture and spirituality …they are a trauma-informed school. It’s a readiness level, where schools and communities are ready for the work. We know some communities do not get there.

How were cultural activities adapted in communities during COVID-19?

A good example of moving forward with virtual activities… Little Wound School had their youth council put together a program where youth did sacred site visits virtually. They took people on seven sacred sites virtually and put together assignments for the students. Students wrote a narrative and presented the information in person, with elders, and at the annual powwow. The video they put together was just fabulous. It was really well received by the community. They did this virtually; this is a really good example of how you can be creative.

It is important to publish this work. In Indian Country, we have always known that our ceremonies and rituals are our greatest source of strength. We have been able to use our five-year project as a way to demonstrate the power of our native culture, ceremonies, and kinship… we can now say factually that this is the framework, strength in cultural resilience, using elders, this is the most effective approach. Federal and state governments are now recognizing this. We have to show in a research format that this is an effective approach, with the help of AKA.

What we are doing works. We need to do more of it. – Clayton Small



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