Funding Rural | Episode 4 | ikčé wíŋyaŋ/Common Woman with Julie Garreau

Julie Garreau (enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe) embodies servant-leadership as the founder and executive director of the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte, SD. She talks about engaging young people – and how a grassroots organization needs investment to support community. Where many only hear stories of challenges and despair, Garreau elevates the stories of resilience.

“There’s a phrase called ikčé wíŋyaŋ, which means common woman, and that’s really the kind of leadership that I work to really help my staff to understand that concept. It’s not about the western model of leadership where I’m up here and you’re down here. My idea is that we’re all working for our families and our relatives and we’re on the same plane.” —Julie Garreau

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More about Julie Garreau

Julie Garreau
An enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Julie Garreau (Lakota name Wičhaȟpi Epatȟaŋ Wiŋ / Touches the Stars Woman) is chief executive officer of the nonprofit Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. Since 1988, she has overseen CRYP’s evolution from a small youth center to a 5-acre campus that includes youth and teen centers, arts and culture institute, art park, garden, and social enterprises. In addition to completing several high-profile fellowships over the years, Julie has been recognized with such prestigious awards as the Bush Prize for Innovation, Spirit of Dakota Award, Presidential Points of Light Award, Tim Wapato Public Advocate of the Year Award, and Americans for the Arts’ Selena Roberts Ottum Award for Arts Leadership.

“We’re so accustomed to extractive sorts of behavior, I think it’s reasonable to say trust is an issue. So let’s work at creating a relationship of trust. I think, for me, that’s what seems to work. I don’t think I look at people like, ‘What can you give me? I think I look at people like, ‘How can we come together to build this community, lift up this community, lift up our kids? And can you help me do that?’” —Julie Garreau

Discussion Questions

  • What does it mean to be a servant leader? Can you be a servant leader in philanthropy?
  • What roadblocks can you remove so your organization can make funding possible in Indigenous communities? What roadblocks can you remove within your own organization to make more funding available and accessible for Indigenous-led or Indigenous-serving programs and projects?
  • How does your organization share opportunities or work with Tribal Nations or other Indigenous serving projects? What does relationship building look like in your organization?
  • Julie talks about funders coming to visit her. How does your organization manage site visits? Are they after an application is submitted? Why is that?



“I have kids who talk about, I want to do your job when I grow up, and I’m like, please hurry.”—Julie Garreau

Transcript: Funding Rural Episode 3 “ikčé wíŋyaŋ/Common Woman” with Julie Garreau

Erin Borla 0:10

You’re listening to Funding Rural. I’m Erin Borla Borla with the Sisters, Oregon based Roundhouse Foundation. Here at Roundhouse, we focus our philanthropy on rural communities. When we expanded our funding footprint statewide, it was important to us to name the fact that we were committed to working alongside federally recognized sovereign nations and historic bands of Indigenous people. What we didn’t realize was how little philanthropic support Indigenous communities and projects received. Less than half of 1% nationwide. There are 574 Tribal Nations in the United States, and of those 326 reservations, many of which are rural. Take the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. It’s a large reservation, and Eagle Butte is the largest community with just over 1,200 people. But it’s the only place within several hours drive where people have access to services, grocery stores, health care, education and youth programs. Roughly half the population of the Reservation is under the age of 18. Today I want to share a conversation I had with Julie Garreau. She’s the Executive Director of the Cheyenne River Youth Project, which she’s built and led for the past 35 years. It’s been our honor to work with her. In fact, CRYP is one of the few projects that Roundhouse funds outside of Oregon. Julie is doing so much for her community, and she has a lot to teach the philanthropic world about how to show up right in Native American communities. She’s the perfect example of a servant leader. We started our conversation about her journey building the Cheyenne River Youth Project.

Julie Garreau -1:41

So yeah, we had some very simple beginnings, I think. And I love the fact that, you know, we existed in this old bar called the Little Brown Jug. Tribal government purchased it, gave it to us to use it as a youth center. And we did that for 12 years. And we built our first building in ‘99 our first new building, we did another building in 2006, for our teenagers. We have a two and a half acre organic garden or naturally grown garden, I should be specific. And then we also have a three half acre Art Park, but within all those spaces, and in the end this whole entire like it’s a five acre campus at this point, but you know, within all those spaces, within the buildings are just spaces to help kids grow and learn and be safe and have fun and be with great role models. So we do some really cool things, I think, with internships and fellowships, you know, we have a strong social enterprise component. So we have like a cafe and coffee shop, we’re trying to get our food truck off the ground, some of that all got left behind when, when the pandemic arrives. So we’re still a little bit of that we’re still recovering, but kids are back there, they’re back to you know, kids everywhere. And that’s a great thing. So we’re a pretty happening kind of youth organization. And the most beautiful part is that we are a nonprofit that really had the most simple beginnings, the most wonderful beginnings. And our story, I think is inspirational. But it we’re also very sovereign. You know, we’re an organization that built itself for our community, for our kids. And, you know, we make the decisions that are right for our communities. So that’s one of the most important things is sovereignty. And so as a nation, I think as individuals, but as an organization, so that we can shape and shift and do the things that we need to do. And the best part is that we’ve been really good at building relationships with folks that really understand that need and that desire and, and the fact that it is, you know, when you talk about best practices, I think that is the best practice, you know that communities are allowed to do the work that’s best for themselves and make those decisions. So that’s a little bit of history about the Cheyenne River Youth Project. So it’s a pretty beautiful place.

Erin Borla- 4:10

You came home from college, and you were in your early 20’s. And you were like, this is what I’m just going to start this organization, which is what we see in a lot of rural spaces is people see a need for something and they just figure out how to do it. So talk about your journey on that space.

Julie Garreau- 4:27

Well, it’s interesting, because the building was there. The organization was born after I got involved, and I still remember exactly. We were trying to come up with the name for the organization and we settled on Cheyenne River Youth Project. I remember asking one of the kids, like can you create the logo for us? So that logo was actually designed by one of our 13 year old kids and of course, we’ve kind of cleaned it up a little bit, but that is the original, and that’s somewhere I think I have that original drawing somewhere.So that came and you know I didn’t really know much about nonprofits or youth programming, but I, what I found out is I really liked the kids. And then I thought, you know, there really wasn’t anything happening here for the kids. So, you know, I just started simple, I did what I could and did what I knew, and, you know, did arts and crafts, I played, you know, games with them, ping pong with them. And I had kids, I just had so many kids, I remember, I remember days, being at the Youth Center, and you know, there’d be me and 75 kids just in this little small space. So, you know, but that was important, because that’s when I started building relationships with them. And when I built relationships with them, I started to figure out from them, because of how they engage with me, because of how their behavior was, because of, you know, all of that my, my relationship with them really inspired me to go on to the next step. And the next step, and the next step. You know, kids are amazingly communicative, maybe not the way that I think adults would like them to be. But if you’re really listening to them, they will tell you everything you need to know. And, you know, whether it’s through a behavior or whether it’s through, you know, some, some action, where they’re showing their frustration, if you pay attention to it, they’re telling you, you know, what is bothering me, what is hurting me, what, what do I want to do differently. So, you know, in our current state, you know, we have spaces and we have supplies, and we have a lot of things happening. But, you know, we still do business the same way, which is, we pay attention to the kids. And the same thing happens some days, the kids come they’re in incredible moods, great, they’re the most loveliest child. And some days they come the next day, it might be in there, you know, they’re just in a foul mood, they’re cranky, or maybe they’re hurting or they’re sad. And we pay attention to that, you know, and we say, Okay, well, you know, so let’s say we plan to do plaster Paris and painting for the day, well, kids show up, and they’re just not interested in that. Okay, we can adapt to that. And we want to have them, the biggest thing is we want them to engage, and we want to engage them on their terms. So I think that’s always been the beautiful part about CRYP, we’re still a drop in center, there’s no membership to come. I find that there is like a core group of kids who tend to come for, you know, extended periods of time, but you know, kids come and go on their own. We have the teens, that youth center for ages four to 12, the teen center for 13 to 18 year olds. And again, like I said, within those buildings, there are certain spaces for, you know, learning and creativity, fun, meals, all of that takes place. And so, again, like we’re doing a lot, 35 years later, but what we’re doing is really just program youth youth programming, youth development and youth development is, I don’t think it’s that difficult. I think what it is, is just really listening to kids and paying attention to what they want. But also one of the things that’s really important for us is that we are all tribal members. So we know our community, these are our relatives, these are, you know, our families of friends and people we’ve known forever. I mean, that is the most important piece to this whole thing is that we, we remember where they’re coming from and where we came from. So it keeps us really centered. I think it keeps us balanced. So you know, if I have to clean the bathrooms, I love that, I think it’s exactly what we should be doing. You know, I might be an Executive Director, but I think cleaning the toilets and sweeping and wiping floors and cooking for kids are just great reminders of what the organization needs, what our kids need. And it just shows you other staff like no, we all do this, we’re all a part of it. None of us outgrows it, or we’re too good for it, or that’s something I used to do. Like I think it’s really important. And I find it across the board elsewhere to where I see leadership becomes like, oh, I don’t do that anymore. When I think it’s the most important thing that we can do for ourselves. But for us, the people that we serve, you know, serve someone a meal, and be reminded of where they come from and see the gratitude in their face, you know, wrap presents for a child and watch them open it there’s nothing, there’s nothing grander than that. So I love that in terms of my leadership. You know, there’s a phrase called ikčé wíŋyaŋ, which means just common woman, and that’s really the kind of leadership that I work to really help my staff to understand that concept. It’s not about, like, the western model of leadership where I’m up here, you’re down here. My idea is that like we’re all working for our families and our relatives and we’re all on the same, we’re on the same plane. And, you know, I have kids who talk about, like, I want to do your job. When I grow up and I’m like, please hurry. Please hurry up, I’m ready. I’m ready for you to do it. So, you know, that’s, I think the beauty of organizations like CRYP is like, we really are trying to embrace our, our indigenous, you know, history, our Lakota, you know are, where we, where we come from? I was, I will say the 35 years is interesting, because at this stage, you know, I think we are known by quite a few people. We’ve had volunteers from all over the world, we have a couple of generations of kids that have come through us. Yeah, I’m really, I really love the kids. And some of them are, you know, come from really tough situations, and sometimes tough decisions have to be made. But, you know, I think that’s youth work, too. You know, I don’t, I think there are a lot of people who think, well, we should feel sorry for these kids. And I’m like, don’t do that, you know, they are completely capable, they are brilliant, they’re amazing, they have some challenges ahead. There’s no doubt. And then we just have to give them as many of the resources that we possibly can. So I think we’re trying.

Erin Borla- 11:17
Something that I find a lot of value in and people ask us frequently, you know, in philanthropy, well, how do you find the organizations that you fund and how do you work with those? And my short answer is we pick up the phone, and my longer answer is go volunteer, go participate, go see what that looks like. And that concept sometimes can be really foreign to people to be like, what do you what? So tell me a little bit about I mean, you’re obviously fundraising, like you’re, you consistently have to fundraise. You’re a nonprofit entity. So how is your relationship with philanthropy changed? What’s been successful? Let’s, let’s load that question as much as we can. Right?

Julie Garreau- 11:54

Yeah. So I think, you know, when I think back to the very beginning, you know, I didn’t gage, I think when I got involved with the youth project, I wasn’t thinking about all the stuff that comes with it. You know, I just knew that somehow we had to survive. And at the time, you know, not having a lot, I think that’s something that we were very accustomed to, you know, just growing up in an impoverished area. But it also made us very resourceful. And it made me very resourceful. I mean, there were, you know, when we started, we had no budgets, like, you know, two rolls of quarters, maybe. And then, you know, I always tell everybody I said, and then somebody stole the two quart rolls of quarters, then I was back to square one. But we always knew we had to raise money to survive. So you know, we did what I would call the banana bread phenomenon. I said, if I ever wrote a book that was going to be a name of the chapter in the book, because we made banana bread loaves and loaves and loaves and loaves of it. The local grocery store used to give us their bananas when they were ripe. So we would bake, and bake, and bake, we would sell it. And, you know, same with taco sales, that’s how we made money to do what we had to do. But the lesson there, which I didn’t know until later on, was that, you know, grants can come, they will give you funding for specific things. And at the time, I think philanthropy was very different. And some of it’s still like that today. But they were very, like, demanding and reporting and wanting to, you know, they were very heavy in the reporting and documenting and that kind of thing. So, a lot of times, I would not apply if it was too overwhelming for me, because I though, I don’t really know how many get to that. I don’t know how I’m gonna do that. So the lesson was that we had to have a diverse, you know, financial situation. We had to raise money to do these things that a grant necessarily wouldn’t allow us to do. If we applied for grants, because I had no experience in it, it was kind of daunting when you looked at the application process. You know, that was just kind of a world that I had never been in and didn’t expect to be. So, when I would visit with them, sometimes I think, wow, that’s a lot, you know, for. And I just felt Wow, that’s, it, it was, it was, it was like they’re making it really difficult to get the funding when the whole purpose was to give away the money. But it was really hard to get it. You know, for us, you know, in the early days. I think philanthropy has changed to some degree now, where I think they’re, I don’t know if I call it a trend, but I would definitely say that, I think foundations are and people who have money to give are beginning to realize that we should be more trust based. We should have less touch on these grants so that people can actually do the work because in the end, we’re nonprofits. We don’t have a full range of full staff that has a task to do every single thing. So you know, like, a lot of times I’m not at my desk, because I’m out helping them do something else, because we got to figure that out. And then eventually then I might have to stay late so I can get this done. So I think that that was the reality. And I also, because I came from an impoverished community, it was also really difficult in my mind, because I felt like people would think something if I was asking for money, that somehow they would think less than me like I’m just a poor person, or like, I had to find a way to, to reconcile that for myself. So eventually, I realized as time went by, I realized that, okay, this is what I know how to do, this is what I can do. And this is what I should do now, which is that I work to build relationships with people. So they get to know me, they get to know CRYP, but that I didn’t know that in the very beginning, I didn’t understand like this whole philanthropic world. And now, you know, when I talked to my staff, this is all about building relationships, and sharing and, and some people will be interested in some will not. I, yeah, even in this, like it was even within the last couple of years I’ve encountered, you know, folks who are, I would say somewhat disrespectful, have been disrespectful to me. And it doesn’t have to be that way. Nothing has to be like that. And, and I just think, well, I’m so grateful that wasn’t my staff, or I’m so grateful that wasn’t my kids. I’m a grown up, I can handle it, I can deal with it. But, you know, there’s just there’s no reason for it in this world, you know. The term philanthropy itself, you know, it kind of makes you go like, why are we doing this? Why? Why is it like that, you know, and I think there are those who still kind of don’t understand what their role is in philanthropy, in working with folks. But I will say like, I’ve met some amazing, amazing funders, amazing partners, people who are welcoming and wonderful, and they want you to, you know, help you find a way to get the grant or get the funding, they just want to know a little bit about you. And that’s been pretty uplifting in itself and encouraging. So, you know, the, I would say, there’s more of that than there is of the other, but that other stuff still would kind of exist.

Erin Borla-17:24

Yeah. So as people sort of touching on that, want that, want to get to know organizations, especially those that maybe they are further disconnected from, whether they’re rural or indigenous or just far from, from their traditional portfolio. What advice would you have for them to, to how do they make that call? How do they show up in a way that feels good.

Julie Garreau-17:47

You know, we’ve had this summer, we had quite a few visitors to see our YP. And, you know, you start with a phone call and say, you know, we’ve heard some great things about you, or someone recommended, you know, that we reach out to the Cheyenne River Youth Project, and we’re very interested in that. And, you know, we were wondering if we could come for a visit, and I encourage visits, I absolutely love site visits. Because I think that’s when, well, number one you show you’re really interested. Number two, I think that you get to know me and my staff, and you see our space, and you really like, it’s that, it’s that phrase, seeing is believing. So you know, if you really want to, you know, work with us or create a partnership, I think you just kind of like, kind of put yourself out there. Be a little bit vulnerable and say, you know, we’ve heard good things about you. You know, we’d love to, I mean, I think about like, our relationship, you know, and I even have relationships with people who don’t fund us, but we still meet every, like, three months or so just to catch up and to talk. I’m kinda like you and I do we just connected and it’s kind of great. So, you know, that’s even, I think, a really beautiful part of like, what my job is, is that I’ve met incredibly wonderful, generous people, but it doesn’t necessarily refer to the funding aspect of it. It’s just that you know, I can call them we can talk you give me ideas, maybe encourage me, maybe I do the same for you. That’s what I mean about relationships is like, that’s, that’s really important. And everything that else comes with that is, is great. But I really do feel like the relationship is so most important, but, you know, I think people have to just kind of put themselves out there just a little bit, you know, especially when you think about like in our community and you think about the relationship, like say to the federal government or with other agencies and the history of Native people. There is a mistrust that exists and rightfully so. So you know, when people come into the community that are not from here, I would say a lot of times, it’s not about, well, we just want to be friends. A lot of times, it’s maybe you know, somebody’s coming to repossess a car, or maybe it’s a bill collector, or maybe it’s, you know, coming to, to some put some authority, you know, ruling in place, or it’s not necessarily to build these long term relationships. And I think that’s, I think it’s fair to say that people don’t naturally just automatically trust. So when you say, Julie, I’ve heard great things about the Cheyenne River Youth Project, we’d love to come and visit you. And I say, okay, that would be great. That’s what I do. That’s what I do, is that I would love to so like this summer, we had, one day, we had three different foundations came to visit the week before we had one. And then we had like a state agency come through. And then we had, so we had the way it was a lot of visits this summer. And it was amazing. It was great. You know, we could share, we could tell our story. Especially when you have time, you come here, and you have the time, not where it’s like, hey, we have 45 minutes, and then we gotta go. You know, come here, and honor, you know, honor, the time that it took to get here. Honor the people that you’re coming to see. We certainly will honor you with our time. So it’s again, it’s about relationships, and, and I think it’s a desire to have a relationship. Like, that’s what you’re saying, when you make that call, and you make that visit, you’re saying, Hey, I think we’d like to, we’d like to talk with you, we’d like to do more with you. So I think that’s just the beginning, you know, and that’s, I don’t think that’s any different or, and the way it should be outside the reservation boundaries, it should be like that even in non rural communities. I think it’s about building relationships, and not just like, we’re so accustomed to extractive sorts of behavior. I think it’s reasonable to say it’s trust is an issue. So let’s, let’s work at creating a relationship of trust. I think, for me, that’s what seems to work. You know, I don’t think I look at people like what you can give me I’m like, I think I look at people like, like, how can we come together to like, you know, build this community, lift up this community, lift up our kids? And can you help me do that? I think that’s kind of how I see things and, you know, just allowing me to be, you know, allowing CRYP and allowing us to do the work that, you know, we are we are supposed to be doing that’s, that’s trusting us, you know, and I think people need to let go of some bias that they might have towards, you know, indigenous folks or brown folks or rural folks. I think they’re, you know, I don’t know how you make that, except that you have to kind of think step outside yourself for just a little bit. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised that there are people who do amazing work, very competent work very, you know, they’re good, wonderful people. And it’s just a matter of like, kind of just trusting. Yeah, and I love that. I love that, that that’s more of what’s happening. Probably not enough. But you know, I say to like, when if you were to ask me, like, what would you say to a foundation, like, just try it once. Just try it. If it doesn’t work out, then you don’t have to go back to that plan again, but just try it once. And I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how amazing people are.

Erin Borla- 23:56

Well, and I love that you’d bring back you talk about values a lot when you’re talking about with your staff, and with your young people they’re in at CRYP participating. And I think there’s this, we forget that the values alignment is the same regardless of where you’re at, like we can, we can talk about value and values within organizations. And we’ll see that were very similar, right, about hard work and loyalty and community engagement and lifting up young people’s voices. Those are those are strongly held values, regardless of where you’re at. And so, like taking that bias piece away and going, hey, maybe maybe we can humanize this just a little bit more. I think we’re pretty similar.

Julie Garreau 24:40
Yeah, no, I agree. I mean, I think that I think to like, getting to know you, and just it also supports how I think like, everybody’s just people. Like, you know, we’re just all like humans trying to do the best job we possibly can. And like when I meet people like you and it’s just so encouraging, I’m like, it’s just, it doesn’t have to be this like really tightly wound kind of culture. It can, it can be friendly. It can be compassionate, it can be kind, it can have those elements. I mean, after all, that’s philanthropy, right? Isn’t that supposed to be embedded in that? Like, we’re supposed to be caring for other people? So you know, it can be that. Organizations that have to, I think, have that conversation about, like, who are we? Do we really want this? Do we really want to change? What’s happening in the world? And if you do, then I think the natural thing is like, okay, we’re going to trust a little bit, and we’re going to, we’re going to let people do the work they’re going to do. And then you know, when there’s a reporting due and I’ve, I’ve had two or three foundations now where the reporting was conversations with me. That was it. And they took the notes. {Yeah.} How amazing is that?

Erin Borla 25:58 Well, and it’s super great, because they get to talk to you, that’s even the best part.

Julie Garreau- 26:02
Thank you, you know. And I know a lot of them, they’re like, they want to know evaluations, and they know what to do all that stuff. But I think people also have to understand that systems to evaluate and getting it is again, like it’s a heavy burden for nonprofits. Because a lot of times you have to have a tracking system, and that’s expensive, then you have to hire somebody to write the program. And then you have to do all these things. And I just think you got to have the money for that, you know, you have to have, or the staff to just do that only. So, you know, I think it’s kind of nice when an organization says, let’s just be real. This is, this is a situation that these nonprofits are in. Let’s support them in that or, you know, lately, I’ve seen a trend with foundations that are offering, like webinars to help with capacity building, I think that’s beautiful. I really recently encountered a group that funds us, that actually provided the consultants to help us in an area that we needed support, but they paid for the consultant. That was a kind of a really cool new thing for me, an amazing support system. So you know, I think people are growing and learning. And that just takes time, some time. But I’ve seen some good things coming out of the philanthropic world. And let’s hope that change, or that trend continues, I’m hoping.

Erin Borla -27:28
Yeah, well, thank you so much for spending time today, thank you for doing the work that you’re doing. I know our paths will cross again, I’m just hopeful. At some point, we’ll get you here to Oregon, it’d be great to have you out this way.

Julie Garreau 27:41
It’d be fun, I would love it, I think I’m ready to go back to traveling a little bit more, a little hard, because I have two dogs, but I’m trying to figure all that out now. So, but, I appreciate you very much. Thank you.

Erin Borla 27:58
Well, thanks for listening to that conversation with Julie and I. I just think she’s brilliant and has so many wonderful insights. And truly I know I mentioned before, that she’s this example of a servant leader, but really willing to get get dirty and get in there and, and just be a part of everything. And it’s such a gift to her community and what she’s done for Indian country. You know, working with indigenous communities is challenging for philanthropy. It’s a, it’s a unique experience and can sometimes be really difficult. And I think that’s why we see such a small percentage of funding across the country, going to indigenous lead or indigenous serving projects. When Roundhouse started this work, we reached out to partners who had relationships already in native communities and asked how to begin, so we didn’t screw it up. Ultimately, they all said the same thing. Get ready, you’re gonna screw it up. But just show up authentically and with your whole heart. And you can really do the work. So that’s how we’ve really put those pieces together and allowed us to start building those relationships. We have some great information on our website that we’ve pulled together about how we began building relationships in native communities across our region. A lot of that is showing up in community, showing up on the reservation, going to events, listening, but, but more than listening. Being an active participant and sharing about ourselves authentically. Storytelling is so key as we start to build relationships. I think also looking at the measurement of time beyond the grant cycle. It’s not just an annual meeting, we don’t meet once a year and say, okay, how did it go. But trying to think beyond that annual timeline. I think it’s coming up with a plan together in community. Following through, that’s a big piece as well. And what has been most helpful for me, in working with our indigenous partners and advisors is leaving space for mistakes, asking for grace, recognizing that we are going to step in it, every once in a while and knowing that, that’s okay to make mistakes. But as long as you own it and come back to it, let’s build that trust together. Other partners that we leaned on Native Americans in Philanthropy is a great philanthropy serving organization. Portland State University has a certificate in tribal relations dedicated to government to government relationships. And that’s been really helpful as well. Thanks again for listening to Funding Rural. You can check out show notes, all sorts of other information, as well as great other transcripts and things from this particular episode at

Published On: March 12th, 2024 / Categories: Funding Rural Podcast /