The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) non-profit foundation TreadRight has announced a new partnership with Lakota Youth Development, a non-profit located on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Established in 1992, the grassroots organization’s mission is to reclaim Lakota language, culture and spirituality by promoting education and healthy lifestyles for youth through culturally based strategies. This support and empowerment of Indigenous youth is accomplished through programs that provide a safe drug- and alcohol-free environment and the opportunity to develop leadership and social skills. The environment created by Lakota Youth Development ensures participants can heal from past traumas and fear while building self-esteem and confidence.
As extensive as its youth development programs are, the organization takes this investment in the future of Indigenous youth one step further. Marla Bull Bear, the organization’s Founder and Executive Director has identified that tourism has a role in supporting cultural preservation.
Under her guidance, Trafalgar’s visit to Lakota Youth Development as a MAKE TRAVEL MATTER Experience was developed, which will be featured on its National Parks and Native Trails of the Dakota trip, launching in June 2022. Cultural heritage tourism experiences like this one, provided by Lakota Youth Development, offer guests the opportunity to experience Lakota culture while directly benefiting the community’s youth through training and paid apprenticeships.
This practical experience, supported by the TreadRight partnership, is the start of a pathway to the tourism sector, one that is not traditionally available to youth living in rural tribal communities.
Similar to the Pathways Project, a TreadRight partner aiming to increase BIPOC representation in the guided tour space, this initiative tackles the critical need for representation in travel experiences by addressing the root of the issue. By removing the barriers to entry into the travel industry for members of underrepresented communities, more room is made for authentic storytelling which in turn is a necessity for the preservation of cultural heritage and history.
Marla Bull Bear, Executive Director of Lakota Youth Development, said: “Our partnership offers Lakota youth the ability to gain skills that will help level the field for Indigenous cultural heritage tourism within Lakota Country.”
Shannon Guihan, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of TreadRight, observed:
“Those who benefit from the opportunity to travel will also appreciate that the stories of a place should be told by those who are of the same place.”
Guihan continued: “There’s no greater education than travel, so to be in the position to facilitate authentic engagement between visitors and the Rosebud Sioux’s Reservation is an opportunity we take seriously. It is, then, our responsibility to ensure the experiences we provide both reflect and benefit the communities who choose to host us, and without people like Marla Bull Bear and Lakota Youth Development, we simply would not be able to do that.”
Go to www.TreadRight.org for more.