He Sapa Voter Initiative: Meals for Relatives – COVID-19 Relief Program

He Sapa Voter Initiative: Meals for Relatives - Covid-19 Relief program
The He Sapa Voter Initiative's Meals for Relatives – COVID-19 Relief Community Response collects donation and provides traditional homemade meals to families and individuals who are stuck at home in Rapid City (Mni Luzahan), South Dakota.

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Watch a short video version of the below article by Karla LaRive. Learn how to support the He Sapa Voter Initiative by reaching out to director Natalie Stites at [email protected].

As a winter cold front drops temperatures to single digits across the Great Plains, South Dakota’s COVID-19 infection rate has spiked to over 16,000 active cases this week. South Dakota has 885,000 people and now one out of 54 people have the virus here. Many Native American reservations have checkpoints and mandatory lockdowns have created increased food prices and supply shortages for essential needs. This makes difficult conditions for families and people that may be affected by the virus. 

American Bison endures the cold temperatures of South Dakota winters in Wind Cave National Park. Photo from Karla LaRive.

However, one non-profit organization is making a difference in Rapid City.  The He Sapa Voter Initiative’s Meals for Relatives – COVID-19 Relief Community Response collects donation funds and provides traditional homemade meals to families and individuals who are stuck at home. Many families must separate and isolate from their loved ones, but the program also provides aid packages with traditional medicines, cleaning supplies and PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) to families and local communities in Rapid City, as well as help solve problems of those suffering in the area.

Meals for Relatives – COVID-19 Relief Community Response Volunteers

“Whether unhoused, transitional, renters, or homeowners, all people need to eat every day. Calories and nutrition matter to survive and heal from any illness, but especially COVID-19. For this reason, we gift far-from-free meals to families and individuals trying to survive COVID-19 the flexibility of our crowd raising efforts has meant that we have been able to respond quickly with meals, groceries, supplies and medicines for isolated or quarantined people since May 10th of this year. We have also provided information on COVID-19, Census 2020 and the importance of voting. Whether donating or writing from your computer across the country or physically here in the middle of Rapid City, there’s many roles for anyone interested in supporting this good medicine for the people.”  -He Sapa Voter Initiative, Meals for Relatives – COVID-19 Relief Community Response.

Traditional squash. (Photo by Karla LaRive)

Meals for Relatives – COVID-19 Relief Community Response has distributed 4550+ meals. 450+ people have been helped and 112 households have been given groceries, aid or meals. The organizers have distributed 12,000+ free masks to Rapid City including, North Middle School students. The organization and its volunteers had hoped they would not still be doing this in October, however they are prepared nonetheless for the Native communities here in the Black Hills region. 

Director, Natalie Stites Means (Photo courtesy by Karla R. LaRive)

The He Sapa Voter Initiative / Wakanyeja Okiciyapi is based in the sacred He Sapa (Black Hills of South Dakota) and is sponsored by the NDN Collective, an emerging non-profit organization established by director, Natalie Stites Means. The organization’s first project was the He Sapa Voter Initiative, a civic engagement effort for urban Indians in Rapid City, South Dakota. By addressing issues like justice reform, child welfare or protecting mother earth, the Initiative hopes to increase engagement and protect voting rights for urban Lakota and other Indigenous peoples throughout the city and region.

The He Sapa Voter Initiative is supported in part by the Indigenous Environmental Network, National Urban Indian Family Coalition, First Nations Development Institute, Decolonizing Wealth, NDNCollective and hundreds of generous volunteers through donations, in-kind and daily sweat equity!

Support Lakota Families! Here are ways to donate:

Contact Information: 

He Sapa Voter Initiative

Natalie Stites Means, Director

317 Main Street, #1
Rapid City, South Dakota 57701


For more on Indigenous Foods, Herbs and Cookbooks:
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The Sioux Chefs’s, Indigenous Kitchen

The Sioux Chef’s, Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley is the Winner of the 2018 James Beard Award for “Best American Cookbook”. It is a rich education and delectable introduction to modern indigenous cuisine of the Dakota and Minnesota territories.  

American Indian Healing Arts; Herbs, Rituals and Remedies for every season of Life
American Indian Healing Arts; Herbs, Rituals and Remedies for every season of Life

American Indian Healing Arts is a magical blend of plant lore, history, and living tradition that draws on a lifetime of study with native healers by herbalist ethnobotanist E. Barrie Kavasch. The book also offers recipes for herbal remedies and massage oils.

About the Author and Photographer: A long-time advocate for preserving the legacy of wild horses, Karla LaRive comes to the CANA Foundation with a background in photography, communications and marketing.

Her production company, PK Productions, LLC was founded in 2006 with a focus in media production, music management and cultural awareness. In 2015, PK Productions LLC was nominated for a Grammy (NARAS) for “Best Regional Roots Album” as Producer on GENERATIONS featuring Windwalker and the MCW. Her company has also won two Native American Music Awards (NAMA) in addition to other memorable music nominations… More on Karla.

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