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2017-03-08 / Top News

Honey bees on Rosebud Reservation

Youth entrepreneurs change narrative about reservation economics


Honey Lodge had a successful first season, selling over 1,400 pounds of honey. Honey Lodge had a successful first season, selling over 1,400 pounds of honey. HERRICK –– Native American Advocacy Program has just released a video documentary that introduces a dynamic group of Lakota youth entrepreneurs on the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Reservation.

The youth were seeking a sustainable way to support their nonprofit’s after-school and summer programs while creating a future job source and economic driver for youth in their community.

Their first venture is beekeeping and the subject of the short documentary video is about their journey while creating their first social enterprise, Honey Lodge. Their social enterprise model is helping to change the narrative about economic opportunity on the Rosebud Reservation.

These young entrepreneurs are members of Mato Tasunka Wakinyan Okolakiciye, Bear Horse Thunder Youth Society. The society has over 20 members of both genders and they range in age from 12- 25 years old. All members are key stakeholders in the social enterprise. Their purpose is to empower each other and other youth through awareness and promotion of Lakota culture while pursuing sustainable business practices. 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.

Honey Lodge is a unique social enterprise, conceived and operated by Bear Horse Thunder. This youth society volunteers to provide the personnel hours for Honey Lodge to function internally and externally as a social enterprise-led business. They are responsible for harvesting, processing and bottling of their honey products. When asked why they chose beekeeping as their first enterprise, one member said, “It’s our way to help grandmother earth and our plant relatives. Our bees are connected to everything in nature, they are our relatives and they need our help."

Honey Lodge had a successful first season, selling over 1400 pounds of honey through retail, wholesale, and online outlets. The youth are introducing new products in 2017 including lip balm, ointment and candles. The release of this video is timed with the introduction of Honey Lodge to broaden their market to concessionaires of the National Parks located in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.

Native American Advocacy Program (NAAP) is the parent program mentoring the youth society. NAAP was established in 1992 and is located on the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota. This statewide, non-profit, grassroots organization serves persons residing on and off the lands of the tribal nations in South Dakota. They advocate the belief that Native youth need to know their culture and have access to people, places, and environments that help them to develop healthy lifestyles, without alcohol, drugs, or violence. NAAP’s youth programs are designed to help the youth build a cultural identity based upon the traditional Lakota way of life. Says NAAP Board member Joseph Marshall III, “The Honey Lodge enterprise supports our overall mission by teaching independence, initiative, and good work ethic to accomplish goals."

The Honey Lodge video documentary was produced by Chris Hollis and Nikki Caputo of Wingspan Media Productions. Reporters can watch the video here or on the non-profit organization’s website, www.lakotahoneylodge.org. To learn more about Native American Advocacy Program: call Marla Bull Bear at 605-775-2147, or email mbullbear@lakotanaap.org. or visit the website at www.lakotanaap.org.

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