Food Revolution

Empowering Indigenous Youth: A Conversation with Marla Bull Bear of Lakota Youth Development

Food Revolution
Empowering Indigenous Youth: A Conversation with Marla Bull Bear of Lakota Youth Development

In this episode of Food Revolution, our host (& Director of the Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative), Matte Wilson, talks to Marla Bull Bear, Executive Director of Lakota Youth Development. Lakota Youth Development, or LYD, has been empowering Lakota youth by providing programming that reconnects them to their indigenous identity for the last fifteen ears. LYD provides youth with opportunities to learn about gardening, beekeeping, entrepreneurship, and more. You can learn more about their work at and support the program's youth entrepreneurs by purchasing honey and beeswax products at 

Full episode transcription available here

Enjoy listening to Food Revolution? Consider donating to the Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative to help us in our mission to build food sovereignty and a local foods economy to empower our tribal community through food! Donations are 501(c)3 tax deductible. 


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(Intro) Han Mitakuyapi, and welcome to Food Revolution, brought to you by the Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative. Every other week, we'll be bringing you stories of food sovereignty from community members and tribal food producers working to build a more just, equitable, and regenerative food system for our Sicangu Lakota Oyate- the Burnt Thigh Nation. Together, we're building tribal sovereignty through food, and we've set a place at the table just for you. Join us and be part of the Food Revolution.  

(Rooster crows)

(Matte) All right, welcome back to another week of the Food Revolution. While you’re listening, we have a favor to ask. The Food Sovereignty Initiative is currently doing surveys to help us understand the experience our community members have around food, so that we can work towards building a more inclusive and equitable food system where everyone has access to healthy and fresh local foods. Respondents will be entered into a drawing for cash prizes, with the chance to win up to $500. If you’re interested, head to our Facebook page, Sicangu Community Development Corporation, for more information and to access the surveys. And now, back to the show.

(You can access the survey here). 

Today we'll be talking with Marla Bull Bear. Marla, can you introduce yourself please? Tell us a little bit about yourself, and your background, and what you do.  

(Marla) Oh, Mitakuyapi, cante waste nape ciyuzapi ksto (All my relatives, I greet you with a warm heart and handshake). I'm Marla Bull Bear. I'm from the Milk’s Camp community, over here in Gregory County, part of the Rosebud and I have been the Executive Director for Lakota Youth Development, and I have been involved in our cultural, uh, culturally specific prevention program and our gardens and beekeeping and honey sales business.  

(Matte) Awesome. Can you tell us a little bit about how Lakota Youth Development started and how has the program evolved over time?  

(Marla) The organization started over twenty-eight years ago, as a federal grant or a state grant that I was invited to run to address, uh, psychiatric disabilities of tribal members in South Dakota. And that then expanded to people with all types of disabilities. We quickly found out that people with disabilities, there were a lot of young people with preventable disabilities as a result of alcohol, drugs, and other risky behavior. So we decided then we needed to switch lanes and really go upstream to try to address the situation before we had to deal with, uh, the, the permanent, uh, issues of disability. So we decided to become accredited through the state of South Dakota as a prevention service provider. And we utilize an evidence-based model… as our framework for our culturally specific programming and that we have been implementing for the last fifteen years. And through that we had users that have completed our program and then wanted some support once they re-establish their, their cultural foundation, their values, they wanted to learn how to be Lakota in the real world, particularly in the work environment. And so we looked into entrepreneurial experiences and we started our first business, which was Honey Lodge, beekeeping and honey sales. And as of right now, we've sold honey online to, I believe, nearly forty states in the lower forty-eight, over forty in the lower forty-eight.

(Matte) Wow. That's amazing. How'd you first get introduced into honey and apiaries? 

(Marla) Well, I've got to credit that to a colleague of mine and a friend. Dave Braveheart was a co-trainer that I was working with. We were doing trainings in Pine Ridge and other tribal, tribes with our prevention program and he's a hobby beekeeper, and we got to, he got a chance to talk to me about beekeeping and it sounded really fun and interesting. So I invited him to come to our youth program to share with that with kids and our youth, we're really excited about it and interested. And they found out that the bees were struggling and they wanted to know how they could help and his response was keep bees. And so there, there it began.  

(Matte) Awesome. Yeah, we used to have some bees as well. But I think our one hive swarmed last year, so we're hoping to try some more, some more bees out. But that's really awesome. I'm glad you guys are doing that. You guys’s honey is really amazing. We definitely love you guys’s honey. So, um, keep up the good work there. From, from your perspective, what role does Honey Lodge and Lakota Youth Development play in Rosebud’s food sovereignty movement?  

(Marla) Well, I think what it does is help to introduce food sovereignty issues to our younger generation, helping them to realize that, uh, for one, we live in a food desert and two, there is a lot that they can do to help, uh, create healthy foods and  minimize the processed foods in our diet. And so by having honey instead of white sugar and using that in our recipes, we're making our diets just a little bit healthier and we're also, and with gardening to grow your own and harvest your own edibles is really ensuring that you're not adding additional chemicals to your body. That can be detrimental. 

(Matte)  Yeah, definitely. Whenever we were out there, we got to see, um, your guys’s set up and your garden. But something new we've seen this year on your Facebook was that you guys put in a walipini. Can you talk more about that, how that process went and what a walipini is? 

(Marla) Yeah, for us, we call it our Maka Ohlate Owoju, planting in the earth, in the ground. And basically that's what it is. We have, utilized a natural hole, uh, creating a nine foot deep garden into the ground. And then we put a greenhouse roof over it so that we could, it could maximize access to the sun during the winter months. And we're able to grow all year round not just, uh, not just the regular gardening months, but we can, we were harvesting in January, lettuce and kale and spinach. One of the things that we, this is our first year, so it's our experimental year finding out what works and what doesn't. And we're realizing that there are some, some plants that don't thrive with the maximum amount of sun. You realize that during the winter months, we just don't have a lot of, a lot of sun. And especially when we have days, or it seems like weeks of, of cloudy days that kind of limits or slows the process of the growth process down of plants. So what we're seeing is that we're still getting carrots and radishes, but they're growing at a much slower pace than if they were growing in the summertime.  

(Matte) Hmm. That's fascinating. I think that's something that we want to try doing here at the Food Sovereignty Initiative as well, a walipini. So we're, we're pretty excited that you guys actually put in, put in one, um, this past year. So we'll definitely be looking to for some tips. Um, this is really exciting that you guys were able to do that. I remember a few years ago, you talked about wanting to put one in, so I'm glad you guys were able to do that.  

(Marla) Yeah, we we've, it was, has been a plan or a dream of ours for several years. And so this was the year. We actually had a lot of isolation time to be able to focus on improvements and on trying some new things. And we were really glad to have Paul with us, our volunteer from France. And we're, uh, he's just, we're just finishing up a documentary on, um, the whole process of curating, creating our Maka Ohlate Owoju. And so soon we'll have that documentary out, which really takes us, takes you, shows the, the process for beginning and how we created and, um, you know, established our new garden project.  

(Matte) Awesome. I'm excited to see that. Can’t wait for that to come out.   

(Marla) Yeah, we'll definitely be getting the word out once we're ready. It's going through some final edits right now. So I'm thinking maybe in the next week or two, we'll be ready to go. So, um, you'll have to watch for that. We'll definitely be putting it out on our website and our social media pages too.  

(Matte) How can our listeners help support Lakota Youth Development and where can we find your honey?  

(Marla) Oh, well, um, you can, anyone can support Lakota Youth Development by, um, making donations through our website and our social media pages. You can also, um, look on our list. We have an Amazon gift list. If there's something that we always have, items that we need either for our garden or for our bees or honey program, we try to put those up there. So if people want to, uh, go ahead and purchase those and send those as gifts, that's fantastic for us. Uh, we also, um, we also have, um, opportunities for people to come and volunteer and help. So if you have any questions at all, just don't hesitate to ask. So 605-654-2050 is our office number. And we'd be happy to discuss with anyone ways that they can pitch in and help. Um, our honey, we sell that, is our website.  

You can purchase our honey online. You can check out our social media page, our Honey Lodge Facebook page as well. We do online sales. And if you, and we also, um, work with groups to sell wholesale as well. So if you have, you know, a big order, we just filled a huge order with a foundation that wanted to send a little gift out to all their employees. And so honey, is a pretty good, pretty good gift. Tt lasts and for those of us that use it regularly in our tea and in our sweets, um, honey is always a good gift. And, as you know, honey lasts forever, so you don't have to worry about it going bad.  

(Matte) Awesome. Thank you so much, Marla. Um, I really appreciate you taking the time and talking to us today. So thank you for sharing all of the, you know, information about Lakota Youth Development and really excited to purchase some honey from you in the future. 

(Marla) That's great. And we just have our  youth camp dates are out on our websites. We just want to shout that out for kids, um, that want to come to our programming. Thank you. 

(Matte) Thanks.  

(Outro) You've been listening to Food Revolution with the Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative. Don't forget to follow us on Facebook at Sicangu Community Development Corporation, Instagram at Sicangu CDC, and check out our website, Thanks for tuning in, and we'll catch you next time in two weeks. 

Host: Matte Wilson

Produced by: Mairi Creedon

Brought to you by Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative of Food Revolution