Lakota Honey Lodge products are developed by Honey Lodge Youth Enterprise, a program of the non-profit organization Lakota Youth Development (LYD). The organization is located on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota and presently includes all of Todd County within its recognized border.
Todd County ranks as the second poorest county in the U.S. and the unemployment rate is more than 80 percent due to lack of opportunity. In 2011, the Mato Tasunka Wakinyan Okolakiciye, or Bear Horse Thunder Youth Society, was founded to address unemployment challenges in Lakota youth.
Lakota Youth Development (LYD) was facing funding challenges during this time as well, so the group turned to their own youth to come up with a solution to these problems.
Since 2011, the Bear Horse Thunder Youth Society has grown to more than 20 members ranging in age from 12 to 25 years. Each member is a key stakeholder in the business, and according to the website, their purpose is “to empower each other and other youth through ongoing awareness and promotion of Lakota culture.”
Soon the group began to realize they needed to set their sights beyond traditional fundraising methods such as bake sales and raffles. The Youth Society began to discuss the idea of starting a business to fund programming. They wanted to develop their own social enterprise that both reflected the work members were interested in and supported the activities they desired. Out of these discussions, the Youth Society, with Lakota Youth Development’s consensus, came up with three feasible business ideas: Cultural Tourism, Beekeeping and honey sales and medicinal herb sales.
All members of the Youth Society participate in the social enterprises and apprenticeships are available for members ages 16 to 24. Participants get the opportunity to discover vital skills of business and service alongside professional staff, mentors and Elder advisors.
Although all members are involved in these enterprises, apprentices are assigned additional responsibilities and duties to gain skills in writing, computer and media technology and fiscal management. These apprenticeships last 18 months and require hands-on work and guidance from seasoned mentors within the organization. Learn more about the program at https://www.lakotahoneylodge.org/about-us.
For a limited time, SweetGrass is offering pint-sized bottles of the Lakota Honey Lodge raw honey. The business is certified by American Indian Foods (AIF), a program led by the Intertribal Ag Council. According to the AIF website, “the partnership was developed as a platform for American Indian food businesses to showcase their products and share Tribal cultures with the world.”