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Lakota YouthStay

Exploring and Expanding Horizons

Connecting 10 to 15-year-olds from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota with hosts in the Greater Boston area for 9 days of exploration and discovery, building friendships and engagement through shared activities of interest.

Joy Harris, the visionary founder and director of Lakota YouthStay, eloquently states, “Lakota YouthStay and One Spirit share a belief in and commitment to intercultural learning and engagement as a path towards mutual understanding, awareness, and a fuller appreciation of the beauty of Lakota history, culture, and contemporary life.”

Since 2012, volunteers from the greater Medford community in Massachusetts have participated in annual volunteer trips to the Pine Ridge Reservation, home to the Oglala Lakota, in South Dakota.

Through the years, volunteers have worked with numerous non-profit organizations there on building and other community projects at the request of and for the benefit of the Lakota people. In all of these experiences, volunteers have been honored to meet and develop friendships with people on the Pine Ridge reservation as well as visit a land of striking beauty with a vibrant Indigenous culture. As they learned about the rich history and culture of the Lakota people, the volunteers were deeply moved by the experience and returned to the Boston area as changed people—determined to do more to stand in solidarity with the people on the reservation. Out of the vision to share love, seek justice for all, several volunteers imagined ways to make the commitment to Pine Ridge “local” by building long-term, sustainable relationships that would support the young people of the reservation and bring the rich culture of the Lakota people to Boston. The Lakota YouthStay program is an outgrowth of that passion, dedication, commitment and hard work and is supported by many in the Boston area.

Learn more and view our gallery of past years by visiting


The Experience

The Lakota YouthStay program is dedicated to cultivating genuine, mutually fulfilling, and enduring connections between Native American youth from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and individuals in Eastern Massachusetts. Our aim is to inspire hope, foster an understanding of Lakota culture, and promote cultural awareness. Lakota YouthStay offers an immersive homestay experience, where Native youth and host families partake in a range of shared activities over an 8-day period in July.

This enriched program is designed to kindle a sense of hope in Lakota youth, encouraging them to continue their journey of learning, growth, and development towards reaching their full potential. Ideally, this experience will empower Lakota youth to envision a future where they can live creatively and productively on the Pine Ridge Reservation, contributing to the ongoing improvement of life in the community. In the greater Boston area, our objective is to provide participants with a chance to develop a broader and deeper appreciation and awareness of the rich history, culture, and current lives of Native Americans, fostering meaningful friendships with Lakota youth and their families.

The Lakota YouthStay Program spans ten days, including 2 travel days and 8 days in Boston. The Lakota youth group arrives late on Tuesday night and departs the following week on Thursday morning. The program involves engaging in shared group activities throughout the greater Boston/Eastern Massachusetts area, carefully selected to align with the unique interests of the Lakota youth attending each year. Participants stay with local host families, sharing breakfast and participating in various group experiences, as well as day trips tailored to enhance understanding of Lakota culture. The schedule is customized based on the individual interests of the youth, providing a personalized and enriching experience.

The Week

A sample YouthStay week:

  • Tuesday: travel day, airport pick-up, settle in

  • Wednesday: breakfast with host family,  photography class, group lunch, visit to aquarium, dinner with host family

  • Thursday: breakfast with host family, tour of Tufts University, trip to the beach, group pizza party

  • Friday: breakfast with hosts, visit to Spectacle Island, dinner with hosts

  • Saturday: breakfast with host family, spend day with host family

  • Sunday: breakfast with host family, spend day with host family, potluck/pool party

  • Monday: breakfast with host family, swimming at local pond, visit to a farm or day trip to visit Wampanoag youth in Mashpee

  • Tuesday: breakfast with host family, art workshop, visit to Quincy Market

  • Wednesday: breakfast with host family, sculpture class, ice cream, reflection circle,  final group dinner/goodbyes with host families

  • Thursday: drop off at airport, travel day

How We Make A Difference

We invite you to learn more about how we make an impact while also maintaining the rich culture of the Oglala Lakota people of Pine Ridge Reservation

Click on image to open slideshow view


Lakota Family Sponsorships

Okini Sponsorship List

We strive to make life-changing impacts by providing necessary resources and support that will help those in need. Our team is passionate about helping families and making meaningful connections. Join us in our mission and make a difference in someone’s life today.


Empower the Lakota People of Pine Ridge Reservation

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