Upijata was founded by Yolanda Cordova Swalley, in 2019 on the Oglala Lakota Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, USA. It is dedicated to creating safe, inspiring, and empowering spaces for women, girls, and families to express themselves and heal themselves through the arts.
Upijata provides relief from historical trauma and the impacts of reservation life by combating the public issues of suicide and pervasive substance abuse through arts education on the Oglala Lakota Sioux Reservation and surrounding areas. This form of education empowers the community and offers students an emotional outlet by giving them access to therapeutic artistic expression and providing them with fun and enriching experiences, practical skills, and healthy challenges. Upijata programming is focused on personal growth, and developing healthy community identity and pride serving everyone from young children to senior members of the reservations.
“Golden Girls Global has helped us in so many ways including access to 4 years of leadership and movement therapy training. Melissa’s program helps Upijata’s Leaders through the emotional journey involved in chasing a dream, provides access to funding for office equipment necessary to execute a nonprofit and access to a positive loving support system helps Upijata thrive and continue to move forward. Translating the knowledge of the skills gained from Golden Bridge and applying it to personal growth and therefore into Upijata’s growth”. ~Yolanda Swalley, Founder, Upijata Arts Company
- TEEN SUICIDES - In August 2020 a state of emergency was issued on the Oglala Lakota Sioux Reservation in response to an increase in youth suicides. Upijata is striving to meet the needs of the youth in these difficult and often dangerous times. The prevention of suicide and other hardships that permeate reservation communities by increasing access to artistic venues is a top priority. The goal is to eventually incorporate movement therapy to support the teens in need.
- COVID-19 - The project is severely struggling with the social and economic impacts of the global pandemic. Participation has decreased significantly due to classes not being able to take place. Lack of access to the internet and computers makes online classes impossible.
- FUNDING - Upijata is in need of funding for all things necessary to run a non-profit. At this time the focus is to raise funds in order to train and contract local artists, mentors, healers, and teachers who are longing to find safe ways to reach, empower and inspire youth living in isolation. Access to basic art supplies, PPE, and transportation will allow Upijata to bring creativity, community, and joy back into everyday life on the reservation.
- NON PROFIT STATUS - In June 2020, Upijata reached a major milestone when it met all the requirements to qualify as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Upijata is now eligible to fundraise and receive tax-deductible donations to support its mission.
- COMMUNITY SUPPORT - Some members of Upijata’s Board of Directors are residents of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Reservation. This has given the Upijata team access to leadership skills that empower the community.
- 2021 SUMMER INTENSIVE - Relative to the previous summer, there was a 200% increase in participation in the summer program.
GOALS FOR NEXT YEAR
- FUNDRAISE - The biggest focus for Upijata this year is to strengthen its operations through fundraising. The list of fundraising goals includes:
- Funding for salaried full-time employees
- Purchasing a van/bus to transport youth to classes and events
- Securing professional insurance for their programs
- STUDIO SPACE - Upijata is looking to secure a property to accomodate a studio and housing for instructors traveling from afar. Additionally, there is a desire to establish artistic venues in the area that will help boost the young people’s self-esteem and perhaps lead to expanded career choices in the arts.