The Youth Camp Program gave birth to Indian Youth of America (IYA) and remains the heartbeat of our organization. Established in 1976 on the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon, the Youth Camp Program is celebrating its 44th Anniversary in 2020.
Each summer Indian youth, staff and special guests come together to participate in Indian Youth of America’s summer camps in Arizona and South Dakota. The young Indian campers experience a variety of cultural, educational and recreational activities under the guidance of Indian counselors and staff. The campers also learn from special guests who come to camp to share their songs, dances, stories and cultural traditions.
In addition to workshops and special quest performances, the campers take part in volleyball, mushball and basketball tournaments, paddle boating and canoeing, swimming and hiking, field trips to the Slide Rock, Goldwater Lake, Black Elk Peak, Crazy Horse Memorial and Wind Cave, archery, arts and crafts, healthy living and nutrition, building leadership and teamwork skills, Happy & Healthy by NABI Sports, American Indian Contributions, creative writing, bullying prevention, self-image development, storytelling, traditional games, hoop dancing, flute, basket & drum making, Bear Fetish Workshop, cultural traditions, a watermelon hunt and campfire skits. On the last night of camp a special awards campfire is held to recognize campers and staff who performed especially well at camp. As a special reminder of their camp experience the campers and staff watch a slide presentation developed from pictures taken during camp and are given an IYA t-shirt and camp group picture to take home. As each camper, staff person and special guest make their journey home they take with them numerous experiences and priceless memories they shared during their time together at camp.
Over the past 43 years, IYA’s summer camps have provided thousands of Indian children between the ages of 10-14 with an alternative to spending the summer at home….often with no entertainment, recreation or job opportunities. The summer camps have provided a variety of positive activities at a time when youth lack supervision and are most vulnerable to peer pressure, criminal activity, suicide, gang involvement and substance abuse. Since its inception in 1976, the Youth Camp Program has provided children from 204 tribes and 34 states with the opportunity to receive positive guidance and mentoring from Indian staff, share tribal traditions and develop friendships that last a lifetime.