We build strong kids, strong families, and strong communities.



Generosity  Wawokiye      Wisdom  Woksape      Bravery  Ohitika      Respect  Wa o’hola

Lakota Culture
Camp Marrowbone
Contact Us




The History of the

General Convention of Sioux YMCAs

We build strong kids, strong families, strong communities.

In 1862, the Dakota People, tired of semi-starvation and poverty, took part in an ill-fated war meant to push white settlers out of their lands in Minnesota. At the end of the brief war, 160 Dakota warriors were captured and sentenced to hang. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln commuted the sentences of 120 of the younger men. However, 40 other warriors were hung from a single scaffold in Mankato, Minnesota, making it the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

These younger Indian men languished in a military prison. Volunteers from the Young Men's Christian Association visited them, bringing clothing, bedding, English language lessons and Christianity.

The Dakota men were so impressed with the compassion of these YMCA volunteers, that upon their release in 1879, some of them, including Chief Little Crow's son, Thomas Wakeman, started the Koskada Okadiciye,  a Young Man's Association. In 1885 they were recognized by the national YMCA movement and changed their name to Sioux Young Men's Christian Association. Their goal then, as it still is today, was to teach and encourage the values of Wawokiye, Woksape, Ohitika, and Wa o’hola or  Generosity, Wisdom, Bravery, and Respect.

The original log cabin Sioux YMCA.

Change and growth have continued. In 1970 the Sioux YMCAs voted to become a family association and in 1971 a summer residential camp, YMCA Camp Leslie Marrowbone was started. The YMCA was incorporated in 1972, became a member of the National Council of YMCAs in 1977 and assumed full responsibility for fundraising in 1983.

Today, the General Convention of Sioux YMCAs, with a Lakota Board of Directors and supported by a dedicated Board of Trustees, operates youth, recreational and camping programs that serve youth and families  spread out among  isolated villages on the 4,500 square mile Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation.

Three generations of Chief Sitting Bull's family were members of the YMCA.


Contact the YMCA

The SD General Convention of Sioux YMCA's, Inc.
P.O. Box 218

1 YMCA Street
Dupree, South Dakota 57623
PH (605) 365-5232
FAX (605) 365-5230
EMAIL crandall@siouxymca.org




 Our Founders 

Thomas Wakeman, son of Chief Little Crow, organized the first Sioux Indian YMCA in 1879.


Dr. Charles A. Eastman, Ohiyesa, a member of the Santee Sioux, formerly with the Indian Health Service during the Wounded Knee Massacre, was selected by the national YMCA to head the Indian office in 1894. He was the first Sioux YMCA Executive Director.

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