Skip to content

Wakinyan Chief

2023-24 National Leaders of Color Fellow

Headshot of a person with medium-light skintone and a neck tattoo wearing a t-shirt in front of a colorful mural.


An enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. During the Indian Relocation Act, his Até (father) was sent to California, where Chief was born and raised — and where he learned the art of graffiti, which inspired him to experiment with multiple disciplines, mediums, and styles. Over the years, he has participated in multiple art shows and graffiti jams, taught graffiti workshops, designed and sold his personal art, and worked as a commissioned artist. He continues to enjoy painting graffiti and creating multimedia art.

In 2016, Chief moved back to South Dakota to dedicate his life to the betterment of the Lakota people. For two years, he worked as a youth mentor with Generations Indigenous Ways, a year-round Lakota youth camp that strives to educate and empower Lakota youth with the knowledge and skills their ancestors possessed, incorporating those traditional ways and teachings with western science methodology. He also has worked with the Oglala Lakota Cultural & Economic Revitalization Initiative, which hosted the Indigenous Wisdom & Permaculture Skills Convergence in Slim Buttes on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

As CRYP’s arts manager, Chief is responsible for leading operations at the Waniyetu Wowapi Institute & Art Park, a multidisciplinary, community-based initiative that seeks to strengthen the connection of Lakota youth and the Cheyenne River community to traditional culture and life ways through art. The institute incorporates the Lakota Art Fellowship program, the Teen Art Internship program, the award-winning RedCan invitational graffiti jam, the free public art park, and a variety of community classes and events. Chief has also led CRYP’s Food Sovereignty, Native Wellness, and Lakota Culture Internship.