Rural America Initiatives (RAI) serves Rapid City, South Dakota, the major Indian population center in the region. We are the city's longest operating Native, private, non-profit 501(c)3 community organization. It was founded in 1986 to partner with at-risk and low-income Native American families to strengthen the development of healthy, sober, self-sufficient lifestyles.
Our mission is to partner with the whole family to help American Indian children and youth acquire tools to thrive in the contemporary environment and to support cultural values.
Our goal is to develop a new society of Lakota men and women, "Ikce wicasa na winyan" (Common Man and Woman) who work within and with the community to strengthen families by practicing the values of respect, honesty, language, generosity and courage.
We work with some of the most challenged and at-risk families in Rapid City. Our focus is to provide life skills to break the crippling cycle of poverty that many families endure.
We accomplish this through educational programs: Early Head Start and Head Start programs, and the Ateyapi role-modeling mentorship program in elementary, middle and high schools in Rapid City. Additionally, an elementary school Ateyapi Lakota language program was also begun this year. We also operate Early Head Start and Head Start programs on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
RAI employs over 100 people, more than 90% of whom are Native American, making us the second largest employer of Native people in the area.